The Settled Science of Polar Bears

Leftists decided that their global warming scam needed a poster child, and polar bears were selected for that honor. For some years now we have been exposed to mournful photographs of polar bears floating away on ice floes, or otherwise appearing endangered:

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The theory on which polar bears are supposed to be endangered because their environment is becoming more benign has never been entirely clear, nor has there been data to support the claim that their populations are declining. Indeed, polar bears inhabit such remote and forbidding regions that no one has much idea how many of them there are. But no matter. Polar bears are cuddly–from a distance, anyway–and so they served the hoaxers’ purpose.

Like so much of the global warming fraud, the polar bear theme has unraveled. Thomas Lifson has the latest. A prominent advocate for the endangered polar bear theory has just admitted to an actual scientist that he made the whole thing up:

[P]olar bear scientist Dr. Susan Crockford…publishes the website Polar Bear Science. In it she documents how a scientist responsible for an alarmist lowball estimate of polar bear population is backing away from numbers that she has been questioning:

Last week (May 22), I received an unsolicited email from Dr. Dag Vongraven, the current chairman of the IUCN [International Union for the Conservation of Nature – TL] Polar Bear Specialist Group (PBSG).

The email from Vongraven began this way:

Dr. Crockford

Below you’ll find a footnote that will accompany a total polar bear population size range in the circumpolar polar bear action plan that we are currently drafting together with the Parties to the 1973 Agreement. This might keep you blogging for a day or two. [my bold]

It appears the PBSG have come to the realization that public outrage (or just confusion) is brewing over their global population estimates and some damage control is perhaps called for. Their solution — bury a statement of clarification within their next official missive….

The statement of clarification is an Emily Litella classic: oops, never mind!

Here is the statement that the PBSG proposes to insert as a footnote in their forthcoming Circumpolar Polar Bear Action Plan draft:

“As part of past status reports, the PBSG has traditionally estimated a range for the total number of polar bears in the circumpolar Arctic. Since 2005, this range has been 20-25,000. It is important to realize that this range never has been an estimate of total abundance in a scientific sense, but simply a qualified guess given to satisfy public demand. It is also important to note that even though we have scientifically valid estimates for a majority of the subpopulations, some are dated. Furthermore, there are no abundance estimates for the Arctic Basin, East Greenland, and the Russian subpopulations. Consequently, there is either no, or only rudimentary, knowledge to support guesses about the possible abundance of polar bears in approximately half the areas they occupy. Thus, the range given for total global population should be viewed with great caution as it cannot be used to assess population trend over the long term.” [my bold]

I love that phrase, “in a scientific sense.” Nothing about the claims made by the global warming hysterics should be taken in a scientific sense.

For a more comprehensive review of the polar bear fraud, along with many other topics, check out the Congressional testimony of Daniel Botkin, Professor (Emeritus) in the Department of Ecology, Evolution and Marine Biology at UC Santa Barbara, President of The Center for The Study of The Environment, and author of Discordant Harmonies: A New Ecology for the 21st Century and the textbook Environmental Science:

Some of the [IPCC's 2014 report's] conclusions are the opposite of those given in articles cited in defense of those conclusions.

For example, the IPCC 2014 Terrestrial Ecosystem Report states that “there is medium confidence that rapid change in the Arctic is affecting its animals. For example, seven of 19 subpopulations of the polar bear are declining in number” citing in support of this an article by Vongraven and Richardson, 2011. That report states the contrary, that the “decline” is an illusion.

In addition, I have sought the available counts of the 19 subpopulations. Of these, only three have been counted twice; the rest have been counted once. Thus no rate of changes in the populations can be determined. The first count was done in 1986 for one subpopulation.

The U. S. Marine Mammal Commission, charged with the conservation of this species, acknowledges “Accurate estimates of the current and historic sizes of polar bear stocks are difficult to obtain for several reasons–the species‘ inaccessible habitat, the movement of bears across international boundaries, and the costs of conducting surveys.”

According to Dr. Susan Crockford, “out of the 13 populations for which some kind of data exist, five populations are now classified by the PBSG [IUCN/SSC Polar Bear Specialist Group] as ‘stable’ (two more than 2009), one is still increasing, and three have been upgraded from ‘declining’ to ‘data deficient’. . . . That leaves four that are still considered ‘declining’‐ two of those judgments are based primarily on concerns of overhunting, and one is based on a statistically insignificant decline that may not be valid and is being reassessed (and really should have been upgraded to ‘data deficient’). That leaves only one population – Western Hudson Bay – where PBSG biologists tenaciously blame global warming for all changes to polar bear biology, and even then, the data supporting that conclusion is still not available.”

To anyone with a rudimentary knowledge of the Earth’s history, the suggestion that polar bears are threatened by a change in the planet’s average temperature of a degree or two–or five or six, if we pretend that the climateers’ models have any scientific basis–is ludicrous. Polar bears have been around, I suppose, for millions of years. Yet, in just the last 450,000 years–practically the blink of an eye–polar bears have lived through climate changes far more drastic than anything now predicted by the fraudsters:

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I think that to the extent the climate hysterics are able to fool anyone, it is largely because most people have no idea of the natural variability of the Earth’s climate.

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