The Role of Scientific Uncertainty in Polar Bear Conservation Policy: A Descriptive Analysis
Greene, Angelica Diane
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Abstract In recent years, the polar bear (Ursus maritimus) has become synonymous with the climate change movement. Prior to concerns over global warming, the biggest threat to polar bears was overharvest and trophy hunting. For decades, policies successfully mitigated population declines as a result of such stressors, but new and emerging threats have again put the species in peril. The impacts of climate change have motivated the five polar bear range states to revisit protective policies and yet no measures have been taken to address the drivers of climate change, which has been identified as the biggest threat facing polar bears. Scientific uncertainty is an integral component of both the scientific and policy processes. However, its misapplication can often compromise effective policy outcomes, as evidenced by polar bear conservation policy. An analysis of the US Endangered Species Act and The Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species demonstrates that to achieve particular policy objectives, scientific uncertainty has been applied to manipulate policy intention, coerce inaction, and subvert precautionary responses to polar bear extinction. Understanding the influence that scientific uncertainty has on conservation policy can help identify weaknesses, as well as improve management and decision making strategies.
- Marine affairs