Nation & World

Alaska seeks to show polar bears aren't threatened

ANCHORAGE — Alaska's state legislature is looking to hire a few good polar bear scientists. The conclusions have already been agreed upon — researchers just have to fill in the science part.

A $2 million program funded with little debate by the legislature last month calls for using state money to fund an "academic based" conference that highlights contrarian scientific research on global warming. Legislators hope to undermine the public perception of a widespread consensus among polar bear researchers that warming global temperatures and melting Arctic ice threaten the polar bears' survival.

Republican legislative leaders say a federal decision to declare the polar bears "threatened" by climate change would have troubling effects on Arctic oil development and the state's economic future. Last week a federal judge ordered the Bush administration to release its already-tardy decision under the Endangered Species Act by May 15. By law, such a decision must be based strictly on science, not on possible economic consequences.

Legislative leaders said they are frustrated that researchers skeptical of the doomsday scenario get marginalized as crackpots or industry shills by the media and scientific agencies. Critics say it's a waste of state money because all the hard scientific research points in the other direction.

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