This page has been archived and is no longer updated. Find out more about page archiving.
Skip to main contentAccess keys helpA-Z index
BBC Learning English Launch BBC Media Player
  • Help
  • Text only
You are in:Learning English > News English > Words in the News
Learning English - Words in the News
29 December, 2006 - Published 12:47 GMT
US plans to list polar bears as endangered
Polar bear and cubs

The US government has announced plans to list polar bears as a threatened species because of concerns that the ice where they live is melting. But as the BBC's Owen Clegg reports, the US plans are also important for other reasons.

Listen to the story

It's estimated that there are no more than twenty-five thousand polar bears living in the wild, and this number could decline drastically as the Arctic ice floes upon which the bears survive melt away. Now, without admitting the cause of this melt, the US Fish and Wildlife Services are reviewing the bear's status.

That action is being taken at all, marks a significant departure for the Bush administration; for the first time, it may be forced to acknowledge a link between global warming and its effect on a species. Such a conclusion by a reluctant Bush administration could force far wider changes in Washington's policy towards the environment.

This review only came about after a coalition of environmental groups sued the government to take action. Environmentalists, like David Doniger, believe that by invoking the protections of the Endangered Species Act, the US government may eventually be forced to cut back on its emissions of greenhouse gases:

"It is a big deal today to have the Bush administration recognise that global warming is threatening the existence of the polar bear. Now, it's up to the administration to do something to stop the global warming that's threatening the polar bear." (David Doniger)

The United States is the world's largest emitter of greenhouse gasses which are blamed for trapping heat from the sun and altering the earth's climate. Since taking office in 2001, President Bush has refused to make the link with global warming, but the plight of the polar bear may force that position to change.

Owen Clegg, BBC News

Listen to the words

in the wild
not in captivity, as they would live naturally

decline drastically
go down dramatically, decrease by a large amount

ice floes
large patches of ice which float on the sea

a significant departure
an important change

a coalition of
a group, a union of

brought a legal case against

using, calling on

a big deal
a very important thing


bad, serious situation

27 May, 2011
Destruction of smallpox virus delayed
25 May, 2011
Micro-finance 'misused and abused'
20 May, 2011
Lonely planets
18 May, 2011
Germany to invest in more electric cars
16 May, 2011
Argentina builds a tower of books
Other Stories