7/29/2011 6:29:54 PM

The Big Picture

Bear on shoreThere's a bit of a kerfuffle going on at the U.S. Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Regulation, and Enforcement. Charles Monnett, a wildlife biologist who co-authored a widely cited paper on four polar bears who drowned off the coast of Alaska, has been suspended from his post and is undergoing an integrity review.

The suspension comes at the same time that the agency is reviewing drilling permits in fragile arctic regions for oil companies, causing a nonprofit group, Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility, to question the motives. 

"The charges against Mr. Monnett haven't been made public, but whatever those charges are, they don't detract from the observations of drowned bears or the threats polar bears face from climate change," said Dr. Steven C. Amstrup, chief scientist at Polar Bears International. "Long before his paper came out in 2006, we heard about the sightings of dead and presumably drowned polar bears. It's unclear to me how these observations could have been fraudulent, given the number of people who knew about them. Further, the paper was subjected to the normal peer review and editing process required by refereed journals, and so has been subjected to considerable scrutiny.

"The threat to polar bears from global-warming-induced loss of their habitat is supported by a huge body of scientific literature and is incontrovertible. The world must warm as greenhouse gas concentrations rise, and a warmer world will hold less polar bear habitat. Any accusations about personal problems of an individual scientist don't change those facts."


Photo ©Daniel J. Cox/Natural Exposures.

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