CBS ‘Early Show’ Offers Opposing Side in Global Warming Debate

Still Shot of Daniel Sieberg, May14 In a rare case of balance, Wednesday’s CBS "Early Show" highlighted both sides in the debate over declaring the polar bear an endangered species due to global warming as correspondent Daniel Sieberg declared: "They're at the top of the food chain at the top of the world, but their future is at the center of a political tug-of-war over drilling for oil versus protecting their habitat."

Sieberg began his report with a dire prediction: "There are an estimated 20,000 - 25,000 polar bears in the Arctic region, but environmentalists warn that rising temperatures and disappearing sea ice will cause a 30 percent decline in their population over the next 50 years." He also played clips of liberal California Senator Barbara Boxer and John Kostyack from the National Wildlife Federation.

However, Sieberg also provided perspective from the Heritage Foundation:

SIEBERG: But the research and educational institute, The Heritage Foundation, argues that listing the polar bear on the endangered species list might do more harm than good.

BEN LIEBERMAN: There's a real question whether the polar bear is threatened in the first place, and the Endangered Species Act, the way it would work, would actually do quite a bit of economic damage, and may or may not actually impact the bears.

Surprisingly, Sieberg did not provide the usual "conservative" label to Heritage in his "Early Show" report, but the story posted on the CBS News website did refer to it as a "conservative think tank."

Sieberg went on to further highlight the concerns of opponents to listing the polar bear as endangered: "The polar bear would be the first animal to be listed endangered or threatened as a result of global warming -- which could mean two things. One -- some northern exploration for oil could be stalled, possibly leading to even higher energy prices at home. And two -- environmental groups could be empowered to sue any company or governmental agency contributing to the increase of greenhouse gases."

When co-host Maggie Rodriguez asked Sieberg at the end of the report: "The opponents feel strongly that this is not about the bear, that this is about limiting oil and gas production in the arctic. Are there more opponents or supporters?," Sieberg replied:

You know, it really is split. I mean, the polar bear is such an iconic symbol of the Arctic. And so, in some ways, critics are saying, it's just being used to try to limit greenhouse gases. But environmentalists are very outspoken. They say it is absolutely essential to look at this issue and to try to do something about their habitat, which is the disappearing ice.

Here is the full transcript of the segment:

7:11AM TEASER

JULIE CHEN: Coming up, polar bears caught in the battle over global warming.

7:14AM SEGMENT:

MAGGIE RODRIGUEZ: The heated debate over global warming has snared an animal that can survive in the world's harshest conditions -- the polar bear. CBS News Science and Technology correspondent Daniel Sieberg is here with more. Good morning.

DANIEL SIEBERG: Yeah, good morning Maggie. The Department of the Interior has until Thursday to rule on whether or not the polar bear should be listed on the Endangered Species List. It's a debate more complicated than you might expect. They're at the top of the food chain at the top of the world, but their future is at the center of a political tug-of-war over drilling for oil versus protecting their habitat.

BARBARA BOXER: The Bush administration has its legal obligation to finalize its decision on the polar bear and we all have a moral obligation to see that they do it.

SIEBERG: There are an estimated 20,000 - 25,000 polar bears in the Arctic region, but environmentalists warn that rising temperatures and disappearing sea ice will cause a 30 percent decline in their population over the next 50 years.

JOHN KOSTYACK: We are now beginning to see declines in a number of populations of polar bears, and that's because of global warming. Effectively, the polar bears are starving.

SIEBERG: But the research and educational institute, The Heritage Foundation, argues that listing the polar bear on the endangered species list might do more harm than good.

BEN LIEBERMAN: There's a real question whether the polar bear is threatened in the first place, and the Endangered Species Act, the way it would work, would actually do quite a bit of economic damage, and may or may not actually impact the bears.

SIEBERG: The polar bear would be the first animal to be listed endangered or threatened as a result of global warming -- which could mean two things. One -- some northern exploration for oil could be stalled, possibly leading to even higher energy prices at home. And two -- environmental groups could be empowered to sue any company or governmental agency contributing to the increase of greenhouse gases. But the National Wildlife Federation disputes this theory.

KOSTYACK: What we're expecting the Endangered Species Act to be used for is something that's much more direct, which is these immediate threats to the polar bear in their habitat from oil and gas development.

SIEBERG: So at least for now the fate of the polar bear is up in the air. A decision is expected tomorrow from the Department of the Interior. But anything could happen, it could be listed or not, or it could just be thrown back for more research.

RODRIGUEZ: The opponents feel strongly that this is not about the bear, that this is about limiting oil and gas production in the arctic. Are there more opponents or supporters?

SIEBERG: You know, it really is split. I mean, the polar bear is such an iconic symbol of the Arctic. And so, in some ways, critics are saying, it's just being used to try to limit greenhouse gases. But environmentalists are very outspoken. They say it is absolutely essential to look at this issue and to try to do something about their habitat, which is the disappearing ice.

RODRIGUEZ: And we'll know tomorrow? Maybe?

SIEBERG: We should know something tomorrow, possibly. It's been delayed for a long time.

RODRIGUEZ: Alright, Daniel Sieberg, thank you very much.

SIEBERG: You bet.

Kyle Drennen
Kyle Drennen
Kyle Drennen is a News Analyst for MRC