Has the tide turned on polar bears as icons of global warming?

The CBC in Canada is pretty much a mirror image of the BBC in the UK, ABC in Australia and PBS in the US. So you might appreciate my shock at the almost unbelievable balance contained in the recently broadcasted CBC documentary, “The Politics of Polar Bears: Tracking the Celebrity Bear.

The film is a profound change from the hype and pessimism that has dominated the polar bear issue in Canada and abroad, supported unchallenged by the CBC. Finally, TV viewers were given some decently balanced perspective on the status of polar bears in  Western Hudson Bay.

If the take-away message tipped towards reason and optimism rather than panic over the status of polar bears, it’s because the evidence was strongly in that direction.

Politics of polar bears title

Representatives of a range of views got their say in this film: gloom-and-doom conservation biologists, pragmatic polar bear scientists, on-the-ground conservation officers, polar bear attack victims, activist organizations, Churchill residents, Inuit hunters, the Canadian government, and the Polar Bear Specialist Group (PBSG).

True, the CBC did air it live only in Manitoba — and on Saturday night of the most popular get-away long weekend of the year in Canada (our last grasp at summer before winter sets in). So the audience for the live broadcast was likely quite small.

But they did post the video online, which was where I saw it last night.

If you haven’t seen it yet, I suggest you set aside the 45 minutes (no commercials), to view it with your morning coffee, lunch, or evening popcorn – I think you’ll find it as engrossing as I did.

The interview segments with polar bear biologist Mitch Taylor (Lakehead University) were especially compelling. The audience was left to decide for itself which scientist was the more credible: the guy (Taylor) who was kicked out of the PBSG after decades of service for daring to ask questions about alarmist polar bear population predictions and the veracity of sea ice models — or the guy in charge of the PBSG when Taylor was ousted (Andrew Derocher, University of Alberta), who insisted on camera that sea ice predictions are all that matter for polar bear conservation and stated, with a straight face: “scientifically, there is no debate” that polar bears are endangered.

I wasn’t interviewed for the program but I think you’ll see my influence – in fact, I think this broadcast makes it official that I’ve reached “s[he] who must not be named” status on the polar bear issue [see here and here, for background on how that phenomenon was applied to fellow Canadian Steve McIntyre’s criticisms of certain aspects of global warming science].

In the film, Reg Sherren (without naming me or this blog), quoted the damning sentence from the email that was sent to me (and only to me) by the chairman of the PBSG on 22 May 2014 (which I reported here) regarding their intended footnote for their global polar bear population estimate:

“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.” [my bold]

[I noticed, by the way, that in the film Derocher quoted the “20,000-25,000” population estimate without any qualifiers whatsoever — see my follow-up on the PBSG’s “sanitized” version of that footnote here.  Sherren did it for him.]

Oh, there were things that perhaps could have been included in the program that were left out – issues that I (and others) have raised over the years – but overall, it really was thing of beauty and certainly not what you’d expect from the CBC.

Maybe, just maybe, the tide is starting to change on the wave of hysteria that has overtaken polar bears.

However, I expect that truly transparent, unbiased science in the field of polar bear science is still a ways off.

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