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Can We Tell Much From Palin's Environmental Record?

Over at the Plank, Cass Sunstein has already noted that Sarah Palin doesn't seem to understand that the current rise in global temperature is being caused by human activity. (After joining the GOP ticket, her spokesperson said that Palin "stands with John McCain in his belief that global warming is a critical issue that must be addressed"—but stayed mum on the whole what's-causing-it-question). Now Grist's Kate Sheppard has a thorough review of Palin's record on energy and environmental issues, with this incident the most troubling:

Another major concern for enviros is Palin's stance on endangered species in the state. After the Bush administration's Department of Interior listed the polar bear as a threatened species in May, the governor sued the department. "We believe that the ... decision to list the polar bear was not based on the best scientific and commercial data available," said Palin, who also penned an op-ed in The New York Times on the subject.

Palin and other state officials expressed concern that listing polar bears as threatened would impair oil and gas development in the state. Palin argued that the listing decision was based on "the unproven long-term impact of any future climate change on the species" and that a "comprehensive review" of the federal science by state wildlife officials found no reason to support listing the bears as endangered.

But emails released via a public-records request later showed that Alaskan state scientists agreed with federal researchers that polar bears are threatened by shrinking ice. "Overall, we believe that the methods and analytical approaches used to examine the currently available information supports the primary conclusions and inferences stated" in federal reports, wrote Robert Small, head of the marine mammals program for the Alaska Department of Fish and Game.

It's not easy to extrapolate from Palin's track record working with oil companies—Alaska is such a weird state in that regard, and I'm not sure we can glean much about what she'd do in the White House from the fact that she favored TransCanada over BP and ConocoPhillips for a new, state-subsidized natural-gas pipeline, or enacted a windfall tax on oil companies in a state where the proceeds go directly to the citizens. She'd love to drill in ANWR, sure, but beyond that...? On the other hand, it says a fair bit about how she would govern if she's willing to go to great lengths to lie about and distort what her own scientific staff is saying. Eight years of that have been quite enough, thanks.

--Bradford Plumer