Never look a polar bear in the eye

by Judith Curry

Advocates and scientists have tied the Earth’s fate to that of the polar bear. But what happens if this lumbering giant proves more resilient than the rest of us? – Zac Unger

Zac Unger has written new book, Never Look a Polar Bear in the Eye: A Family Field Trip to the Arctic’s Edge in Search of Adventure, Truth, and Mini-Marshmallows, to be published this February. Visit his website for more information.  The central text on his website says:

Zac Unger set out to become a hero of the environmental movement.  Easy, right? (and humble too . . .)  But his quest to write a mournful elegy for the polar bear ran up against a giant Arctic spin room of shaky science, big egos, and a reality that is very much at odds with the marketing.

Unger has written an article on this in the Pacific Standard, entitled The Fuzzy Face of Climate Change.  Its a lengthy article, with some fascinating information about the polar bears.  I excerpt here a description of the interactions of Unger with the Heavy Hitter scientists-media stars-advocates and an intrepid skeptic (JC bold):

The past decade has been particularly difficult for polar bears. In 2004 alone, scientists saw 10 bears swimming in open water, several as far as 110 miles offshore. Even more alarming, scientists found four polar-bear carcasses floating in the sea; they had apparently drowned while attempting to swim from one ice floe to the next. Never before had scientists seen even a single drowned bear. On land, the scientists found that half the bears were lean or emaciated. In western Hudson Bay, near the town of Churchill, Manitoba, a 2007 study told a grim tale: in less than 20 years, the local bear population had plummeted from 1,194 to 935, a decline of more than 20 percent. Around the Arctic, the pattern was consistent, and scientists were building the case that polar bears were the first in a long series of future calamities attributable to global warming.

Steven Amstrup, who had written many of the papers detailing the bears’ precipitous decline, was beginning to understand the carnage; the polar bears were turning to cannibalism because they were starving to death.

Or at least that’s how it was reported.

I didn’t end up in polar bear country by accident. I went because I wanted to become a hero of the environmental movement.

My plan was to bring the apocalypse home by writing a mournful elegy for the polar bears, which would quickly establish me as the heir to Rachel Carson/John Muir/Edward Abbey. Easy.

I grew up near Berkeley. I compost my table scraps, and yet … after months of research and a whole lot of time spent being much too cold, I was having trouble writing the book I’d planned. Some scientists were telling me that the conventional wisdom was wrong, some were spinning way too hard to tell me it was right, and absolutely everyone was using the polar bear as the greatest marketing gimmick ever invented. Polar bears, for their part, weren’t dying off nearly as quickly as I needed them to in order to establish myself as the Oracle of Doom.

I wanted Amstrup badly. He wasn’t a musty academic, but a sort of Indiana Jones of the wildlife biology world. In his resumé he had stated flatly: “I am the senior polar bear specialist in the U.S. Federal Government.” He was based in Alaska but traveled the world, penning countless papers.

Amstrup wasn’t the only polar-bear scientist in the world, and I quickly learned that he was not alone in his desire to blow me off. Getting a polar-bear scientist to return your calls is as easy as convincing Mick Jagger to headline your Labor Day picnic. Two in particular—Amstrup and Stirling—formed a radioactive nucleus that I simply could not penetrate. Part of the problem was that there just weren’t many of these guys to choose from. They were deluged by media requests, savaged by skeptics, and put under the sort of public scrutiny that most ecologists never face. I started to refer to the group as the Heavy Hitters, a secretive cabal of ecological geniuses.

Finally, somebody asked if I’d talked to a population ecologist named Robert Rockwell who was based at the American Museum of Natural History in New York.

Rockwell, much to my amazement,  answered his office phone on the first ring. After a bit of back-and-forth, he invited me to join him at a remote research camp outside Churchill to see what was going on with polar bears. Just a few thousand dollars’ worth of airfare and helicopter charters later, there I was.

Rocky’s years of experience told him that the predictions the Heavy Hitters were making just didn’t add up. Not only was he seeing lots of bears, many of whom were in fine condition, but he’d also personally observed bears eating all sorts of different critters, in contrast to the conventional wisdom that suggested bears survive on seals alone.

Rocky’s arguments made sense in a vague and theoretical way—after all, some animals do have the ability to change their tactics when particular resources get scarce. Still, new genetic evidence suggested that polar bears were 500,000 years older than previously thought, meaning they’d survived warm cycles before.

“I just want to get this straight,” I said later as Rocky prepared dinner, a massive Arctic char with onions and potatoes. “Are you telling me that you don’t think global warming is a problem for the bears? Are you saying that what they lose in seals they can make up for by eating geese and caribou and plants?”

“I have no idea!,” Rocky exploded. “That’s just it! But we have to be willing to ask that question. Which is exactly what Stirling won’t do. We submitted a paper once about polar bears eating goose eggs, and when Stirling read it he went absolutely nuts, saying, ‘Why don’t they come ashore earlier if the eggs are so good?’ and ‘Eggs aren’t going to save the bears.’ Well, that wasn’t what we were saying. We were saying that it’s possible that bears may be able to derive some nutritional benefit from eating something other than seals. And Stirling couldn’t accept even that limited hypothesis.”

So this was Rocky’s grand theory, I thought: as the Arctic warmed and the sea ice shrank, the bears might somehow manage to adapt. Rocky’s ideas were engaging, and he was a good salesman, but I wasn’t entirely buying it.

“Take the 2050 thing, for example,” he said. “That’s just a huge problem.” Rocky was referring to a series of reports, sprawling over more than 400 pages, that Amstrup had written for the U.S. Geological Survey. One single factoid had been catnip to the press, reported and re-reported in every media outlet on Earth. One typical headline read “Scientists: Most Polar Bears Dead by 2050.” Rocky reiterated the ways in which he thought the Heavy Hitters had botched their methodology and made biased assumptions. I had no way of knowing whether Rocky was right, but I had faith in the scientific process to do the heavy lifting that I couldn’t do.

Surely some journal would weed out flimsy numbers and peer reviewers would reject shoddy work, right?

“That’s just it!,” Rocky thundered. “Those USGS papers aren’t science. They’re junk! And they should be thrown out.” Rocky felt that Amstrup and his colleagues had crossed the line from science to advocacy. “If this had been a bird or a fish, I guarantee you it would not have happened this quickly.”

And so what if Amstrup was becoming “an advocate,” as Rocky put it? It wasn’t like he was being secretive about it. Polar bears could use a good advocate.

Rocky went on: “A scientist’s first commitment needs to be to science, not to the end result. A single-minded scientist leads us to the Dr. Mengele problem.”

“Sure, but the opposite extreme is just as bad,” I said. “A scientist can’t throw up his hands and say, ‘I’m just splitting the atom here, and I don’t have any idea what the military might use it for.’” This was getting ridiculous. He’d gone Nazi and I’d gone nuclear, which is the universal sign that a conversation has come unhinged.

“And what happens if the bears in the Beaufort Sea are not extirpated by 2050?,” he continued. “And then what if something else goes wrong and some other species is more at risk? Will people listen to any of us then?”

Despite the prearranged news narrative, there was a plausible argument to be made that all was not lost. Sure, Rocky was in the minority, but he wasn’t a crackpot. And the gaps he’d shown in the armor of the Heavy Hitters were real.

Uncertainty existed, but you couldn’t discuss it in tasteful circles.

I’m an environmentalist at heart, but what I’d found in the Hudson Bay had gotten in the way of my well-laid plans. I needed to talk with the Heavy Hitters—I wanted to be reconvinced of what they had to say. I didn’t like admitting it, but since my time with Rocky, I’d become a bit of a skeptic: maybe the hype had outrun the reality. And so I found myself in the uncomfortable position of wanting to believe the very worst. In that era of faith-based decision making and gag orders on scientists, my personal biases weren’t very deeply hidden. I wanted the Heavy Hitters to be calm, convincing, and right. I wanted to know that the situation was critical, that polar bears were on their way out.

And then, through the magic of bullshitting my way into the right place at the right time, I was granted a sudden audience with Steven Amstrup and Ian Stirling as they blew through Churchill on a media blitz.

I figured the best place to start was with what had led me—and everyone else—to the story in the first place: cannibalism. Amstrup’s paper had hit the world like a hammer. The idea that bears were so hungry that they were devouring each other was too horrifying to ignore.

I asked Amstrup whether he worried about the way the public ignored decades of research and focused on the one paper that had blood all over it.

“There’s no way that you could put your finger on it and say, ‘Well, that’s the fingerprint of climate change, or that’s caused by global warming.’ It happened that the sorts of observations that are reported in that paper were things we hadn’t seen before, and so they caught our attention. That doesn’t mean that they never happened before. It could have been that they happened out there and we just never observed it,” he continued, “ So it’s the kind of thing that’s consistent with what we might expect to see happening in the environment, but you can’t necessarily say that that’s the cause. And I think that we did a very good job in the paper of making that point. And in the subsequent interviews I think that we made that point very effectively. But it wasn’t always carried that way, and it wasn’t always translated that way into the general media.”

This was exactly what I’d been hoping to hear! I’d been worried that he’d recognized the graphic value of what he’d seen and had been exploiting it to make his point.

When I asked whether he was bothered by how the media used his findings, Amstrup’s response was pitch-perfect. “Scientific credibility suffers because of that,” he said. “The point is that you have to present it in a careful fashion and if the media takes it and embellishes it and spectacularizes it, then you lose the scientific connection … and that’s really critical to people like us. We have to maintain that.” His measured tones and eminently reasonable ideas were a cool rebuke to anyone who ever said that the threat to polar bears was overblown. Including me.

Amstrup reassured me that the data collection and analysis had not been hurried in order to get the polar bear listed as threatened; Stirling described lab tests that proved that although bears might eat berries, they weren’t metabolizing them for nutritional benefit. And when Amstrup described the care he took in his statistical modeling, I came away assured that the population projections were as ironclad as could be hoped for in this inexact field.

When I asked Amstrup point blank whether the polar bears would go extinct, he was quick to demur. The consensus was that for a long time there would be ice somewhere in the high Arctic. And where there is ice, there will be bears. Not very many bears, but not complete extinction either. “There are likely to be small pockets of bears,” Amstrup said, in “places where walrus are going to increasingly haul out on land as the sea ice retreats. … Some polar bears will figure that out. So there may be some small pockets of bears that figure out some kind of an equilibrium where they can survive the ice-free period. But it’s not very consistent with what we know about polar bears to suggest that whole populations of bears … are likely to survive in the terrestrial environment.”

Order had been restored to my crunchy liberal universe. I still thought that Rocky made sense when he spoke about the integrity of the scientific process, but these guys weren’t charlatans—my word, not Rocky’s—and they weren’t purposefully overselling their research.

“This was a good interview,” Amstrup said as he unfolded his long frame from the couch. “It’s obvious that you’ve done your homework.”  Talking to Amstrup had been a perfect capper to my months of research. And the best part was that he hadn’t come close to saying that every last polar bear was about to die.

Which is why I was so surprised to see Amstrup and Stirling on TV the next day.

But when Amstrup and Stirling came on-screen for their star turns, I was shocked by what they said. The anchorman assumed his most portentous voice, describing a bleak tableau of starving polar bears, despite the fact that this had been a relatively fat year. “They’re under stress,” he said, his voice heavy, before turning to “Dr. Steven Amstrup,” who has “joined me on our Tundra Buggy to explain the evidence behind the decision to list the polar bear as threatened. Evidence like cannibalism.”

Cut to Amstrup, handsome and grave, wind in his hair, the Voice of Truth.

“Large adult males that were clearly stalking, killing, and eating other bears,” he said. “So it wasn’t a situation where bears were having a fight over a mate or something like that and one of them was killed in the process and the other bear decided, ‘Well, as long as I’ve got a dead bear here I’ll go ahead and eat it.’ It was actual stalking and killing and then consuming other animals. That sort of thing we just hadn’t seen in all the years I’d been there.”

Wait a second. Hadn’t Amstrup just finished telling me that the cannibalism thing was getting too much play by a bloodthirsty media? Although I knew he hadn’t approved the lead-in claiming that cannibalism and the endangered-species listing were directly connected, he wasn’t a media naïf, either. He must have known that phrases like stalking and killing would incite any producer’s most lurid instincts. At the very least, he wasn’t doing a hell of a lot to tamp down the hype he’d just been decrying.

Amstrup continued: “The projections that we developed last year, based on the data that we have and the climate models projecting what the future of sea ice is going to be … those projections suggest that polar bears are going to be absent from the Beaufort Sea of Alaska by the middle of this century.” Absent. There it was: the zero.

Upset as I was about Stirling and Amstrup resorting to cannibalism in front of the cameras, I understood. Hard science is an impossibly tough sell. From years of doing media, Amstrup had to have known that he’d have only a few minutes to make his case. And nothing sells like blood. I had to admit that I’d wanted the cannibalism story to be the beginning and the end of it, too. It was too good a disaster metaphor to ignore. I’d even used it on the very first page of my book.

I wanted the polar-bear story to be simple and stark. But the more I learned, the more melodramatic it became, with everyone slipping into roles that were far too easy to caricature. Yet despite the opposing viewpoints, everybody had one thing in common: the skeptics, the cynics, the starry-eyed idealists—they all wanted polar bears to thrive. Every single person I met said they wanted the best for the bears, and without exception I believed every single one of them.

 JC comments:  The dynamics of Unger’s story about the polar bear scientists are being played out in many examples related to ecological and climate change science:  the transformation of some scientists into media stars and advocates, exaggeration under the guise of ‘simplification’ for the media, and the dismissal of skeptical science.  Unger does a superb job of articulating the challenges to a journalist in navigating all this.

In closing, I can’t resist posting my favorite polar bear cartoon:

PolarBearsCooking

x

172 responses to “Never look a polar bear in the eye

  1. The anti-humanism of the AGW movement is that they would wish upon all of humanity a kind of cribbed existence as slaves to climatism’s self-defeating vision of the future. Invention, self-actualization, being pioneers of transcendent experience by breaking down barriers to understanding of the world around us—dreams of a brighter future—all are anathema to the global warming Armageddonists.

  2. If only we showed the same concern for the millions living without clean water and electricity. Charity begins at home. Lets look after our own species before we start worrying about other species.

    • Exactly. Humanity’s contribution to all greenhouse gases is just…
      0.280% [i.e., less than a third (<1/3) of a Percent]

      What that means is 99.72% of all greenhouse gases are … Natural

      ■So, if you like au naturale go for it! Polar bears could care less
      ■Water Vapor accounts for 95% of all greenhouse gases
      ■CO2 accounts for just 3.5% of greenhouse gases–mostly natural…

      • The Skeptical Warmist

        Dolphinlegs,

        What’s truly good for humans is good for the web of life. Clean water definitely…electricity– depends how it’s generated.

    • The Skeptical Warmist

      Dolphinlegs said:

      “Lets look after our own species before we start worrying about other species.”
      ______
      Just because the polar bears may be fine without us, and have survived global warming episodes before, doesn’t mean we might not want to use our large brains to realize that we need other species to survive. It’s a web of life, that has, at certain times in the past, become quite unravelled due to major shocks to the system. But even if that happens–not too worry– it only takes a ten million years or so to get things going again. A blink of an eye to the Earth.

      • This vague web of life argument is unconvincing, to say the least.

      • The Skeptical Warmist

        “Vague” web of life? You apparently have never studied ecosystems. Do you suppose humans could exist on this planet without numerous other species (and not just cows and chickens)? Do you suppose any species could ever be an “island unto themselves”? Do you suppose any person could truly be, despite what some might imagine? Like it or not, humans are part of a vast web of life and each individual is as well, spanning not just through space, but backwards through time, since the very origins of life on Earth. How wonderful it is as well…

      • It might not be convincing if you hate cute furry critters, little song birds, colorful butterflies and the like, and just wish they were all dead.

      • -“Vague” web of life? You apparently have never studied ecosystems. Do you suppose humans could exist on this planet without numerous other species (and not just cows and chickens)? Do you suppose any species could ever be an “island unto themselves”? Do you suppose any person could truly be, despite what some might imagine? Like it or not, humans are part of a vast web of life and each individual is as well, spanning not just through space, but backwards through time, since the very origins of life on Earth. How wonderful it is as well…-

        We could find out, if we had human settlements in
        space.
        I don’t think we would need polar bears in space.

        But I would not be oppose to the idea of having
        them on the Moon or Mars.
        If I had to choose between a polar bear and
        a mammoth; I want the mammoth.

      • gbaikie @ 12.30: you want mammoths? Another example of woolly thinking!

      • Read what i said. When you can show me you have provided clean water and electricity to all my fellow humans then and only then can mankind start to worry about other species.

        It is purely a matter of priority. And some would say common sense.

      • The Skeptical Warmist

        Reposted from above:

        Dolphinlegs,

        What’s truly good for humans is good for the web of life. Clean water definitely…electricity– depends how it’s generated.

  3. Just goes to show the myopic research and singleminded need to interview the “Heavy Hitters” when in fact the science is done elsewhere. True, Zac Unger describes the procedures of the so-called investigative writers well. It almost gets to be an article of faith that to find out what is really happening DO NOT interview the famous media scientists. Perhaps Zac can try Dr. susan J. Crockford at http://polarbearscience.com or find out some details about Dr. Mitchell Taylor and maybe interview the Media Hitters with this:
    http://www.telegraph.co.uk/comment/columnists/christopherbooker/5664069/Polar-bear-expert-barred-by-global-warmists.html

  4. EXCELLENT! Never, ever believe ANYTHING out of the mouth of a naturalist grad student or a “researcher” who doesn’t have a few physical war wounds (i.e. limp, scars) from chasing down the truth. I was told for years by these high mountain interlopers that beaver on the Upper Green River in Wyo. were extinct. I first became skeptical when I found I could catch excellent fish just behind HUGE piles of willows that somehow had come to block tributaries to the river.

    My true epiphany occurred when I was on the Green one day and out of the corner of my eye I saw what looked like a fair sized log drifting slowly UP river. What? Must be an eddy or something. When it was immediately in front of me (a distance of about 3 feet) it occurred to me that most logs don’t actually have fur. The thing stopped about 6 feet up river of me and then proceeded to crawl out of the river. In my entire life, I had never imagined that a beaver could be so damn big. It was huge. The thought started to frame in my mind that this could be a potential problem. Fortunately, it looked me dead in the eye for a long moment and then wandered off into the sage.

    • The beaver is LSE’s symbol, a stuffed one was on stage at debates and was occasionally nicked by students from other colleges.

      The significance of this to this thread is that … well, er, umm … Merry Christmas, all, looks like I’ll be waiting a long time for snow.

  5. An interesting story.

    Apparently, the best thing that happened to the polar bears is that several nations signed an agreement that “sport” shooting them for fun from aircraft is forbidden.

    The International Agreement on the Conservation of Polar Bears was signed in Oslo, November 15, 1973 by the five nations with polar bear populations (Canada, Denmark which governed Greenland at that time, Norway, the U.S., and the former U.S.S.R.). At that time it is thought that the total number of polar bears was as low as 5,000.

    Since then their population has increased to around 25,000 today..

    Polar bears have apparently been around a very long time, including prolonged periods of warmer temperature than today.

    But it is extremely non-PC to even insinuate that global warming is not driving the polar bears to extinction, as Zac Unger found out.

    Go figure.

    Max.

  6. Happy holidays to you and yours, Judith.

  7. The Australian phrase “media tarts” springs to mind [is this usage more widespread?]. I read in an authoratitive source that polar bears are brown bears which have adapted to their environment. So if the environmental advantage in whiteness changes, a higher proportion of brown bears will be brown, a smaller proportion white. It were ever thus.

    • Faustino,

      Here locally we don’t use the term “media tarts” but rather we note “that there media trollop, dude, sure gives some good talkin’-head.”

    • Faustino
      My information is that polar bears are really a distinct species from brown bears; even genetically.
      In any case, polar bears remain active and dangerous if humans invade their habitats like Arctic oil drilling workers. A call to Juneau for permission to shoot is a bit late.

      • Polar bears, the largest land predator, are believed to have evolved from Brown bears during the Pleistocene They have many unique physical characteristics that equip them for survival in the arctic, but are not of much use in warmer climates.

        Like most large predators, polar bears are very vulnerable to loss of habitat, and do not make good neighbors if forced to leave their hunting territories in search of food. Small predators such as coyotes and foxes can live in urban areas without disrupting people much, but you wouldn’t want a polar bear eating from your garbage.

      • Calling Juneau might be too late? If gbaikie gets us into space, we might be calling Juno! (Wirelessly, I hope.)

      • Max_OK

        And the good news is that polar bears are doing just fine, thank you.

        With an estimated population of around 25,000 (up from only ~8,000 back in the 1960s), they seem to be thriving (see lead article).

        Polar bears apparently emerged as their own species between 200,000 and 500,000 years ago.

        Since that time, there have been several interglacial warm periods, much warmer than today, lasting for hundreds or even thousands of years, which the polar bears have survived without problem.

        Sure, humans could drive polar bears into extinction (as they did the wooly mammoth tens of thousands of years ago or the dodo bird more recently).

        They could do this as they did the others: by hunting, in this case by again allowing sport hunting of polar bears from helicopters (which has been banned since the 1960s, resulting in the resurgence of the polar bear population).

        But not by CO2 emissions.

        To think that this is possible is blatantly absurd.

        Max

      • “Calling Juneau might be too late? If gbaikie gets us into space, we might be calling Juno! (Wirelessly, I hope.)”

        I don’t get it.
        But I am not getting anyone into space, just trying to give some people
        a heads up about the future. And it seems appropriate because
        people here keep talking 50 or 100 years into the future.

        I would say the people getting you into space are:
        “Private companies such as Virgin Galactic, XCOR, Armadillo Aerospace, Blue Origin and Masten Space Systems”
        http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sub-orbital_spaceflight
        Bigelow Aerospace:
        http://www.bigelowaerospace.com/
        SpaceX:
        http://www.spacex.com/
        NASA:
        http://www.nasa.gov/
        And many smaller companies. And efforts involving a range
        of activity including building spaceports.
        There many advocacy groups and individuals which
        are pushing in a certain directions. I favor some views,
        such as:
        http://spudislunarresources.blogspot.com/
        Or the blog:
        http://www.spudislunarresources.com/blog/
        And I like and post here too:
        http://www.transterrestrial.com/
        Paul Spudis is lunar geologist, and author and Rand Simberg
        is ex-NASA engineer.

        And NASA Watch is good location for space news:
        http://www.nasawatch.com/
        Spacedaily is also interesting:
        http://www.spacedaily.com/
        Probably, anyone serious about would go
        to the yearly space conferences- which I only
        did once, a long time ago. It’s interesting,
        one topic was about rocket racing. But
        I can’t say I am very serious.
        Though probably more serious, than I am about
        Climate Science.
        :)

      • They can interbreed with browns, and their offspring are fertile. Species distinctions in cases like this amount to drawing fine lines blindfolded.

  8. Zac: “Amstrup had to have known that he’d have only a few minutes to make his case. And nothing sells like blood.”

    Not so fast.

    How long was the interview? How much material was left on the cutting room floor? How many times did the interviewer ask Amstrup to describe instances of cannibalism?

    • And how much is blood? Do vampires pay extra to reflect their greater need for the product? Or are market forces held at bay?

    • In an article appearing in the blog “Indian Country” entitled “Is Polar Bear Cannibalism on the Rise Due to Cannibalism? Ask the Inuit”, Kivalliq Inuit Association president Jose Kusugak was “dismissive of the hype”:

      “A male polar bear eating a cub becomes a big story…it becomes absurd because its a normal normal [two iterations of "normal" in the quote] occurence.” The Inuit leader added: the media attention “makes the South–Southern People–look so ignorant.”

      • Another screw-up. Down-thread there is a mis-placed correction. To repeat, the correct title of the above article is “Is Polar Bear Cannibalism on the Rise Due to Climate Change? Ask the Inuit.”

  9. Polar bears perhaps cannot stand the color green so that is why they live so far north… unless, or coruse, they live at the San Diego zoo in which case they wave at the sightseers and eat the slices of bread that the bus drivers sail their way on a drive-by.

  10. Polar bears? This clip is of polar bears in 1935 taken during a voyage in the arctic by celebrity explorer bob Bartlett. His exploits were eagerly watched on pathe news reel by our grandparents as bob reported on a rapidly warming arctic during the 1930′s

    http://www.britishpathe.com/video/just-a-chase/query/polar

    Tonyb

  11. It is not the polar bears that are dying. They would have died five times over by now in previous global warmings that were hotter than current temperatures. It is the future of the West that is in question.

  12. I think a lot more rational discussion on polar bears from experts without and axe to grind can be found here. http://polarbearscience.com/
    Susan has a very engaging writing style without the hyperbole that the activists use.

    And JC, your cartoon offers a solution for all those who worry about the fate of the bears. Introduce them to Antarctica and all the penguins will feed them for years. That should give a real dilemma to the environmentalists.

  13. The Skeptical Warmist

    Like humans, polar bears have proven very adaptable to a changing climate over cold and warm periods. They may represent a great icon for some to use as a symbol for climate change, but not because they would go extinct from a warmer world, but because they represent how adaptable life on this planet is to change. (so long as that change is gradual enough to allow for adaptation). One way the polar bear has found to adapt is to apparently preserve its DNA by interbreeding with brown bears, which apparently they split from as a single species several million years ago:

    http://news.discovery.com/animals/polar-bears-brown-bears-120723.html

  14. ‘Thought for Today’ coutesy of Walt W.

    Be ‘imperturbe, stand at ease in Nature!’

    ‘Me, where ever my life is lived, O to be self -balanced
    for contingenncies,To confront night, storms, hunger, ridicule,
    accidents, rebuffs as the trees and animals do.’

  15. Someone may want to talk to the folks at Coca Cola.

    Welcome to the Arctic
    Our goal, in partnership with World Wildlife Fund, is to raise awareness and funds to help create a place where polar bears and people can thrive in the Arctic. The bears have people like you to thank for over $1.8 million in direct contributions so far, in addition to The Coca-Cola Company’s $2 million commitment. We invite you to explore their home, their life, and how you can help.
    http://www.arctichome.com/showLBE.do?id=arcticHome&type=pillar&size=3&exp=html&amp;

    Includes a nice video.

  16. Although barely a secret the real homegrown conspiracy is that Climatists could care less about polar bears. All of global warming alarmism about their looming demise was peddled like climate porn by Leftists for one purpose only and that is to take advantage of the ignorant. It is no secret that practitioners of flimflam prey on innocent minds by tugging at peoples’ feelings and fears—that is what all deceivers do just as that is what AGW doomsday prognosticators of Thermageddon do.

  17. The Skeptical Warmist, 21/12 7.32pm, notes the ability of life on this planet.
    ‘One way the polar bear has found to adapt is to apparently
    preserve its DNA by interbreeding with brown bears which
    apparently they split from as a single species several million
    years ago.’

    and Superb Blue Wrens. Malurus cyaneus, have found their way
    of strengthening the gene pool too. )

    Some birds, like characters
    In tales of romance,
    Are faithful unto death …
    Not this bird, however.

    Oh he’s the jewel
    Of Australian birds,
    She’s more subdued in colour
    But quite cute nevertheless.

    But he, why he’s as beautiful,
    In his sky blue apparel,
    As a Regency beau,
    But much, much more macho.

    For a bird, not large,
    He’s well endowed, a Napoleon
    Of the Australian bush,
    The Don Juan of his patch of forest.

    Look, he’s just returned from carousing
    With hens from a near by commune,
    Pleased with himself, perky tail
    Held aloft like a banner.

    Only to find the she bird’s
    Out’a there, unknown to him
    She’s carousing too.
    Oh well, c’est l’amour.

    And all seems well in the hippy
    Commune. The birds seem happy,
    The chicks get fed, the long line
    Of wrens cyaneusflourish.

    (Variety, they say,
    Is the spice of life,
    And some say it strengthens
    The gene pool.)
    BC

  18. How does one become a “heavy hitter”? My experience is in a scientific field that has no public intrest, Some become heavy with big brains and hard core science. Others become heavy with personality, high energy, good story telling, seeking high visibility positions, etc. There is always some minimum scientific qualification, but depending on the field the minimum isn’t always very high.

  19. Healthy polar bear count confounds doomsayers PAUL WALDIE
    WINNIPEG — From Thursday’s Globe and Mail (includes correction)
    Last updated Thursday, Sep. 06 2012, 12:58 PM EDT

    The number of bears along the western shore of Hudson Bay, believed to be among the most threatened bear subpopulations, stands at 1,013 and could be even higher, according to the results of an aerial survey released Wednesday by the Government of Nunavut. That’s 66 per cent higher than estimates by other researchers who forecasted the numbers would fall to as low as 610 because of warming temperatures that melt ice faster and ruin bears’ ability to hunt. The Hudson Bay region, which straddles Nunavut and Manitoba, is critical because it’s considered a bellwether for how polar bears are doing elsewhere in the Arctic.

    Consider Albert Einstein’s summary:

    No amount of experimentation can ever prove me right; a single experiment can prove me wrong.

    Albert Einstein (paraphrase)
    Calaprice, Alice (2005). The New Quotable Einstein. USA: Princeton University Press and Hebrew University of Jerusalem. p. 291. ISBN 0-691-12074-9.

    However enamored one is with a pet theory, running aground on hard data leaves no choice but to abandon it for a new theory that makes accurate predictions.

    • There’s been a 66% increase in polar bears, a population surge attributable to . . . .

      Hold on I’ll think of something.

      Ummm ….

      Err ….

      Uhh …

      I gotta pee.

      • “There’s been a 66% increase in polar bears, a population surge attributable to . . . .”

        A more accurate way to count them?

      • A more accurate way to count them? Well, you can’t make a very interesting story out of that.

        Hold on, how do you know for sure it’s more accurate?

        Could this be another uncertainty story?

      • “Hold on, how do you know for sure it’s more accurate?”

        I am a believer in the use of airplanes?

        And it’s report issued by the government of Nunavut.

        “Could this be another uncertainty story?”

        They are all uncertainty stories.
        There could have been more than 1,013

      • Read the linked Nonavut government report on their aerial survey of the Western Hudson Bay polar bear population in 2011. No previous aerial survey was done, and the 2011 survey is not comparable to the mark-capture survey done in 2004 in Churchill, Manitoba. Without comparable surveys, changes in the polar bear population can’t be measured.

        The Inuit in this part of Canada hunt polar bear for sport and profit. Not surprisingly, they don’t want declines ( and projected declines) in the polar bear population used to justify reductions in harvesting quotas for these animals.

        http://www.tunngavik.com/blog/2012/04/03/science-shows-polar-bears-in-nunavut-are-abundant-and-healthy/

    • David L. Hagen

      Max_OK
      Which the model and which the data?
      Polar bear population trends are models based on data of actual captures etc.
      The Utility of Harvest Recoveries of Marked Individuals to Assess Polar Bear (Ursus maritimus) Survival

      However, for the period when fewer marks were available, survival estimates were lower using the recovery-only data set, which indicates that part of the decline we detected for 2003 – 09 may be due to using only harvest recovery data. Nevertheless, the decline in the estimates of survival is consistent with population projections derived from harvest numbers and earlier vital rates, as well as with an observed decline in the extent of sea ice habitat.

      Now what are ALL the uncertainties involved?

      • Well, I only mentioned uncertainty because I thought it’s our hostesses favorite subject. If you destroy an animal’s habitat, it’s population will decline. That’s a no-brainer. Unless, of course, it adapts. Can polar bears keep their population from declining by eating goose eggs instead of seals? That’s the uncertainty part, but I would say not very uncertain.

  20. BS baffles brains Dennis. Its all about claiming a bit of turf and becoming an “expert” through pal review and media hype through development of appropriate sound bites and refusal to directly engage with any of their critics. Sounds familiar? Its called post normal science and the funding becomes assured, so long as you can maintain the drama!

  21. Wildlife biologists are likely self-selected to be “green” in their value orientation. Those who lose their original idealism are as likely to keep up the charade for career reasons as to become truth-tellers:

    http://www.triplicate.com/News/Local-News/Feds-eye-biologists-fraud-case

    There is always a tension between the “real” scientists and the activists in agencies like Fish and Wildlife. It’s hard to know how much eco-fraud goes on, because it is by its nature sub rosa, but occasionally the mask slips. One classic from 2001, where a more-honest scientist caught out some of his colleagues:

    http://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2001/dec/17/20011217-034048-6557r/

    Including this amusing bit: “The employees have been counseled for their actions and banned from participating in the three-year survey of the lynx, listed as a threatened animal under the Endangered Species Act. Federal officials would not name the offending employees, citing privacy concerns.”

    Here’s a current example where the facts are still in question, so it may turn out to be kosher, but the role of pseudo-peer-review rears its head:

    http://finance.townhall.com/columnists/maritanoon/2011/08/14/scientists_expose_inside_job_behind_endangered_species_scam/page/full/

    But the ranching community is not entirely powerless, as the Obama administration and Democratic politicians agreed to delist the gray wolf as an Endangered Species in the face of the objections of many scientists. I don’t know enough to tell if these were the honest scientists or not:

    http://finance.townhall.com/columnists/maritanoon/2011/08/14/scientists_expose_inside_job_behind_endangered_species_scam/page/full/

    My general conclusion is that “science” is only notionally (or fictionally) employed in deciding which species to list or not as endangered. It’s mostly a battle of economic and ideological interests.

    • stevepostrel said on Dec 21, 2012 at 10:15 pm

      “There is always a tension between the “real” scientists and the activists in agencies like Fish and Wildlife. It’s hard to know how much eco-fraud goes on, because it is by its nature sub rosa, but occasionally the mask slips. One classic from 2001, where a more-honest scientist caught out some of his colleagues:

      http://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2001/dec/17/20011217-034048-6557r/

      Including this amusing bit: “The employees have been counseled for their actions and banned from participating in the three-year survey of the lynx, listed as a threatened animal under the Endangered Species Act. Federal officials would not name the offending employees, citing privacy concerns.”
      ________________

      stevepostrel, I’m afraid the Washington Times has told you a whopper.

      I would call it a Lynx tale in a fish wrapper, or if you prefer a Lynx lie on a bird cage liner.

      I will quote from the linked source, but I recommend you go to the link for the whole story.

      “Contrary to most news reports, the biologists did not “plant” fur in national forests, and they were not trying to–nor could they have–use the Endangered Species Act to “shut down” the forests for human use. The actual story, according to a U.S. Forest Service investigation, is that biologists for the U.S. Forest Service, Fish and Wildlife Service and the state of Washington–studying where (not whether) lynx live in the state’s national forests–sent unauthorized “control samples” of hair obtained from captive lynx and a stuffed bobcat to a DNA lab in 1999 and 2000. The biologists were skeptical that the lab would produce accurate results; they were suspicious of test results, ironically enough, because another lab had found more lynx than the biologists thought was likely.”

      http://fair.org/extra-online-articles/the-washington-times8217-hair-raising-tall-tale/

      • Nobody believes internal “investigations” from corporations when they exonerate themselves. The Forest Service is no different. Even if I believed the filtering of the investigation’s conclusions through FAIR–and generally I wouldn’t trust them to give me the correct time of day– their explanation doesn’t pass the laugh test and ignores the scientists who caught the funny business.

    • Steve,

      This is a misrepresentation of Federal scientists. There is nothing about being a wildlife biologist that pre-desposes them to be a “green”. I work regularly with scientists from USFW, USFS, BPA, BLM and USGS, as they have been an excellent source of volunteer mentors working with the students who we serve. Your accusation indicates you’ve never met a scientist employed by the government.

      Max,

      RE Lynx in the PNW

      We had one who moved into a stand of forest across the road a few years back. All 0f 12 miles from downtown Portland. Lynx are not threatened in this part of the world.

  22. Pollution advocates don’t give a damn about polar bears.

    • You know, Max_OK, when there’s been a post on this blog, in the past, that does violence to some one or another of the hive’s cherished “memes”, the “crushers” have always, heretofore, show up in full-force in their best, Sunday frocks and with their party-hats jauntily a-tilt and with their boom-boxes at full-blast in a full-court press to defend the “narrative.”

      But on this polar bear deal, you, Max_OK, curiously seem to be carrying the ball for the whole team all by your lonesome. My best guess?–your eco-pals are afraid they already look foolish enough over this whole polar bear business and don’t want to look even more silly and so they’re letting you work the issue solo since you have nothing to loose in that department. They’re using you, guy. But I think you know that already, Max_OK.

    • Max_OK,

      The global warming threat to polar bears has been, heretofore, the iconographic mainstay of “the team’s” narrative. And usually, a challenge to a sacrosanct shibboleth like that brings out a levee en masse, full-court press response from your “associates.” But they seem to be letting you carry the ball all by yourself on this one. What’s that all about, Max_OK?

    • Millions and millions of distraught masses say otherwise. We’re all polar bears now.

    • Max,

      and your support for polar bears extends how far? Buying a six pack of Coke from time to time perhaps?

  23. Sorry for the error–the above article’s correct title is “Is Polar Bear Cannibalism on the Rise Due to Climate Change? Ask the Inuit.”

    Not that an Inuit is likely to know nearly as much about polar bears as this blog’s resident expert on the subject, Max_OK–who knows it all.

    • Mike, I wonder if the Inuit guy is reading thoroughly before commenting. All media I have read say Polar Bears have always killed and eaten cubs, but some observer believe this cannibalism is increasing. If there are any reports that the cub killing just recently started. I haven’t seem them.

      • Max_OK,

        Yes, I think the “Inuit guy”, as you call him, thoroughly read the relevant media reports before commenting. I mean, like, I see nothing that would indicate otherwise. And in that regard, the respected Inuit leader (your “Inuit guy”), quoted in the article I referenced, found the media reports’ attempts to “marry” a commonplace, male, polar bear behavior to “climate change” to be “absurd” and “hyped” and that the whole business made “Southern People look ignorant.”

        I mean, Max_OK, I don’t know how else to read the article. You read it differently?

      • Mike, of course there are some saps writing for the media, but show me a media report saying polar bears just recently started killing and eating cubs, a report that says the bears never did it before.

      • Max_OK,

        Yr: “Show me an article…”

        Don’t know if you’re playing dumb, Max_OK, in which case, I feel a lively case of “abusive-sarcastic reply disorder” coming on or you’re, in fact, a feeble-minded imbecile deserving a very gentle, understanding, nicey-nicey reply. Let me compromise–I’ll assume you’re both and give an in-between reply.

        The Inuit leader’s objection to the eco-hype surrounding a couple of reports of cub-kills by male Polar Bears was not that “Southern People” were wrongly stating that cub-kills never happened before, but, rather, that a couple of observations of such kills by “Indiana Jones” wannbee, media-philic scientists were being hyped and were absurd. Get it!!!

    • I will testify under oath that I have NEVER eaten a polar bear.

  24. African rhinos freeze as polar bears eat each other due to climate wierding which in turn is due to any energy company that is fool enough to be domiciled in the United States, and because we didn’t let the schoolteachers save the planet when we had time…damn–we just had to pay a ‘lil more in taxes and everything would have been hunky-dory, but no: greedy capitalists are to blame and death to all witches too.

    &nbsp

    “It is just silly to predict the demise of polar bears in 25 years based on media-assisted hysteria … Davis Strait is crawling with polar bears. It’s not safe to camp there. They’re fat. The mothers have cubs. The cubs are in good shape … That’s not theory. That’s not based on a model. That’s observation of reality.” (Dr. Mitchell Taylor)

  25. ” Still, new genetic evidence suggested that polar bears were 500,000 years older than previously thought, meaning they’d survived warm cycles before.”
    _______

    Amazing ! So why do those stupid Polar Bears choose to live up there were it’s so brutally cold? If those bears can adapt so easily they should be living down south in Glacier (soon to be glacierless) National Park with their Grizzly Bear cousins, where life would be so much easier.

    • “Two Canadian biologists have reported sighting a handful of grizzly bears and hybrid grizzly/polar bears at unusually high latitudes in the Arctic, indicating that the interbreeding of the two bear species is becoming more common as the climate warms and grizzlies venture farther north.”
      http://e360.yale.edu/digest/unusual_number_of_grizzly_and__hybrid_bears_spotted_in_high_arctic
      /3567/

      The area around Hudson bay is both colder and is ice free in summer:

      “Churchill has a borderline subarctic climate due to its location above the tree line with long very cold winters, and short, cool to mild summers. Churchill’s winters are colder than a location at a latitude of 58 degrees north should warrant, given its coastal location. The shallow Hudson Bay freezes, eliminating any maritime moderation. Prevailing northerly winds from the North Pole jet across the frozen bay and chill it to a −26.7 °C (−16.1 °F) January average. Juneau, Alaska, by contrast, is also located at 58 degrees north but is moderated by the warmer and deeper Pacific Ocean. Juneau’s −3.5 °C (25.7 °F) January average temperature is a full 23.2 °C (41.8 °F) warmer than Churchill’s. ”
      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Churchill,_Manitoba

      “So why do those stupid Polar Bears choose to live up there were it’s so brutally cold?”

      It’s probably not very cold for Polar bears. And same reason an arctic fox, stays in arctic. It’s has a genetic advantage in colder weather, as compared it’s cousin living in warmer regions.

      • All polar bears all have an Irish grandma.

        “All living polar bears can trace their genetic lineage back to a single, female ancestor — a brown bear from Ireland, who lived around 20,000 to 50,000 years ago.”

        http://www.wired.com/wiredscience/2011/07/polar-bears-origins/

      • NEWS FLASH!!!

        Two hybrid grizzly-polar bears have reported sighting a group of Canadian and (US) American biologists, indicating that the interbreeding of the two species of biologists is becoming more common as the climate warms and US (Americans) venture farther north.

        [Guess, like in the Yukon 120 years ago, "there's gold in them thar hills" again.]

        Max

    • Max_OK

      The polar bears appear content in their habitat, as long as they have plenty of cuddly seal pups to eat and no bothersome human beings around (except for an occasional Inuit). Otherwise, why in hell would they live up there?

      Max

  26. Oh, I know it’s not very cold for polar bears. It’s what their bodies are made for. They don’t even hibernate. I was just poking fun at Zac Unger’s statement: “Still, new genetic evidence suggested that polar bears were 500,000 years older than previously thought, meaning they’d survived warm cycles before.”

  27. For all we know Earth is headed into another ice age and if so polar bears will be dancing on the graves of all humanity. “When the sun is less bright, more cosmic rays are able to get through to Earth’s atmosphere, more clouds form and the planet cools… This is precisely what happened from the middle of the 17th century into the early 18th century, when the solar energy input to our atmosphere … was at a minimum and the planet was stuck in the Little Ice Age.” (Tim Patterson)

  28. Pingback: Cuento de Navidad: Nunca le mires a los ojos a un oso polar. « PlazaMoyua.com

  29. Joe's World {Progressive Evolution}

    Judith,

    Politicians are made up from the populous and rely on advisers for information and guidance to generate polices.
    Generating an ignorant population by media and peer review bias does harm to our knowledge base.

    No wonder higher education relies on pushing hypothesis, rather than evidence gathering.
    Current science relies on hypothesis growing on hypothesis in an enclosed man made environment of biased observation.
    Ignore all parameters but what is to be observed and tweaked upon by the author.
    Boring science does NOT sell but tweak it to distortion…

  30. The bears will do just fine. Being meat eaters from a genus known for their hunting ability and adaptability they will survive.

    The trouble I have is with scientists who effectively switch into a ‘PR above truth’ mode as soon they see a camera or a mic. It’s insulting to the media and the general public. They are playing with fire, as in this day and age EVERYTHING they do in the media is recorded and available easily. Do they not realize the damage they are doing??? The cause warrants the truth at all times not the opposite.

    • Joe's World {Progressive Evolution}

      EcoGuy,

      The care about the future is NOT a consideration to the scientist hoping for fame and more government grants.

      Someone one day may say that polar bear meat will help with anti-aging and charge $1,000.00 per pound…
      What would be the effect then?

    • “The trouble I have is with scientists who effectively switch into a ‘PR above truth’ mode as soon they see a camera or a mic. It’s insulting to the media and the general public. They are playing with fire, as in this day and age EVERYTHING they do in the media is recorded and available easily. Do they not realize the damage they are doing??? The cause warrants the truth at all times not the opposite.”

      Yeah.
      But we could suppose anyone doing PR is an actor.
      And ask the question, why would a scientist want the be a two bit
      actor?

      It could be that we have a low opinion of actors, particular regarding their
      intellect and there is a need for actors to somehow gain credibility by
      using pretend scientists.

      Perhaps since there exists actor unions, that we should demand that
      these unions make some effort in increasing the quality of actors
      or failing that, realize how there is little or negative social value in
      having actor unions.

  31. This seems to be another case of, “we just don’t know.”
    The debate about climate change and its impact on polar bears has intensified with the release of a survey that shows the bear population in a key part of northern Canada is far larger than many scientists thought, and might be growing.
    http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/national/healthy-polar-bear-count-confounds-doomsayers/article2392523/
    Article discusses competing opinions.

    The NOAA Arctic Theme Page on Polar Bears …
    http://www.arctic.noaa.gov/essay_schliebe.html

    From the Polar Bear Specialist Group …
    Summary of polar bear population status per 2010
    http://pbsg.npolar.no/en/status/status-table.html#bottom
    Population is shown to be about 19,598 and Historical annual removals (5 yr mean) are about 786. So Polar Bears are being hunted in significant numbers.
    Of 19 regions studied, 10 are listed as Status = Data Deficient.

  32. Polar bears are the first animals to be threatened by computer models.

    • One of my favorite threatened species studies was the one claiming fish populations of the eastern US coast were doomed because they could not swim fast enough. I kid not.

      First the researchers used models to project changing water temperatures. Then, using the assumption that fish species would migrate in search of water temps they currently prefer, they modelled the rate they could travel. After comparing the two model outputs, they concluded the fish were not swiming fast enough and therefore were doomed due to global warming.

      Then there is the study of bird poulations in the Andes. When it was found they were not migrating to higher elevations – as models projected – even though it was documented that temperatures of their habitats had warmed, the researchers concluded the birds were unlikely to survive. Stupid birds. Obviously not smart enough to realize they should behave as scientific models say they should.

  33. We all know the fairy tale story of “Goldilocks and the three bears”, where GL enters the bears’ house (while they are all gone), snoops about and finds the “just right” chair, bowl of porridge and bed before being awakened by the returning bears and chased away.

    Since this thread is about the Arctic, it should be pointed out that the “Blond Eskimos” (living between mainland Canada and Victoria Island) tell a similar tale:
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Blond_Eskimos

    Also of a little blonde girl (“niviasar”) and three bears – in this case, polar bears (“nanuks”), of course.

    Their house is an igloo (what else?), the “just right” porridge she eats is made of ground seal pup mush but she is very hungry (“perlertok”), so this doesn’t matter, and when they awaken her, the little blonde Eskimo girl also manages to run away unscathed despite the nanuks’ carnivore instincts and inclinations.

    Returning to science, climatologists have adopted the Goldilocks “just right” principle for our climate, with the premise that our climate was “just right” before humans started to interfere with it. It is already no longer “just right” and getting less so following an accelerated trend, due to human greenhouse gas emissions.

    Some climatologists, suggest that the Goldilocks “just right” level of atmospheric CO2 was between 280 and 300 ppmv (19th century level) with anything over 450 ppmv (or even 350 ppmv!) no longer “just right” – but downright “dangerous”, in fact.

    Fairy tales are nice, aren’t they?

    Max

    • There is a fundamental dissonance in the views of people like Muller and moshe. They can ascribe all of the last couple of centuries warming to Human GHG release, recognize that a warmer climate is better than a colder climate, and still find reason to punish the human race for its behaviour.

      If man has caused the temperature rise, which I very much doubt, where would we be without it? Voices over there fall silent with this.
      =================

    • Max

      Your link is really spooky as at the time I saw it I was writing about ‘the blond eskimos’ or more specifically the person who wrote about them Vilhjalmur Stefansson

      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Voyage_of_the_Karluk

      he received much stick for talking about ‘The friendly arctic’ and I am trying to determine if the man is a crackpot or correctly identified that the conditions of the Arctic 1920 onwards were very much more ‘friendly’ than they had been 20 or thirty years previously

      tonyb

    • no kidding, a goldilocks post is coming tomorrow

  34. Zac Unger, California firefighter and freelance writer for the Men’s Journal. Sure, I can see his appeal.
    And Ms. Curry, with Unger, wishes to highlight ornithologist Robert Rockwell’s contrarian views rather than the experience and observations of actual polar bear researchers. Interesting note: Robert holds out the hope that a particular group of bears (the WHB group) will be able to manage by eating snow goose eggs. Sure, again, I guess I can see why that’s appealing.

    But in reality, in the North what we know is that some populations of bears are clearly suffering the effects of early thaws and late freeze ups due to climate change, and others are doing o.k., following the receding ice further north, so far. Each population will be affected differently, depending on what is happening with the sea ice. It is overall habitat, however, that is at risk.
    What is perhaps good about Unger’s book, as Iron John fairy tale motivated and stupid as it appears in its presentation, is that it at least encourages a perspective that is not overfocused on just one species of concern, as we struggle to respond to both climate change and the issues of pollution/toxic chemicals, development, and other challenges in the North.

    See research by Andrew Derocher or Seth Cherry, or Ian Stirling, along with indigenous community research and the government of Nunavut, if you want to claim you bring any comprehensive knowledge to the discussion.

    Be aware that the industry of sport hunting is an issue framing much of the popular discussion. Since the bear population in the western Hudson Bay region is clearly in trouble, the hunting quota has dropped. You’d never know it from Ms. Curry’s hilarious joking, but that what does or doesn’t happen regarding the debate over listing the bears is not going to make a difference to climate change; but what we decide to do about climate change will help avoid severe losses for both people and bears.

  35. Here’s a link to the “UN Climate Scientists Plead for Immunity from Criminal Prosecution”
    http://climatechangedispatch.com/home/10253-un-climate-scientists-plead-for-immunity-from-criminal-prosecution

    First in line for government funds to mislead the public, they also wanted to be first in line for immunity from prosecution.

    They will be disappointed to find world leaders, Al Gore, the President of the UN, the NAS, the RS, and the editors of Nature, Science, PNAS, MPRS, etc. at the front of that line !

  36. Oliver

    Your link is a bit scary:

    The United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) issued it’s formal request for immunity from prosecution to “protect” researchers who have provided “evidence” supportive of the man-made global warming scare story.

    Researchers who falsify data while being paid with taxpayer funds to provide unbiased, objective information should be fired, and their funding should be stopped.

    Organizations, like IPCC, who block dissenting views and scientific studies in order to promote a forced “consensus”, should be defunded and abandoned.

    But “criminal prosecution”?

    I think that’s going too far, because it opens the door for governments to prosecute (and persecute) scientists or other “experts” who do not follow a politically correct “party line” (as we had in the old USSR).

    The people who fall for this falsified data cannot be blamed, if they are unable to check its validity.

    But, hey, anyone with a little common sense and an inquisitive, skeptical mind can check out what’s out there and form own conclusions.

    It’s the old story: “Fool me once, shame on you – fool me twice, shame on me”.

    I hope this whole “prosecution” stuff stops before it gets going, because I think it’s wrong and sets a dangerous precedent.

    Max

  37. Two things of interest. If you could only emphasize one sentence it would be: I wanted to become a hero of the environmental movement.

    Isn’t that the main motive to do what the alarmists do? Trying to become heros? Martyr of a good cause?

    A second interesting observation, how could Stirling and Amstrup talk with forked tongues? It only makes sense if they were completely confident that they would not be exposed.

    That’s groupthink. The certainty of self-sensorship, that nobody in the ingroup would expose little frauds.

  38. Watching some show on TV about the geniuses who wrangle rattle snakes, I was entertained by a World Wildlife Fund commercial asking viewers to adopt a polar bear for $8.00 a month, because 70 percent of them will be dead by 2050. No explanation of how that 8.00 was going to get to the individual adopted bear, or if you would get a picture of the bear you adopted on its way to baby seal killing school.

    These commercials tell me two things – the polar bears were chosen for propaganda value (as though these tough, adaptable hunters were helpless, white, albeit huge, koala bears, completely dependent on the zoo keeper to provide them eucalyptus leaves.

    The second thing it tells me is that the CAGW nut cases who run WWF think their target audience is really stupid.

    Maybe there is some common ground to be found in the climate debate.

    • ” … because 70 percent of them will be dead by 2050.”

      Polar bears rarely live beyond 25 years.[86] The oldest wild bears on record died at age 32 …
      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Polar_Bear#Life_expectancy

      More likely they’ll all be dead by 2050.

    • Gary M

      “”Adopt-a-bear” (for $8 per bear) schemes sound like a real winner.

      OK. There are 25,000 polar bears, so that only brings in $200,000.

      But, hey, no one’s keeping count. The same “bear” can be adopted numerous times.

      Why didn’t Madoff think of this one?

      Max

      • Do we get a photo and personal letter from our adopted bear?

        Though thinking about it a bit further, screw the photo and letter. I want the hide in exchange for my regulat $8 contribution.

  39. Hi all,
    Another sentence worth emphasizing is the last one: “And because it’s our fault [polar bears going extinct] – and because it may be our future – the bears become the most important animals on earth.”.

    And fyi, he has another article out, same theme (really pushing the new book!), in the December issue of Canadian Geographic. The cover image – you guessed it – is polar bears. I have a couple of quotes from it in my latest post at PolarBearScience here: http://polarbearscience.com/2012/12/16/species-threatening-population-declines-vs-polar-bear-declines/ [the 'Featured Quote' in the right sidebar is from that article]

    Susan

  40. Smithsonian.com just posted a new article entitled Most arctic animals should deal with climate change just fine

    http://blogs.smithsonianmag.com/smartnews/2012/12/most-arctic-animals-should-deal-with-climate-change-just-fine/

    • Judith, according to the article, the authors of the study are talking about both SUBARCTIC and ARCTIC life. Also note the authors are quoted as saying “most high-latitude species are generalists.” Generalists can adapt well to different climates and environments.

      I haven’t read the study, but I would be surprised if the authors consider the polar bear a generalist. If they do, I would ask them why the polar bear’s range doesn’t extend farther south like the range of other generalists, such as the beavers they mention. It would come as no surprise to me if you have beavers in Georgia, but I would be shocked if you have polar bears. OK, maybe in a zoo.

      • White is a clue.
        =========

      • Somewhere in the next century, their white camouflage won’t help them anymore.

      • What, no snow in the North? Also, was it accidental that you missed the clue about southerly range?
        =================

      • kim

        Future projections by “polar bear scientists” or “polar bear advocacy groups” are interesting for getting a discussion started (see lead article).

        Even if these come from real experts in the field, they remain hypothetical deliberations.

        I prefer empirical evidence.

        We have the following evidence, as I understand it.

        The total overall polar bear population has increased from a level estimated at 5,000 to 8,000 in the 1960s to a current level of 20,000 to 25,000.

        I have seen reports on sub-populations that go both ways, but no real indication that the 20,000 to 25,000 total number is changing, so I must assume that the empirical evidence that exists shows me that polar bears are doing just fine (until I see empirical evidence to the contrary).

        Max

      • Jim D

        I seriously doubt that you have any notion what you are talking about when you prognosticate about the hapless polar bears:

        “Somewhere in the next century, their white camouflage won’t help them anymore”

        Sorry – my BS detector went into “alarm” mode on that one, Jim.

        Max

      • manacker, yep, not an expert on polar bears. All I know is they are white, snow is white, snow will be disappearing kind of quickly over these next few centuries, ergo, tough times for polar bears. But it was just a quick response to kim’s one-liner. I am not reading all the polar bear articles as I have no real interest.

      • We will need volunteers to paint the white bears brown.

        I would suggest paint balls at 500 meters.

      • Count me out. Ice Bears can run 500 meters way faster than I can. They can swim it faster, too. I’ll bet they can fly it faster than I can.
        ==========

    • The title of the research paper is Future Climate Change Will Favour Non-Specialist Mammals in the (Sub)Arctics.
      I couldn’t find polar bears mentioned anywhere in the research paper. That could be because the research was centered on Europe’s arctic and subarctic, which may have few if any polar bears. I don’t know they don’t inhabit that area, but I didn’t see anything about polar bears in the paper.

      I do know polar bears don’t appear to be non-specialists mammals. Their characteristics are highly specialized for hunting seals in icy seas.

      The Smithsonian article on the research paper is somewhat misleading titled: Most Arctic Animals Should Deal With Climate Change Just Fine. I believe the article’s author did not put proper emphasis on the final paragraph in the paper. I will quote the paragraph here:

      “We conclude that large magnitudes of climate change do not necessarily equate to substantial loss of species, provided that dispersal ability is not hampered, but suggest that changes in species interactions, limitations to successful colonization and human impacts related to climate change may threaten species, even when areas are predicted to still be largely suitable to their environmental needs under new climatic conditions. Our study has clear implications regarding the necessity to include future climate change and concurrent changes in community composition in conservation planning. Current protected areas may not provide species with their future requirements [40]. Although none of the species assessed is predicted to go regionally extinct based upon our models, we provide evidence that the vulnerability of already threatened species may increase due to the introduction of new competing/predatory species in their geographic range. We also stress the importance of habitat connectivity and of the existence of sufficient and appropriate corridors to allow dispersal between suitable habitats for the future persistence of various species. The results are likely applicable to other regions as well, particularly to other polar and alpine regions.”

      http://www.plosone.org/article/info%3Adoi%2F10.1371%2Fjournal.pone.0052574

    • The Skeptical Warmist

      It seems competing studies once more come to differing conclusions:

      http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/14888386.2012.732556

      Keystone species are very important and rates of change are also very important. I would say the jury is truly still out as to what effects the rapidly changing Arctic biosphere will have on keystone species. As in all such extreme changes, some species will benefit and some will not.

      • R gates

        Tell you what, why don’t we look at what happened to polar bears in Greenland during the 1930′s and 1940′s, the two warmest consecutive decades on record there. I would guess there was no effect whatsoever

        Tonyb

  41. The article was based on data from Northernmost continental Europe. The only bear included in the study is the brown bear.

  42. Whatever

    http://alaska.usgs.gov/science/biology/polar_bears/size.html#WHB

    ——————————–
    The size of the Western Hudson Bay polar bear population declined from 1194 (95% CI = 1020, 1368) in 1987, to 935 (95% CI = 794, 1076) in 2004. Total apparent survival of prime-adult polar bears (age 5–19 yr) was stable over the course of the study for both females (0.93; 95% CI = 0.91, 0.94) and males (0.90; 95% CI = 0.88, 0.91). Survival of juvenile, sub adult, and senescent-adult polar bears was correlated with spring sea ice breakup date, which was variable among years and occurred approximately 3 weeks earlier in 2004 than at the beginning of the study in 1984. We propose that this correlation provides evidence for a causal association between earlier sea ice breakup (due to climatic warming) and decreased polar bear survival. It may also explain why Churchill, like other communities along the western coast of Hudson Bay, has experienced an increase in the number of human–polar bear interactions in recent years.
    ————————————

    Let em eat goose eggs.

  43. Eli

    In the relatively small Hudson Bay polar bear population sub-group we saw:

    “increase in the number of human–polar bear interactions in recent years”

    “decline of polar bear population”

    Let’s do a quick “cause and effect analysis” on that one, Eli.

    Max

  44. This year my camera and I had to make do with the Southern Alaskan Brown Bear. I was in Geographic Harbor watching a rather large male bear fishing for salmon in one of the ebbing streams in the estuary. I had my eye firmly fixed in the view-finder when I realized I could not focus on the bear any more. He had arrived within a few feet of my position. Rather non-plussed I asked him about the problems of global warming. He paused for a moment, gave it some thought, and then said that in his opinion it would be good for bears. When a bare bear is a warm bear he is always happier than when a cold bear. However, having exhausted that line of questioning, I turned the conversation to more interesting matters. I asked him what he thought of the economic outlook. His reply was obvious when you think about it…

    Its still a bear market.

    Happy holidays to yourself Judith and all your blogees

    Bob

  45. Better resource w. links

    The reason why Western Hudson’s Bay is important to the discussion of this post is that it is the place where “Rocky” made his observations on the bears plundering goose eggs

    Rockwell, RF, LJ Gormezano and DN Koons. 2011. Trophic matches and mismatches: Can polar bears reduce the abundance of nesting snow geese in western Hudson Bay? Oikos 120:696-709.

    Rockwell, RF and LJ Gormezano. 2009. The early bear gets the goose: climate change, polar bears and lesser snow geese in Western Hudson Bay. Polar Biology 32:539-547.

    and it is also the place where early break up is causing trouble for the bears.

    Now based on the quotes above, some, not Eli, might think that Rockwell was shut out of the literature. Some would be wrong, but the general opinion is that geese eggs are a fine snack, but

    But it seems unlikely that current population sizes of polar bears could be maintained on alternate dietary energy sources if the diet does not include significant quantities of marine mammals, which are normally accessed by bears from a sea-ice platform.

    • Go live in the Hudson Bay area before you comment.

    • Wow Eli, that map is complete with uncertainty and unknowns.
      simulated population.. nice.
      Oh, and lets talk about Harvesting.

      • Yeah, well
        :

        This presentation will set the context for discussions with a global perspective on the conservation and monitoring of polar bears. There are five Range States: United States, Canada, Russia, Greenland and Norway. Within those, there are 19 recognized subpopulations of polar bears. International coordination began in 1965. In Fairbanks, Alaska, scientists, managers and politicians met to discuss concerns about polar bear conservation. The Governor of Alaska at that time, William Egan, gave the welcoming address and Alaska Senator Bartlett brought with him a letter from President Lyndon B. Johnson. The impetus was a common concern on the over harvest of polar bears. 300 polar bears per year were being hunted by aircraft and there were similar concerns (with respect to sport harvest and over harvest) in the other Range States. Eight years later, the five Range States, after much negotiation, wrote an international agreement on the conservation of polar bears and concluded that:

        The harvest of polar bears will be prohibited, except by local people using traditional methods

        Each party shall
        o Protect ecosystems
        o Management populations with sound conservation practices and on the best available scientific data
        o Conduct national research programs

        Despite overharvest being largely addressed, the international agreement is still relevant. The main threat to polar bears now is thought to be the unidirectional decline of habit as a result of climate warming. Other impacts are human-caused mortality, contaminants and development in the Arctic.

        or to simply report the opinion of quote Rosa Meehan former Division Chief, FWS’ Marine Mammals Management (MMM) program in Anchorage, AK:

        the evidence pointed mainly to the change in the ecosystem and its correlation to the polar bears losing prey, losing weight, and other issues.

        In other word, while there are several pressures on polar bear populations, climate change is the most threatening and pressing.

        Thank you for waving your hands

      • Eli

        As I said up thread, if we want to know what may happen to polar bears we merely need to read the journals from Greenland in the period 1930 to 1950 which covered the two warmest consecutive decades in the record.

        They didn’t melt and they didn’t do anything strange except be polar bearish.
        Tonyb

    • Eli –
      {Zac Unger, in the latest issue of Canadian Geographic magazine, calls the decline in WHB numbers “startling” and states that the trend lines from the study that documented the decline suggest that “by 2011, the population would fall to as low as 676.” [this projection to 2011, by the way, appears to originate from a statement made in Atkinson et al. 2012 on page 32, although the number given there is “around 650”].

      It is now 2012. Has there been a 43% decline in polar bear numbers in WHB since 1998 – in other words, are there now only 676 (or “around 650”) bears? There have been no additional surveys of the WHB subpopulation using the “mark-recapture method” since 2004 (see previous posts here, and here,) so we don’t really know.

      However, in 2011 the government of Nunavat commissioned an aerial count of WHB polar bears – a method not used before in this region – and the study generated an estimate of 1,013 (Atkinson et al. 2012), not appreciably different from the 2004 count of 935. Unfortunately, an aerial survey is not comparable to the previous mark-recapture studies (the methods are just too different), so we cannot really say for sure if any change has occurred.

      The 2011 Nunavat study does, however, suggest to me the possibility that the decline documented in 2004 was temporary and that a slight rebound in numbers – rather than a continued decline – may have occurred. Temporary declines followed by population rebounds happen relatively frequently in mammals, including polar bears and ringed seals, often in response to extreme winter conditions (see previous posts here, and here on this topic. More on this in a subsequent post).}

      from –
      http://polarbearscience.com/2012/12/16/species-threatening-population-declines-vs-polar-bear-declines/#more-902

      Read on to see what a truly catrastrophic decline really is.

  46. So you say, Eli,…”the general opinion is that geese eggs are a fine snack, but …” how did you like the fox for supper?

  47. Well, I suggest the tree hugging, sea otter loving, California conservationists start in their own back yards for a change. They want to save some bears? Fine, then they should start with their extinct California grizzly–currently living in Montana, Canada, and Alaska. Surely California’s rich devoted equestrian elite can afford to lose a few of their Arabians to some imported bears each year. To save the species, surely an affluent pony riding child can be sacrificed to the bears on occasion?

    • Nice.

      I notice both cartoons feature penguins as well as polar bears, thus suggesting a solution for potential bear declines due to loss of seal in their diet. With science recently discovering that Antarctica penguin populations are almost half again as large as previously thought, we could import a portion of them to the Arctic.

      Better yet, we could have Big Al transport bears to Antarctica with his rented cruise ship.

  48. Dr. Curry, please take a gander at this site –

    “In 2008, polar bears in the United States were declared ‘threatened’ under the Endangered Species Act (USFWS 2008). The IUCN (to which the Polar Bear Specialist Group (PBSG) belongs) lists the polar bear as “vulnerable” (IUCN Red List 2012). In Canada (where 60% of the world’s polar bears reside), the polar bear is listed as a ‘species of special concern’ (COSEWIC 2008:iii).

    As Jonathan Adler pointed out in an excellent article that appeared on the heels of the American ESA listing decision (Adler 2008:112), “Insofar as the listing is based upon climate models, ice-melt projections, and assumptions about the effects of habitat loss on the bear’s prospects for survival in the wild, its scientific basis is quite speculative.” These are also, as I understand it, unprecedented criteria for ESA listing – no other species has been listed as endangered or threatened based on such speculation of future conditions.”

    Quoted from – http://polarbearscience.com/
    Dr. Susan J. Crockford is a zoologist with more than 35 years experience, including work on the Holocene history of Arctic animals. Like Ian Stirling, Susan Crockford earned her undergraduate degree in zoology at the University of British Columbia. She is currently an adjunct professor at the University of Victoria, B.C. Polar bear evolution is one of Dr. Crockford’s professional interests, which she discusses in her book, Rhythms of Life: Thyroid Hormone and the Origin of Species. She blogs at PolarBearScience.com

    Also from her site – {“The ESA was not enacted to protect healthy animal populations. Despite this fact, the NMFS continues the federal government’s misguided policy to list healthy species based mostly on speculated impacts from future climate change, adding additional regulatory burdens and costs upon the State of Alaska and its communities.” Alaska Governor Sean Parnell, Dec. 21 }

    This is as good a site for Polar Bear research as is out there!

  49. Eli,

    you obviously didnt look at the SI, but rather went to another document.
    And you cant asses the role of harvesting when the survey data you point to lists unknowns and illegal harvesting as an unknown.

  50. g2-91a96892c9b157ef8c7ff35a46563741

    Halfway into the fourth century of the Arctic research game here, the score stands at :

    Polar Bears 1
    Graduate Students 0

    On the other hand, for every grad student the bears have devoured, the alumni have deployed untold hundreds of grand white rugs.

  51. Pingback: There Is No Doom and Gloom « Seeing the Sword

  52. Somewhat late, but someone actually talked to the the folks who study polar bears
    ——————————
    “1. Anecdotal Evidence Doesn’t Trump Scientific Evidence.

    In February, Fox News repeatedly promoted a book by firefighter Zac Unger on his time in Churchill, Manitoba to claim that “the polar bears are doing just fine.” Even though bears in that region are actually among the subpopulations in decline, Fox News suggested that the book undermined climate science. Dr. Andrew Derocher, a scientific advisor to Polar Bears International, called that premise “flawed” and told Media Matters that “scientific literature shows very clearly the loss of sea ice in the satellite record and the projections (many many scientific papers) show that the future will be particularly challenging for polar bears as the sea ice disappears.” He added, “I’ve worked on polar bears for 30 years and the changes are incredibly easy to see but as scientists, we don’t just look at bears, we measure them and analyze the data.”

    Stirling criticized Unger for “a very sad piece of deliberately misleading and dishonest writing” that “tells only parts of the story that suit him.” Similarly, Derocher said it was “unfortunate” when “someone who clearly doesn’t understand a subject well botches up the science.” Furthermore, media should not rely on anecdotal information when there is “a lot of data” on sea ice and polar bear body condition. He added:

    The book you mentioned was written by someone who spent a few months in 1 place with his family talking to people. What I did on my last trip to Kentucky doesn’t qualify me to rewrite the history [of] the eastern US. I’ve worked on polar bears for 30 years. Many of my colleagues for even longer. You don’t go to a plumber for heart surgery but when it comes to polar bears “everybody is an expert”. In science, an expert has to demonstrate expertise. Hanging around in Churchill for a few months talking to the locals doesn’t qualify as an expert. Our last paper on polar bears in Conservation Letters had something like 200 years of cumulative polar bear expertise. How it can be that media put the scientific perspective on par with a casual observer is beyond me.

    In fact, some reports that rely on polar bear sightings to conclude they are doing “fine” may be unwittingly underscoring the urgency of sea ice melt. As lost habitat drives bears from their hunting grounds, they sometimes wander into towns and garbage dumps. This may lead to more contact with humans, and an overall impression that polar bears are abundant, even to the point of being a nuisance. In fact, as Dr. Steven C. Amstrup, a former polar bear project leader at the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS), told Media Matters, a bear sighting in a new place “probably means the bears are having a hard time making a living where they used to make a living.”

  53. Pingback: The two faces of polar bear biologists – Zac Unger interviews Amstrup and Stirling | polarbearscience

  54. I really liked the title of your post. Also the cartoon at the end is quite interesting. I look forward to similar posts.