Category Archives: Advocacy

Polar bears and melting ice: three facts that shouldn’t surprise you

If I was invited by USA TODAY to discuss how climate change is affecting polar bears now – summed up in three talking points – this is what I’d say. I’d use some meaningful images rather than cute pictures of cuddly bear cubs and I’d provide links to my work with references and details to back up my answers.

Compare my responses to those supplied by Steve Amstrup in his capacity as spokesperson for Polar Bears International (“Save our sea ice!”) to Jolie Lee at USA TODAY last week, who’s word is expected to be taken as gospel.

AK PB N Shore-USFWS Barrow_labeled

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Polar Bear Specialist Group just had another secret meeting

Well, well, well — it looks the Polar Bear Specialist Group (PBSG) just had itself another secret meeting with some extra special guests.

pbsg logoPolar bear scientists and PBSG-approved activists got together a few weeks ago (June 9-13), with no notice beforehand, to continue discussions how (sic) to solve issues of future capacity.”

This was their “second intersessional members-only meeting in a row” (the first one was in October 2012), but they still haven’t had their regular, now long-overdue, “working meeting.” [they had the last one in 2009].

I came upon a notice about this meeting on the PBSG website, which apparently went up June 26, while looking for something else. There has been nothing about it in the media that I’ve seen.

And guess who were “invited specialists” at this meeting of “members-only,” called “to discuss internal matters crucial for the future functioning and capacity of the group”?

Three “climate scientists“!

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Swimming bear video used for propaganda was not shot with bear-mounted cameras

I just went back to Andy Revkin’s blog post on the swimming polar bear video story that I wrote about on Wednesday to see what kind of feedback it was getting. I found that it pays to check up.

pbear_swimming_USGS

A reader from Oregon questioned the filming techniques used for this video.

Revkin followed up.

And it turned out, the reader from Oregon was correct — the film used in this video was shot with “an assortment of traditional methods,not with the strapped on cameras that the USGS were using on the bears.

Revkin assumed from the background provided to him that this was leading-edge technology, bear-generated video. And even though he’d interviewed the filmmaker, the truth hadn’t come out.

Update June 29, 2014 – another damning comment made, added below.

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Swimming bear video used to promote climate change threat to polar bears

A video being hyped around the internet – “Witness a polar bear’s heartbreaking swim for ice in the Arctic” said one headline – is simply shameless propaganda, facilitated by the US Geological Survey and its polar bear biologists. USGS scientists involved in this work should be ashamed of themselves.

The caption for the Youtube video (published Jun 21, 2014) says this:

Take a swim with a polar bear family as they traverse the Arctic Ocean in search of sea ice.

This is a load of nonsense and a total misrepresentation of the facts.

In addition, the text added to the video is pure propaganda: it is being used to promote the US government position that sea ice loss due to climate change is a massive threat to polar bears. Unfortunately, recent studies contradict the contention that polar bears have already been harmed by declines in summer sea ice.

Here are some background to the video you should be aware of:

1) The bears were swimming away from the USGS researchers and film crew who had shot them full of sedatives and attached a camera to one of their necks — they were not swimming toward sea ice 100 miles away.

2) The video was shot in the Bering Sea, in April 2014, when sea ice was about its maximum extent of the year — there was lots of ice around when this video was filmed.

3) The company doing the filming is using this video as a fundraiser.

Details below, including a sea ice map for April 2014.

UPDATE June 27, 2014 – see follow-up post here.

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Center for Biological Diversity provides a public disservice on polar bear status

Media agency Aljazeera gave free advertizing the other day (June 16, 2014, “New TV ads focus on plight of polar bears in warming world, by Renee Lewis) to the Center for Biological Diversity’s TV fear-mongering campaign about polar bears.

USFWS photo

USFWS photo

With unmitigated gall, it’s being billed as a “public service announcement.”
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Tracking polar bears in the Beaufort Sea – May 2014 map and USGS video footage

Here is the May 2014 follow-up to my post on the July 2013 track map for female polar bears being followed by satellite in the Beaufort Sea by the US Geological Survey (USGS) – “Ten out of ten polar bears being tracked this summer in the Beaufort Sea are on the ice.”

See that post for methods and other background on this topic, and some track maps from 2012 (also available at the USGS website here).

The USGS track map May 2014 is copied below (Fig. 1).

Compare this to April’s map (Fig. 2) – the 24 bears from April are down to 20 and the bears are spreading out a bit from the area on the central Alaskan coast where they were originally tagged. Fifteen of these bears have satellite collar transmitters [and therefore are females] and 5 of these bears have glue-on satellite transmitters [either males or subadult animals].

Some comments on the polar bear video cam footage released June 6 by USGS and stories on it run by the media follow.

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Climate bullying echoes the expulsion of Mitch Taylor from Polar Bear Specialist Group

A lone polar bear walking on ice [Kathy Crane (NOAA) photo].  We'll call this a metaphor for the expulsion of Mitch Taylor from the PBSG after the Group switched from emphasizing unregulated over-hunting as the primary threat to polar bear conservation to global warming.

Kathy Crane (NOAA) photo

Swedish meteorologist Lennart Bengtsson today declared his resignation from the Academic Advisory Board of the Global Warming Policy Foundation (GWPF), which he joined only three weeks ago, because of bullying by his colleagues. His email letter reads, in part:

“I had not expecting such an enormous world-wide pressure put at me from a community that I have been close to all my active life. Colleagues are withdrawing their support, other colleagues are withdrawing from joint authorship etc. I see no limit and end to what will happen. It is a situation that reminds me about the time of McCarthy. I would never have expecting anything similar in such an original peaceful community as meteorology.”

See WUWT for the email in its entirety, GWPF response, and other reactions (and more here).

Absolutely shameful. Alas, the reprehensible behaviour displayed by Bengtsson’s colleagues also goes on within the polar bear research community: those that refuse to parrot the “consensus” are quickly punished.

Remember Mitch Taylor and his expulsion in 2009 from the IUCN Polar Bear Specialist Group? His “crime” was objecting to the PBSG using weak evidence about future threats of global warming to have the conservation status of polar bears changed to ‘threatened’ even though populations were currently healthy. Details below for those who don’t know the story, or have forgotten.

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PBI Facebook posts on Stirling’s polar bear that “died of climate change” have disappeared

It seems the two PBI Facebook posts about polar bear expert Ian Stirling’s bear that supposedly “died of climate change” last summer, which included some scathing comments and links to this blog, were removed sometime between late August 2013 and yesterday, when I happened to look for them.

See the screen-caps below. The first one, posted August 6, linked to the original Guardian article on the Svalbard bear and added some activist spin for good measure!

Polar Bears International Facebook_Aug 6

The second one, posted August 8, linked to an PBI news item that introduced a PBI blog post written by Stirling, in which he attempted some damage control.1

PBI link to Stirlings blog post on the bear that died of climate change_with activist spin_Aug 8 2013

[Reprise: Stirling speculated that a 16 year old bear found emaciated and dead in Svalbard, three months after it had been captured by researchers in good condition, had died of starvation due to lack of sea ice caused by global warming. Guardian writers transformed this into a bear that "died of climate change." No mention from in the original story that 16 years is near the maximum life expectancy for male bears in the wild, that death by starvation is the usual cause of death for very old bears, or that other bears in the area were doing just fine (based on the fact that the Norwegian team working that area had just posted their data online). See my original post here, followup here, Featured Quote #44, here and footnote below]

Stirling himself (a “scientific advisor” to Polar Bears International, PBI), and the-polar-bears-are-dying message generally, took a big hit over that incident. But attempting to rewrite history? See the screen-cap below, taken yesterday (pdf here):

PBI_Fan Photo Day Aug 6 to Aug 13 gap_Svalbard bear story gone_April 29 2014

The deletion of these two entire entries suggests that PBI and Ian Stirling would rather their faithful Facebook followers and donors not have a chance to revisit the scathing comments and links to this blog. I assume it is the comments and links that were the offending parts, since Stirling’s blog post at PBI is still there, and of course, the news stories carried elsewhere are still out there. So instead of deleting comments, they removed the entire posts.

Good thing I saved screen caps of many of the more critical comments, from at least two PBI Facebook followers I’ve never heard of — have a look. [August 6th post was also captured by the cache machine]
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New polar bear exhibit at Winnipeg zoo will help make it “self-sustaining”

Here’s a development I’m sure you’ll find surprising: the July opening of the new polar bear exhibit at the Assiniboine Zoo in Winnipeg, Manitoba, expected to draw huge crowds this summer, will coincide with a substantial hike in entrance fees.

Kaska and Aurora, courtesy Assiniboine Park Zoo.

Kaska and Aurora, courtesy Assiniboine Park Zoo, Winnipeg.
Aurora is the cub orphaned in Churchill last year when her mother was shot.

Starting July 3, the fee for adults will increase from $10.24 to $18.50, not including GST. Said a CBC News report earlier today:

“Officials said the admission prices are being adjusted to “reflect the industry standard across zoos in North America” and bring the Winnipeg zoo closer to being a self-sustaining facility.

“Our job was to build a world-class and increasingly self-sustaining facility that allowed the [Assiniboine] Park and Zoo to be dramatically less dependent on tax dollars,” Redmond said.”

So, that’s why having polar bears in zoos are a good thing. Didn’t I say that last year? See the whole story here, more comments below.

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Amstrup grasps at straws to defend his polar-bears-are-doomed computer model

Polar bear activist Steven Amstrup made an astonishing statement in an interview earlier this week — he insisted that the current rate of warming in the Arctic is greater than anything polar bears have lived through before. He also said that optimistic comments on the future of polar bears made by geneticist Matt Cronin a few weeks ago were “incautious” and “misleading.”

Polar bear cubs in den wikipedia

Previously, I described how a new paper by Cronin and colleagues confirmed that genetic evidence indicates polar bears have been around long enough to have survived several past Interglacial periods that were warmer than today (and therefore, would have had virtually no summer ice). Cronin, not unreasonably, had some critical things to say about computer modeled predictions that polar bears could not survive in an Arctic without summer sea ice.

On Monday, the Anchorage Daily News gave Amstrup a forum to rebuke Cronin for his comments. A similar story was also carried by the Washington Post. [In the same ADN article, geneticist Charlotte Lindqvist, offered an outdated argument against future polar bear survival that I’ll deal with later]

Today, I’ll address Amstrup’s ridiculous assertion that the current rate of warming, attributed by him primarily to human activities rather than natural variation, is something polar bears have never experienced in their evolutionary history (a period of more than 400,000 years!).

Let’s start with the offending portion of the news item (published March 31, 2014):

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