Bioscience paper and starving polar bear follow-up

Between the two stories (the attack by my colleagues and the starving polar bear hype), views at my blog have gone through the roof and one Arctic biologist speaks out on what SeaLegacy folks should have done when they saw a starving polar bear on Baffin Island this summer.

polar_bear_sow_two_cubs_feeding_with_gulls_Kaktovik_USGS

For the two weeks prior to the release of the Harvey paper (rounding to the nearest 100) the number of page views was 11,400 while for the two weeks since the Harvey et al. paper was released views were at 72,300 (with 14,900 views yesterday, 23,300 views the day before, and 12,500 the day before that). Prior to the Harvey et al. incident, my highest-ever one day blog view tally was 10,400 (a walrus haulout post!).

Several blogs were discussing the Harvey et al. paper and its implications from the first day (29 November) and a few have contacted me to say their blog views are way up as well. Terry Corcoran at the National Post wrote a supportive column, here.

So much for shutting down non-conforming opinion and criticism, especially mine. Now folks know exactly where to go for an unbiased take on polar bear issues.

One reader contacted me via my ‘contact me’ page and insisted he wanted to make a cash donation to support my blogging efforts:

“First, I apologize for adding to your (probably) overflowing inbox, but wanted to let you know that I have followed recent developments and applaud your response to these ignorant accusers.

I would be happy to assist you with monetary support in order to help defray any expenses you have incurred recently, or anticipate soon. If there is a method to do that, please let me know.

The stress and time away from your regular work is precisely what prompted me to contact you. To me this attack on your work is similar to a person that has had a fire in their home. Everything is put on hold while they tend to all of the mitigation, insurance response, etc. It takes time, energy and money.”

I wish I could have said “it’s not necessary” but he’s absolutely right. I’ve had to take time off work to deal with the issue, and it’s not over yet. Christmas is fast approaching. I don’t have a donate button here at PolarBearScience but we figured out a way to make it happen. His generous contribution is much appreciated. I’ve had dozens of emails of support, from known colleagues to people I’ve never heard from before.

Comments on the starving polar bear below.

UPDATE 11 December 2017: shortly after posting, I came across James Delingpole’s just-published column on the starving polar bear issue, read it here.

UPDATE 11 December 2017: I forgot to say that I have yet to hear back from the editors of Bioscience regarding my retraction request, except they did respond to my second email on Fridayasking for confirmation that they received the letter sent three days earlier. I shouldn’t have had to prompt them: confirming receipt of such document is common courtesy and good business practise.  (h/t Anthony Watts)

UPDATE 11 December 2017 7:00 PM PST: Finally, after the damage has been done, polar bear specialists have spoken out (sort of) on the SeaLegacy “starving polar bear as victim of climate change story.” An article in the National Post was published in the early evening and features an interview with Andrew Derocher, with comments from Ian Stirling and Inuit representative Terry Audla (“What everybody got wrong about that video of a starving polar bear“). CBC covered a similar change of tune here. Too little, too late, I say. And over at the Globe and Mail, Margaret Wente has a hard-hitting piece today on why this kind of exaggeration is bad for everyone.
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One starving bear is not evidence of climate change, despite gruesome photos

We finally have this year’s example of the new fad of claiming every polar bear that died of starvation (or on its way to starving to death) — and caught on film — is a victim of climate change: a young bear on Somerset Island near Baffin Island, Nunavut filmed in August during its last angonizing hours by members of an activist conservation organization called SeaLegacy.

‘I filmed with tears rolling down my cheeks’: Heart-breaking footage shows a starving polar bear on its deathbed struggling to walk on iceless land.” [actual title of article in the DailyMail Online, 8 December 2017]. CBC Radio (8 December 2017) jumped on it as well, as have others. National Geographic ran a similar story, like others, that compliantly emphasized the future man-made global warming threat the photographers were touting.

Baffin Island starving pb headline_GlobalNews_8 Dec 2017

This is no different from Ian Stirling’s “bear that died of climate change” back in 2013, or several others since then: here, here, and here (one of these incidents also involved the same photographer as this incident, Paul Nicklen). I’ve called this practice of filming dead or dying bears and splashing the photos across the pages of newspapers and the internet “tragedy porn” — a kind of voyerism that leaves people open to emotional manipulation. The internet laps it up.

UPDATE 9 December 2017: a quote from another source shows photographer Paul Nicklen’s “expertise” in polar bear biology, see below.

UPDATE 11 December 2017: an Arctic seal specialist, Jeff Higdon, has weighed in via twitter about the possible cause of death of this bear and also what the SeaLegacy team should have done when they found the bear in this condition. See below

UPDATE 12 December 2017: See my update to this post here.

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Retraction request to Bioscience: FOIA emails document another harsh criticism of Amstrup’s 2007 polar bear model

Today I sent a letter to the editors of the journal Bioscience requesting retraction of the shoddy and malicious paper by Harvey et al. (Internet blogs, polar bears, and climate-change denial by proxy) published online last week.

The letter reveals information about the workings of the polar bear expert inner circle not known before now, so grab your popcorn.

Harvey et al. 2018 in press climate denial by proxy using polar bears_Title

I have copied the letter below, which contains emails obtained via FOIA requests to the US Geological Survey and the US Fish and Wildlife Service by the Energy and Environment Legal Institute, E&E Legal, and the Free Market Environmental Law Clinic (USFWS request; USGS request) and sent to me by lawyer Chris Horner in 2014, unsolicited. I reveal some of them now, with his permission (most of the emails are boring, involving mostly technical topics not relevant to anything, as might be expected).

The emails in question, sent in 2014, pertain to preparations by three members of the Polar Bear Specialist Group for the IUCN Red List assessment due in 2015 (Kristin Laidre, University of Washington, Eric Regehr, US Fish and Wildlife Service, and Østein Wiig, Museum of Natural History, University of Olso), and Steven Amstrup (formerly head of the polar bear research at the US Geological Survey, now “head scientist” for conservation organization Polar Bears International.

They include frank discussions about a harsh critique of Amstrup et al.’s 2007 report and 2008 paper used to support listing polar bears as ‘threatened’ on the US Endangered Species List. The criticisms come from modeling expert and chair of the IUCN Red List Standards and Petitions Subcommittee (which develops guidelines for threatened and endangered species assessments, and evaluates petitions against the red-listing of these species), H. Resit Akçakaya. The IUCN is the world’s leading conservation organization, of which the PBSG is a part.

These records are a damning indictment that the “best available science” was not used to assess conservation status of polar bears under the ESA in 2008 and 2014 and show that I am not the only scientist who thinks Amstrup’s model is fatally flawed. The letter is copied in full below, the emails are copied at the end. A file of all of the entire pertinent email thread is available as a pdf below. Here’s a sample:

Wiig to Laidre_9 May 2014 follow up to Lunches with Resit_first part_redacted highlighted

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Bioscience article is academic rape: an assertion of power and intimidation

Characterizing a professional, respected scientist as an unqualified vengeful opinion writer is the same kind of power attack as rape. It’s meant to humiliate and intimidate.

Amstup

I said this as part of a response to a comment at WUWT late yesterday (copied in full below). The picture above shows Steven Amstrup holding polar bear cubs against their will — not for any scientific purpose, just for a photo that shows he can.

Also yesterday, Tom Fuller at ClimateScepticism wrote a hard-hitting critique of the Bioscience article that similarly noted the sexist nature of this harassment and the fact that this is the way Michael Mann and his colleagues behave toward female scientists who cross them or their supporters. He concludes:

“The purpose of these papers is not to communicate.

It is to excommunicate.”

As I said when this paper first came out, this response is all about my reasoned and fully referenced criticisms of Steve Amstrup’s work in particular (although I have taken issue with some of Stirling’s recent work as well).

The evidence that Steve Amstrup is willing to lie in order to publicly degrade me and my work in retribution for not taking everything he says as the gospel truth comes from an article at Motherboard yesterday. In it, Amstrup was quoted as saying:

 “You don’t have to read far in her material to see that it is full of unsubstantiated statements and personal attacks on scientists, using names like eco-terrorists, fraudsters, green terrorists and scammers,” Amstrup said.

I wrote Motherboard and asked for clarification that this was indeed what Amstrup said because I know it to be a lie. Check for yourself using the search function on my blog, it’s easy to do. I have never used any of those terms to refer to anyone, let alone a fellow scientist.

Late in the day, I got this response from the writer of the piece:

“Thank you for your note. A clarification has been added to the article. (my emphasis)

“You don’t have to read far in her material to see that it is full of unsubstantiated statements and personal attacks on scientists, using names like eco-terrorists, fraudsters, green terrorists and scammers,” Amstrup said. In a follow-up email on Friday, Amstrup clarified that these statements to Motherboard were meant to reflect the climate denier community as a whole, rather than Crockford in particular.

Except Amstrup specificially referred to my work. I insisted further clarification was necessary but rather than noting that I had, in fact, never used those terms on my blog, the author added this statement:

“In an email to Motherboard, Crockford denied using those terms on her blog.”

So, the author of the Motherboard piece was willing to take Amstrup’s word for an egregious accusation and when Amstrup was caught in a lie, was unwilling to make that clear. And the media wonder why they have lost the public’s trust.

However, this is all a day late and a dollar short. The cat’s out of the bag regarding Amstrup’s failed predictions. My critique (Crockford 2017) is a thorough scientific exposé of his unsuccessful model (which used assumptions based on Amstrup’s expert opinion) and people in power are taking it seriously. The Bioscience paper says more about its authors than it says about me.

References

Crockford, S.J. 2017. Testing the hypothesis that routine sea ice coverage of 3-5 mkm2 results in a greater than 30% decline in population size of polar bears (Ursus maritimus). PeerJ Preprints 2 March 2017. Doi: 10.7287/peerj.preprints.2737v3 Open access. https://doi.org/10.7287/peerj.preprints.2737v3

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Polar bears refused to die as predicted and this is how the propheseers respond

The polar bear experts who predicted tens of thousands of polar bears would be dead by now (given the ice conditions since 2007) have found my well-documented criticisms of their failed prophesies have caused them to lose face and credibility with the public.

Fig 3 Sea ice prediction vs reality 2012

Predicted sea ice changes (based on 2004 data) at 2020, 2050, and 2080 that were used in 2007 to predict a 67% decline in global polar bear numbers vs. an example of the sea ice extent reality experienced since 2007 (shown is 2012). See Crockford 2017 for details.

Although the gullible media still pretends to believe the doomsday stories offered by these researchers, the polar bear has fallen as a useful icon for those trying to sell a looming global warming catastrophe to the public.

Here’s what happened: I published my professional criticisms on the failed predictions of the polar bear conservation community in a professional online scientific preprint journal to which any colleague can make a comment, write a review, or ask a question (Crockford 2017). Since its publication in February 2017, not one of the people whose work is referred to in my paper bothered to counter my arguments or write a review.

They ignored me, perhaps hoping the veracity of my arguments would not have to be addressed. But it has not turned out that way. Now, too late, they have chosen a personal attack in the journal BioScience (Harvey et al. 2018 in press).

UPDATE 30 November 2017: See a detailed criticism of this nasty paper here and a shorter one below.

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Published essay: the conservation fiasco that is the ESA listing of polar bears

In early October, the US Fish & Wildlife Service reversed its 2011 decision to list Pacific walrus as ‘threatened with extinction’, saying they could not “determine with certainty that walruses are likely to become endangered “in the foreseeable future.” [details below]

I have argued that the 2008 decision by the USFWS to list polar bears as ‘threatened’ is similarly lacking in certainty (Crockford 2017) and as for walrus, the previous determination of ‘threatened’ for polar bears was premature and should be reversed.

Conservation Fiasco_lead photo_WINTER 2017 RANGE

A prominent biology colleague and I recently put it this way in a newly published essay:

“Is it ethical or fair to the many citizens impacted directly and indirectly by the 2008 polar bear ruling for the FWS to allow polar bears to remain on the Endangered Species List?”

Read our piece in the winter 2018 issue of RANGE Magazine (open access), authored by myself and Dr. Valerius Geist, professor emeritus of environmental science at the University of Calgary, Alberta.

Crockford, S.J. and Geist, V. 2018. Conservation Fiasco. Range Magazine, Winter 2017/2018, pg. 26-27. Pdf here.

PS. You’ll find an excellent piece on wildfires by biologist Jim Steele in the same issue.

See also Crockford, S.J. 2017. Testing the hypothesis that routine sea ice coverage of 3-5 mkm2 results in a greater than 30% decline in population size of polar bears (Ursus maritimus). PeerJ Preprints 2 March 2017. Doi: 10.7287/peerj.preprints.2737v3 Open access. https://doi.org/10.7287/peerj.preprints.2737v3

Details on the USFWS decision on the walrus is below. Note that like the walrus, if ESA protection on the polar bear was reversed, the bears would still be strongly protected under the Marine Mammal Protection Act (as they have been since 1972), and like the walrus, polar bears have shown an ability to adapt that was not foreseen in 2007 (as evidenced by their failure to die off droves in response to recent sea ice declines).

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W Hudson Bay polar bear season wrap-up: problem bear stats & sea ice vs. 2016

This year, due to an early freeze-up of the sea ice, many polar bears left the Western Hudson Bay area (including Churchill) the week of November 6-12. However, the folks who produce Churchill’s problem polar bear statistics did not generate a report for that week, so we are left with assessing the final freeze-up situation based on the previous report (see it here) and the one they have just released for the week of 13-19 November (below), the 18th week of the season (which began July 10):

Churchill Polar bear alert report Nov 13-19_Nov 20 released

The “quiet” week was almost certainly due to the fact that very few bears were still around, having left the previous week.

While it is apparently true that a south wind briefly blew ice away from the area around the town of Churchill, most bears had left by that point and there was plenty of ice to the north and southeast for bears that had congregated outside the town to wait for the ice to form.

Churchill sits on a point of land (see map below) that makes new ice vulnerable to winds from the south but this year impact was small: the north winds returned within a few days and so did the ice.

Hudson Bay weekly ice stage of development 2017 Nov 20

By this week there were still a few stragglers that hadn’t left shore but most of these were mothers with cubs, as well as young bears living on their own, who often hold back to avoid dangerous encounters with adult males at the ice edge.

A few adult males that were still in excellent condition after 4 months ashore without food seemed in no particular hurry to resume hunting. In part, this may have been due to the rather foul weather prevalent since the first week of November (with howling winds, low temperatures and blowing snow much of the time).

You can see in the chart below just how much more ice there was for the week of 20 November compared to average — all those dark and light blue areas along the west coast of Hudson Bay (and east of Baffin Bay) indicate more ice than usual. Even Southern Hudson Bay has enough shore ice for bears to resume hunting. Foxe Basin (to the north of Hudson Bay) has less ice than usual (red and pink) but there is still enough ice for polar bears there to begin their fall hunting, as the chart above makes very clear.

Hudson Bay weekly departure from normal 2017 Nov 20

Freeze-up and bear movement offshore were about three weeks earlier this year in Western Hudson Bay compared to 2016, which made a huge difference to the number of problem bears in Churchill, see below.

UPDATE 23 November 2017: CIS ice chart for today showing the ice forming in the northwest sector of Hudson Bay

Sea ice Canada 2017 Nov 23

UPDATE 27 November 2017: Final problem polar bear report copied below, issued by the town of Churchill. As noted above, the fact that some bears remained onshore into last week was a very local anomaly not experienced over the rest of the region.

churchill-pb-reports_week-19_20-26-nov-2017_last-of-the-season.jpg

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