WASHINGTON - Polar bears, sea ice and global warming are taboo subjects, at least in public, for some U.S. scientists attending meetings abroad, environmental groups and a top federal wildlife official said on Thursday.
Environmental activists called this scientific censorship, which they said was in line with the Bush administration's history of muzzling dissent over global climate change.
But H. Dale Hall, director of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, said this policy was a long-standing one, meant to honor international protocols for meetings where the topics of discussion are negotiated in advance.The matter came to light in e-mails from the Fish and Wildlife Service that were distributed by the Natural Resources Defense Council and the Center for Biological Diversity, both environmental groups.
Officials want advanced notice
Listed as a "new requirement" for foreign travelers on U.S. government business, the memo says that requests for foreign travel "involving or potentially involving climate change, sea ice, and/or polar bears" require special handling, including notice of who will be the official spokesman for the trip.
The Fish and Wildlife Service top officials need assurance that the spokesman, "the one responding to questions on these issues, particularly polar bears" understands the administration's position on these topics.
Two accompanying memos were offered as examples of these kinds of assurance. Both included the line that the traveler "understands the administration's position on climate change, polar bears, and sea ice and will not be speaking on or responding to these issues."
Polar bears are a hot topic for the Bush administration, which decided in December to consider whether to list the white-furred behemoths as "threatened" under the Endangered Species Act, because of scientific reports that the bears' icy habitat is melting due to global warming.
Hall said a decision is expected in January 2008. A "threatened" listing would bar the government from taking any action that jeopardizes the animal's existence, and might spur debate about tougher measures to cut the greenhouse gas emissions that spur global warming.
So basically, don't talk about that yet! Environmental scientists discussing the drowning polar bears because well, the polar ice caps are melting? Whatever would make that a cause for environmental concern? UGH!
For me, this obnoxious, fascist censorship is a clear acknowledgment that Buscho is well aware of the implications of it's environmental :cough cough: policy. It should be ashamed of itself. Not just for it's policies, but for partisan-politicizing a global crisis. That is so wrong.
I have worked for government agencies before, so I well understand the sensitivity a job like that requires. You're not allowed to speak to anyone publicly without a list of talking points because even if you're a secretary, you're going to be cited as a "government official." The press will run with that if it can. But this is global, people. Global.
We won't stop polar bears from drowning or the honeybees from disappearing from the East Coast until we acknowledge that this is not a partisan issue.