Polar bears and their 'non-imminent' danger were a hot topic for Sarah Palin. The former vice president candidate was against adding polar bears to the Endangered Species Act, stating that she "strongly" believed that adding them to the list was the wrong move. She stated that, "there is insufficient evidence that polar bears are in danger of becoming extinct within the foreseeable future."
Her decision was based on a "comprehensive review by state wildlife officials of scientific information from a broad range of climate, ice and polar bear experts." In 2008, the then Alaska Governor went as far as to say that the State of Alaska would "sue to challenge the listing of polar bears" as a threatened species, reported AnchorageDailyNews.com.
Her outspoken view on the topic became controversial, causing wildlife experts to speak out.
"She's either grossly misinformed or intentionally misleading, and both are unbecoming," said Kassie Siegel of the Center for Biological Diversity. "Alaska deserves better."
"First, sea ice is vital to polar bear survival. Second, the polar bear's sea-ice habitat has dramatically melted in recent decades. Third, computer models suggest sea ice is likely to further recede in the future," said Interior Secretary Dirk Kempthorne.
But now, some new light has been shed on the topic, and it may be in favor of Palin's viewpoint.
The federal government has suspended wildlife biologist Charles Monnett whose work included the sightings of dead polar bears in Arctic waters. The accuracy of his statistics is being evaluated.
His work on a 2006 report, co-written by Jeffrey Gleason, was a seven-page observational report on the deaths of polar bears. The report spawned numerous images of drowning polar bears and became a strong point for activists who warned of global warming affecting the animals.
As of now, no action has been taken against Gleason.
But, a new study from Anthony Pagano, a U.S. Geological Survey wildlife biologist offers support that polar bears are at risk of drowning. "Historically, there just wasn't this extensive amount of open water that bears would be forced to swim [in]," he said.
Pagano is working on a study on the movement of female polar bears, which followed a mother polar bear who swam for nine days looking for sea ice, in the process losing a cub.
"It's pretty remarkable. That's the longest that's ever been recorded for bear swimming non-stop," said Pagano via The Toronto Star.
The study follows the bears in the Beaufort Sea, the same body of water that Monnett did research on.
To tell if the bears were swimming or walking, GPS data was taken with transmitters.
"We often found there were actually gaps in the data when the bears were swimming because . . . one of the antennas can't transmit data underwater," he said. "We were able to use that to identify when bears were potentially swimming."
Polar bears and global warming remain a heated topic, and appears the topic will contine to be at the forefront of the agenda for both those who believe in global warming, and those who don't.