Climate mauling, polar bears, and the self-inflicted wounds of the self-righteous

The BioScience paper “Internet blogs, polar bears, and climate-change denial by proxy” (Harvey et al. 2018) is a smack-talk response to my pointing out that polar bear numbers did not plummet as predicted when mid-century-like sea ice conditions arrived unexpectedly in 2007 (Crockford 2017). Here is why this shoddy piece of work will go down in history as a self-inflicted wound for the polar bear community (and biologist co-authors Ian Stirling and Steven Amstrup) and an own-goal for their wanna-be climate-hero friends, Stephan Lewandowsky, Jeff Harvey, and Michael Mann.

idea 1 final…absolutely the stupidest paper I have ever seen published” tweeted climate scientist Judith Curry, Emeritus Professor of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences at Georgia Institute of Technology (“Georgia Tech”).

Dr. Curry is a favourite target of colleague Michael Mann’s penchant for derogatory name-calling. Ironically, Mann often promotes something he calls the “Serengeti Strategy,” which he described to US Congress in 2017 in presenting himself as a victim of abused by others [my bold]:

“I coined the term “Serengeti Strategy” back in 2012 in “The Hockey Stick and the Climate Wars” to describe how industry special interests who feel threatened by scientific findings—be it tobacco and lung cancer, or fossil fuel burning and climate change—single out individual scientists to attack in much the same way lions of the Serengeti single out an individual zebra from the herd. In numbers there is strength, but individuals are far more vulnerable. Science critics will therefore often select a single scientist to ridicule, hector, and intimidate. The presumed purpose is to set an example for other scientists who might consider sticking their neck out by participating in the public discourse over certain matters of policy-relevant science.” Michael Mann, 2017 Congressional testimony.

Mann thinks others are using this strategy against him but if he had half an ounce of self-awareness he’d see it’s exactly what he and his long list of colleagues are doing with the Harvey et al. BioScience attack on me. Intimidation by numbers is the only rational explanation for a roster of 14 when two incompetent researchers could have produced a similar result.

Polar bear specialists Ian Stirling and Steven Amstrup knew they didn’t have a valid argument to refute my paper (Crockford 2017; Crockford and Geist 2018) on their failed polar bear survival model (Amstrup et al. 2007), which their responses to my International Polar Bear Day (27 February 2018) Financial Post op-ed revealed to the world (see here and here with references).

So when ignoring me didn’t work – or, more accurately, when the world started paying too much attention to me, by their own admission (Harvey et al. 2018:3) – they teamed up with Michael Mann, Jeff Harvey, and Stephan Lewandowsky (all with previous form attacking colleagues who don’t share their views) to publish an academic paper attacking my scientific integrity. In the words of Terence Corcoran, I was “climate mauled.”

Judith Curry stated recently (14 February 2018), regarding the Mann lawsuit against Rand Simberg, Mark Steyn and the National Review vs. the attacks on her integrity:

“Mann’s libelous statements about me (because he is a scientist with many awards) are far more serious than say Rand Simberg’s statements about Mann.”

In other words, like the attack on me in the Harvey paper (used to libel other internet bloggers by association), when senior scientists like Mann, Stirling, and Amstrup use derogatory and defamatory language against a colleague it’s a serious breach of professional ethics that impacts careers. Harvey et al.’s attack against me may be worse than those against Curry at a Congressional Hearing because it has been entered into the scientific literature in my own field.1

However, I expect BioScience (read mostly by teachers, students, and the general public, and therefore widely subscribed to by public libraries) was the only outlet willing to publish such unprofessional tripe. The editor’s refusal to retract the paper after numerous complaints about the language and the quality of the scientific content, tells you all you need to know about the journal’s low, sectarian standards. For example, the notice showing the two corrections they were willing to make at the end of March 2018 had to be pulled because such an egregious error occurred (it was posted to the wrong journal) it got the attention of online watchdog Retraction Watch! [Still not fixed as of 8 April]

Polar bear paper correction retraction_5 April 2018

It also tells us quite a lot about the bias of its publishers, the American Institute of Biological Sciences.

Did you know, for example, that this organization has an “actionbioscience” program that provides free idealogically biased content aimed at kids and teachers that’s not particularly different from the biased content produced (without references) for kids and teachers by activist conservation outfit Polar Bears International (employer of Harvey et al. co-author Steve Amstrup)? The AIBS actionbioscience program currently includes an out-of date, alarmist essay by litigious Center for Biological Diversity employee Shaye Wolf on the plight of penguins (from 2009) as well as one by pessimistic polar bear specialist Andrew Derocher (from 2008) .

If you are able, please support the work I do here at PolarBearScience, some of which will go to Josh for these fabulous cartoons:

Here is a list of issues regarding the Harvey et al. paper as well as responses to it: some of these you won’t have heard before. Because this is a long summary post, for convenience I offer it here also in pdf form: “Climate mauling, polar bears, and self-inflicted wounds of the self-righteous.”

Financial conflicts of interest

There are financial conflicts of interest in this Harvey BioScience incident as well a ethical ones: people may not realize it but Mann’s new children’s book and Amstrup’s employer Polar Bears International depend absolutely upon the iconic polar-bear-in-peril image to sell their messages of an imminent climate change apocalypse.

In addition, Mann’s book also competes for sales with my popular polar bear book for kids, Polar Bear Facts & Myths (available in English, French and German), which doesn’t sell fear along with the science. What better book marketing strategy for Mann than to smear the scientific integrity of the competition just before his book is released?

I suspect this has had some impact on sales of my book because of the negative reviews posted on Amazon just after the Harvey paper was released, with language similar to that used in the paper (see here; also here for a nasty review of my book for preschoolers (Polar Bears Have Big Feet), which has no controversial content whatsoever, by someone who hasn’t read it).

Stirling warned off my Range co-author in an ugly display of unscientific petulance

Consensus polar bear expert Ian Stirling is incensed that I have criticized certain aspects of his recent work on this blog and in my various essays and papers (e.g. Crockford 2017), which his co-authorship of the Harvey et al. paper demonstrates.

Stirling-large Order of Canada 2013 photo

But Stirling recently stooped to a disturbing move for an Order of Canada recipient. Around New Years this year (only four weeks or so after the Harvey et al. paper was published), Stirling phoned my colleague Val Geist at home, chastised him for having co-authored the Winter 2017/2018 RANGE Magazine article with me (Crockford and Geist 2018), told him what an awful person I was, and warned him against any further co-authorship with me, lest the association destroy his [Geist’s] professional reputation.

Dr. Geist called me a few days afterward to tell me about the incident, which clearly left him astonished and somewhat amused, mostly at the level of desperation it must have taken for Stirling to to pull such an unscientific and unprofessional stunt. These men are peers in the true sense of the word: in 1999, Stirling won the William Rowan Distinguished Service Award bestowed by Alberta Chapter of the Wildlife Society, and the next year (2000), the same award was won by Geist.

Stirling later emailed Geist a copy of the Bioscience Harvey et al. article to bolster the points he’d made on the phone. Under slightly different circumstances, this would be called tortious interference.

And people wonder why I don’t have papers about polar bears and sea ice published in the peer-reviewed literature! If this is what the most respected senior consensus polar bear scientist in the world will do to protect an idea he has allowed to define his life’s work, imagine what an anonymous reviewer from Stirling’s loyal group of less senior reseachers would do to keep any polar bear paper of mine out of the scientific literature?

I admire Stirling immensely for his field research and reports from the early decades of his career and have nothing against him personally. But warning off a colleague from professional interactions with me was an underhanded abuse of power. It may also be sexist: don’t forget that until relatively recently, polar bear research was very much a male-dominated field and Stirling has been the alpha-male of the field since the 1980s. He may well be happy to work with women but not to be criticized by them.

Stirling, Amstrup, and I have a dispute about interpretation of a few pertinent facts: it happens all the time in science. But what Stirling has done is not how such issues are resolved. It’s simply not how science is done.

Crockford 2017_Slide 12 screencap

The essence of Crockford (2017): Amstrup et al.’s (2007) failed prophesy of catastrophe

“Blogs” that aren’t

Harvey et al.’s list of “science-based” blogs listed in the “Supplementary Data” included non-profit conservation organization Polar Bears International, a non-profit conservation organization. However, PBI launched a new format for their website on 16 Jan 2017 that no longer included a separate ‘blog’ category.  Now there are only “news” posts and co-author Amstrup surely knew about this change: he is employed as their ‘senior scientist.’

This means if you are looking for an older blog entry, you won’t find it unless you have the exact URL. And if you went looking for a blog post on 29 November 2017, when the Harvey et al. paper was published, you would find only co-called ‘news’ items. This ‘news’ item by co-author Steven Amstrup, has no references cited whatsoever (I guess if you’re on the right side of the consensus, references aren’t necessary,  which would explain why PBI information and educational pages (like this one on “Four Sea Ice Regions”) also contains no references).

Add this to the other easily identified issues with the concept of comparing a roster of cherry-picked blogs, which Harvey et al. define as “a website that contains regularly updated online personal ideas, com­ments, and/or hyperlinks provided by the writer (Nisbet and Kotcher 2013)” including:

1) ScienceDaily is a website for a scientific literature aggregator with content based on press releases, usually about papers just published: it’s not even close to being a “science-based” blog;

2) Daily Caller is an online news provider with an “Opinion” section, like most mainstream newspapers; Breitbart is also a news outlet that publishes columns by opinion writers. Neither are “blogs” of any kind;

3) Daily Caller is listed twice in the list of “denier” blogs (“The Daily Caller” and “Daily Caller”).

4) The View From Here is a defunct blog: it has not been updated since 20 Dec 2015. Ditto the Dot Earth blog at the New York Times (last post 5 December 2016) and World Climate Report (by an even greater margin: last entry 5 October 2012); the Tom Nelson blog is similarly defunct: there has been only two entries since 11 April 2015, the latest September 2016, although there are links on his blog to his twitter feed, which is still active.

5) Evidence of plagiarism of PolarBearScience content discovered on the so-called “science-based” Churchill Polar Bears blog – the author didn’t cite my work, so didn’t get scored as a “denier” site.

Even one of the above examples means that the entire premise of the analysis presented in the Harvey et al. paper (‘denier vs. science-based blogs’) is bogus: whatever results the authors found are based on utterly flawed data. Simply clicking on the links of the so-called blogs on their list would have revealed the errors above, but apparently no one took this verification step (e.g. see also the discussion of York” blog below; the list of blogs used is here). It appears the authors worked from a previously constructed list of blogs (such as the “blog roll” found on WUWT, lower right sidebar), augmented by a Google search for blogs containing certain key words, but left out the step of confirming suitable content of each entry. Such a failure of the basic data would be grounds for retraction by any journal that takes science seriously, which obviously excludes BioScience.

Technical critical comment

From Rajan and Tol (2018), “Lipstick on a bear: a comment on internet blogs, polar bears, and climate change denial by proxy” (submitted to BioScience but rejected):

“The write-up shows signs of haste – typographical errors (“principle component analysis”, “refereces cited”) and nonsensical statements (“95% normal probability”) escaped the attention of the 14 authors – but so does the analysis. The paper does three things: It creates a database, it classifies subjects, and it conducts a principal component analysis. No details have been shared on the database construction or the classification (Lewandowsky and Bishop 2016), so we focus on the principal component analysis and evaluate the data at face value.


Harvey et al. (2017) thus really show that there are people who worry about sea-ice and polar bears, and those who do not and cite Dr Crockford. That sceptics (labeled “denier”) disagree with the veracity of claims surrounding sea ice is tautological, because that is how they are identified as being sceptical. The principal component analysis merely illustrates this known and expected difference.

But Harvey et al. (2017) do not just show that there are two camps. They take sides. Unfortunately, they count noses and argue from authority, rather than assess the strength of the evidence. It is well-known that like-minded blogs often copy or paraphrase material from one another. Academic papers similarly often repeat a salient conclusion from previous research.

The argument from authority is further weakened by examining the 92 learned papers. Of the 86 “majority view” papers, 39 were authored by Steven Amstrup, Rascha Nuijten or Ian Stirling, who are among the alii in Harvey et al. (2017). Another 13 were authored by Andrew Derocher, a frequent (n=10) co-author of Amstrup.

The paper does not specify how these 92 papers were identified, beyond a “broad keyword search” on the “ISI Web of Science”. The Web of Science returns 179 articles for a query on “polar bear” and “sea ice”. No information is given how the larger sample of relevant papers was reduced to the smaller one used by Harvey et al. (2017).

Comparing the relative contribution of the ten most prolific authors according to the Web of Science to their relative presence in Harvey’s sample reveals that the latter is not representative of the former (𝜒92=17.4, p=0.04). Research by co-authors Amstrup and Stirling is overrepresented in Harvey et al. (2017), and work by Jon Aars and Oystein Wiig underrepresented. The sample used by Harvey et al. (2017) appears to be a sample of convenience, and unrepresentative.

Amstrup, Stirling or Derocher are co-authors on nearly 70% (60/86) of the “majority-view” papers. Similarly, papers are defined as “controversial” because Derocher and/or the authors themselves wrote disagreeing replies to them (4/6). The self-referential, non-independent (Vul et al. 2009) nature of the sample defeats its use in attacking critics for not representing a purported broader scientific consensus. The data underlying the paper therefore cannot assist authors’ quizzical stance that critics (labeled “deniers”) ought to echo the very finding they set out to critique.

Even less is known about how blogs were selected and classified. In the absence of (any) selection criteria, and from the selected data, it is fair to presume that weblogs citing Susan Crockford were directly selected. This would worsen the problem of circular inference.

In sum, Harvey et al. (2017) play a statistical game of smoke and mirrors. They validate their data, collected by an unclear process, by comparing it to data of unknown provenance. They artificially inflate the dimensionality of their data only to reduce that dimensionality using a principal component analysis. They pretend their results are two dimensional where there is only one dimension. They suggest that there are many nuanced positions where there are only a few stark ones – at least, in their data.

On a topic as complex as this, there are of course many nuanced positions; the jitter applied conceals the poor quality of Harvey’s data and obscures the underlying perspectival homogeneity from self-selection. They show that there is disagreement on the vulnerability of polar bears to climate change, but offer no new evidence who is right or wrong – apart from a fallacious argument from authority, with a “majority view” taken from an unrepresentative sample. Once the substandard statistical application to poor data is removed, what remains is a thinly veiled attempt on a colleague’s reputation.”

Read the entire paper here.

Dogwhistling about original research and peer reviewed papers

The mantra in the Harvey et al. paper, and repeated by supporters at every opportunity, is that I haven’t done field work on polar bears or published peer-reviewed papers about them. The second fact had to be changed (see the corrigendum here) to clarify that I hadn’t published any peer-reviewed papers “on the effects of sea ice on the population dynamics of polar bears.” This still allowed them to ignore the paper about polar bear population dynamics and sea ice published at PeerJ Preprints that awaits critical comment from my peers (Crockford 2017) prior to publication.

[Of course, that paper is the one they don’t want the public to see.  It points out the failure of Amstrup and colleagues 2007 prediction that polar bear numbers would plummet when summer sea ice levels declined to a particular point, not expected until 2050 or so but which actually happened unexpectedly in 2007. A summary, which came out just before the Harvey paper was released, was published in the Winter issue of RANGE Magazine (Crockford and Geist 2018, open access)]

The Harvey paper neglected to include the fact that I am a professional zoologist with four decades of pertinent experience. They left out the fact that I have a Ph.D. and many peer-reviewed papers on a variety of topics including Arctic ecology and evolution of Arctic species (Rajan and Tol 2018). They refer to me as a “blogger” as if that were my only credential, when it is precisely because I am so well qualified to critique the work of polar bear scientists that they feel a need to trash my reputation.

My educational background, publication record, and experience qualify me as an non-specialist reviewer of polar bear ecology papers. My intimate knowledge of the volumes of polar bear literature, which I’ve studied since the early 1990s, allows me to synthesize decades-old and recent reports while providing critical commentary regarding some of the inconsistencies and sources of bias presented in the material (e.g. Crockford 2014; 2018). I use an approach called consilience[a big-picture, interdisciplinary examination of a full range of topics related to an issue, including ecology, life history, genetics, geology, zoogeography, and archaeology] that is all-but foreign to the one-species, field-research dominated world-views of polar bear specialists.

I understand that my criticisms make Stirling and Amstrup uncomfortable and even angry. But this is how science works: there should always be someone around to critique your work. The fact that no one has effectively done this for Stirling and Amstrup before now is a real scientific travesty.

Claims I don’t reference the literature

Harvey et al. state: “Crockford vigorously criticizes, without supporting evidence, the findings of several leading researchers who have studied polar bears in the field for decades.

This is the most blatant lie of all: anyone who reads my blog or has read my recent paper (Crockford 2017) knows this is the opposite of what I do.  The fact that I criticize with supporting evidence is precisely why these “leading researchers” feel so threatened and why the paper had to be written.

For example, as I explained in my retraction request, I spent considerable time and effort in 2014 going through the scientific literature on the topic of sea ice cover and walrus haulout behaviour. I wrote a series of blog posts which included quotes from those papers and, where possible, copies of the papers themselves.

In the end, there were four detailed blog posts on the topic (all are listed here). At this point the Global Warming Policy Foundation asked me to compile those into one fully referenced document, for which I was paid – as are all scientists and science writers who produce articles for science magazine features (Crockford 2014, pdf here). Note my conclusion that Pacific walrus show no particular increased risk to survival from recent sea ice declines has been vindicated: the US Fish and Wildlife Service recently declared  that walrus are not in need of ESA protection as they have shown an ability to adapt to sea ice loss that was “not foreseen.”

Media coverage

Media coverage of this paper was enormous and quite out of proportion to its significance. That’s because three – yes three – press releases were issued by the various institutions at which co-authors are employed.  Read releases here, here, (as pdf) and here.

Only one journalist contacted me prior to the embargo being lifted on the paper, which was the only reason I knew about it a few hours prior to publication.

Innumerable opportunities for co-authors to vent their rage against me via media interviews were thus created (e.g. here, here, here, here, here, here [pdf] and here).

Some examples:

“Real polar bear researcher [Ian] Stirling, who spent more than four decades studying polar bears and publishing over 150 papers and five books on the topic, says Crockford has “zero” authority on the subject.” [Desmogblog Canada, 30 December 2017]

As I noted at the time, Steve Amstrup was quoted as saying [Motherboard, 1 December 2017]:

“You don’t have to read far in her [Crockford’s] 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.”

Except I have never used any of those terms to refer to anyone, let alone a fellow scientist, which a search of my blog will attest. After my complaints, the passage was changed to this:

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

A few times I was contacted for comment for these sorts of stories but it hardly mattered what I said, the tone of these articles were as bad or worse than the paper itself.

The Financial Post (Terry Corcoran, 7 December 2017 2018: “Canadian finds polar bears are doing fine — and gets climate-mauled“) carried a supportive essay that began with precisely the right tone:

“We take you now deep out onto the frozen floes of Arctic science and polar bears, where the most dangerous threat known to man and bear alike is lurking among the icebergs: Junk science.”

Corcoran concludes: “If this is science, we are all doomed.

Concluding remarks

If the Harvey et al. BioScience paper was really meant to be about the phenomenon of internet blogs and their disparate views on climate change, as several Harvey co-authors insist, they did a spectacularly bad job of it.

The unprofessional attack on me and my work distracts from that objective, and the continual use of the pejorative “denier/denial” label is combative and unnecessary. The data used was sloppily collected and the analysis poorly executed. There were several blatant spelling errors. Any competent reviewer should have picked up on most of these issues and a competent editor would have rejected the paper out of hand on the basis of the inflammatory language alone.

The only conclusion to arrive at, regardless of which side of the polar bear/global warming issue a reader may fall, is that the paper is a hastily thrown-together attack meant to destroy my professional reputation and make internet bloggers and the media leary of quoting me.

A lone female scientist without the strong backing of a university must have looked like easy prey to 14 climate-action lions. However, this made the authors so over-confident they got bitten in the ass by their own hubris and they now have no one to blame but themselves. It will come to haunt them, this paper of which they are now so proud.

Some pertinent comments from the blogosphere

[A selection of blog posts, some with hundreds of additional comments, are listed below this section]

29 November 2017. Larry Kummer:…her [Crockford’s] PhD in zoology and peer-reviewed publications in zoology are material information. Omitting them misleads readers. it [sic] is a serious error, warranting publishing an erratum…”

December 3, 2017 Steven Mosher: “…look. if she published about bears and not polar bears, someone would make a case about the difference.

if she had published one about polar bears someone would make her short list an issue.

they can make the number of papers the issue.

the journal can be the issue.

and you can dog whistle about her gender or age. everything is fair game.

in the end you can probably take her to court for whatever and some wont [sic] object.”

November 29, 2017. Kurt: “This is the most telling quote in the piece:

“Scientists need to more effectively use Internet-based social media to their full advantage in order to turn the tide in the battle for public opinion.”

Scientists shouldn’t be at all concerned about public opinion. I don’t see theoretical physicists wringing their hands over public acceptance of quantum theory, or astrophysicists trying to “turn the tide of public opinion” on whether information can escape a black hole. That these guys are admitting to a PR agenda belies any pretense of objectivity in their research…”

November 30, 2017. John Ridgway: “My favourite quote from the piece is:

“Rhetorical devices to evoke fear and other emotions, such as implying that the public is under threat from deceitful scientists, are common tactics employed by science-denier groups.”

So, presumably, “science-denier groups” doesn’t count as a rhetorical device?

Do these people even bother to read back what they have just written?”

29 November 2017. Blair: “…let’s pick up on Barry’s idea: how many articles were looked at on the York blog (a blog for a local newspaper). [considered a “science-based blog” by Harvey et al.]

Since it is the blog for a community newspaper I wonder how they found a definitive case on that site. I ask seriously because the York Blog happen to have a number of stories about the “York Polar Bears” who are, not a genera of Ursus but rather are a hockey team in the York region for special needs kids. ( Any search of the York Blog will get lots of hits for “ice” (from ice hockey) and polar bears (from the team name) but few if any for Dr. Crockford (who does not write research papers on special needs hockey teams).”

December 29, 2017 Thomas W. Fuller: “Funnily enough, Bjorn Lomborg’s site as cited by Harvey et al 2017 does not have a search function, which is frustrating. I don’t know what articles or publications were used by Harvey et al, but I wasn’t able to locate any with polar bears in the title or first block of text in the first 20 pages of article listings. None of the publications refer to polar bears.

However, Lomborg famously used polar bears in Chapter 1 of his book ‘Cool It,’ titling in ‘Polar Bears: Canaries in the cage?’ One wonders why he didn’t use the more common phrasing, canaries in the coal mine… well, one doesn’t wonder much.

The 5-page chapterette has 38 footnotes. Among those footnoted are Armstrup, Stirling, the IUCN, Monnett, Berner, the IPCC (repeatedly), Karl and Trenberth and other such luminaries.

Crockford was not referenced at all.

Until we have access to the specific articles by Lomborg at on polar bears that were the subject of scrutiny by Harvey et al, I am unable to attempt a validation exercise.”

December 28, 2017. Thomas W. Fuller: “Well, here’s how I spent a day with the flu:
Watts Up With That (WUWT) is one of the blogs cited as a ‘denier’ blog by Harvey et al.
It bills itself as the most widely seen climate weblog and with roughly 338 million page views to date, I doubt if their claim can be disputed.

Up to September 15 2017 (the search date of Harvey et al), there were 85 posts with polar bear in the title. Examination shows that 83 of them were actually relevant to the search.
Of those 83 blog posts, 19 were either guest posts by or interviews of Dr. Susan Crockford, the target of Harvey et al 2017.

A gross count of citations of Crockford was not attempted–she self-cited repeatedly during her guest posts, much in the way Joe Romm does at Climate Progress, a typical citation being ‘for the rest of my article see here.’

However, on blog posts not authored by or featuring Dr. Crockford, a wide variety of sources were cited. I will paste them into my next comment.
Included in those sources are repeated links to scientific papers by co-authors of Harvey et al: Armstrup papers were cited 6 times, for example, while Stirling papers were cited three times.

In total, I found 93 external citations to non-Crockford sources on WUWT for qualifying blog posts, from journals ranging from Science and Nature to
The most frequent non-journal source cited was the International Union for the Conservation of Nature, which was linked to 7 times. The second most frequent were the NSIDC and the US Fish and Wildlife Service.

It would have been possible to find many more external sources, but for two factors.
The first is the large number of dead links, which I chose not to include in my list. The second was the number of posts by Jim Steele, a skeptical scientist. He placed non-linked references to many academic publications at the bottom of his posts, and I chose not to include them as they were not clickable.

Bart [co-author of Harvey paper], I submit that if Watts Up With That is representative of the universe of skeptical blogs your study covered that the results you report seem skewed.

As the next comment will show, a naive reader wishing to explore both sides of the controversy about polar bears could do a lot worse than following the links presented in WUWT. Can you say the same for the non-contrarian blogs you investigated?”

December 18, 2017. Dr. Richard Tol: “We know that Jeff and Daphne collected the data, and that Peter did the PCA.

We also know that no one was in charge of quality control on spelling, analysis, or data collection.

I guess an honest declaration of author contribution would reveal that many of other 11 authors really were a rent-a-mob.”

29 November 2017. Thomas W. Fuller “Bart [Verheggen, co-author of the paper], the term ‘denier’ in a climate context is a dog whistle to label the target as akin to those who deny the Holocaust occurred.

A lot of sanctimonious justification has occurred to allow creeps to continue to use it. But there is no doubt about the provenance of the corruption of the term and no excuse for it appearing in a scientific paper.

James Hoggan of Deep Climate started pushing it in 2005 and it gained quick acceptance, starting with Ellen Goodman of the Boston Globe and spreading like the virus it is since then.

A partial list of quotes with links can be found here.

As if have frequently written on this weblog and elsewhere, it is hate speech hiding behind pseudo-scientific claptrap which amounts usually to the same sad justifications whites used to retain the right to use the n word, the k word, the s word, ad nauseum.

Bart, it cheapens your paper to tabloid status regardless of whatever scientific worth it contains.”

January 7, 2018 Thomas: “…If you want to show that Crockford or the bloggers are wrong, you have to offer actual evidence to counter each claim they make. This is how science is done and it is what the literature is supposed to report—actual evidence of actual findings or experimental results.

H17 does not do that and it’s laced with blatant ad hominem.

It does not matter whether Crockford is right or wrong. All that matters is that H17 viciously attacks her without producing any actual evidence that refutes her. She is deemed guilty solely by virtue of the fact that she offers arguments that are counter to the arguments of the authors.

This is not science. Saying “she’s wrong because we’re right” is childish, intellectually vacuous, pablum.”

January 5, 2018. [Harvey et al. co-author] Bart Verheggen: “…Our paper is first and foremost a characterization of the blogosphere, and how it compares to the scientific literature...”

January 5, 2018. Richard Tol: “Bart, The data file contains all data used in the principal component analysis. It does not contain all data, in contravention of your university’s data policy.

The data file does not contain:
– rater ID
– individual ratings for the seven 0/1 statements
– individual ratings for pro/contra
– individual ratings for four-way classification

Missing, too, are the exact addresses of the blog posts analysed; and the criteria by which the Web of Science query was reduced to 92 papers.”

December 5, 2017.  Jeff Harvey [paper lead author]…I have dedicated some of my career to fighting those who are intent on destroying nature for short term profit by countering distortions of blogs and people like Crockford. We are running out of time. Despite this I am depressed when people who should be on my side try and pick holes in papers like ours in Bioscience that are simply pointing out the obvious. One of the referees also said that our analyses only say what we already know. But we still needed to show it with data. If standing up to those denying that humans and nature are on a serious collision course means that people who should be supporting me and my co- authors are joining in to criticize us, then maybe it’s time to throw in the towel and say future be damned.” [my bold]

December 5, 2017. Steven Mosher: 

“Despite this I am depressed when people who should be on my side try and pick holes in papers like ours in Bioscience that are simply pointing out the obvious.” [quote from comment above from lead author Harvey]

“there are no sides in science son. You make a claim. we are duty bound to question it. You were duty bound to question it YOURSELF. That is what makes you a scientist. Not prior publications, but rather the practice of questioning and doubting your own conclusions and Showing US that you went through the rigorous process of methodological skepticism. When you dont publish your data we are left with this: you merely told a story about what you did. You havent shown us what you did or given us the tools to check your work.

I dont doubt your conclusions, but you do have to show your work so that we can ensure that the data actually supports the conclusion. After all, we are trained not to simply trust our impressions. At least I was.

Also, why pick a biology journal that has no experts who can assess your content analysis work?”

December 6, 2017. cRR Kampen [Harvey et al. co-author]: “…Can’t see why Bioscience, with all the flak it is getting for this from all sides, didn’t add the [SI and data] material with the article.”  [SJC note: the paper was published online 29 November without the Supplementary Information and data, which was eventually provided by co-author Bart Verheggen on 7 December on his personal blog]

Previous blog posts of mine on this issue:

Polar bears refused to die as predicted and this is how the propheseers respond (29 November 2017)

Bioscience article is academic rape: an assertion of power and intimidation (2 December 2017)

Retraction request to Bioscience_FOIA emails document another harsh criticism of Amstrups 2007 polar bear model (5 December 2017)

Bioscience paper and starving polar bear follow-up (11 December 2017)

Bioscience editor tells journalist he won’t retract Harvey paper (16 December 2017)

Harvey et al. attack article mum on real selection process for polar bear papers used in their analysis (2 January 2018)

Failed Amstrup polar bear predictions have climate change community in a panic (4 January 2018)

Did Harvey et al. authors aim to help Google censor polar bear information? (7 January 2018)

Consensus polar bear experts dealt with criticism differently in 2007 (12 January 2018)

Blog uses my polar bear info but no link to PBS means they are “science-based” (22 January 2018)

BioScience pushback update and plea for a virtual beer (4 February 2018)

Amstrup & colleages can’t refute my critique of their 2007 polar bear survival model, Part 1 (11 March 2018)

Amstrup & colleages can’t refute my critique of their 2007 polar bear survival model, Part 2 (12 March 2018)

An embarrassment to science: BioScience editor formally rejects retraction request (26 March 2018)

Correction notice for Harvey et al. BioScience paper retracted due to error (3 April 2018)

Blog posts by others on this issue:

More slime from the Lewandowsky-Mann machine, calling for ‘trench warfare’ (29 November 2017, by Anthony Watts, “Watts Up With That” aka WUWT)

There once was a polar bear – science vs the blogosphere (29 November 2017 by co-author Bart Verheggen, with almost 300 comments when closed)

A new paper shows why the climate policy debate is broken (30 November 2017, by Larry Kummer), reposted also at WUWT.

Climate Scientists Harassing Women (asexually, of course)–Again–Matt Lauer, Meet Michael Mann (01 Dec 2017 by Thomas W Fuller)

Polar bears and Arctic sea ice (December 3, 2017, by Ken Rice, over 700 comments)

Susan Crockford on the decline of the polar bear icon (05 Dec 2017 by Paul Matthews)

Lying about Susan Crockford and others (06 Dec 2017 by Paul Matthews)

Who Wrote the World’s Worst Scientific Paper? (06 Dec 2017 by Geoff Chambers)

Polar-Bear-Gate (06 Dec 2017 by Paul Mathews)

Susan Crockford on the decline of the polar bear icon (05 December 2017 by Paul Matthews)

An interview with Dr. Susan Crockford on the Harvey et al. attack paper over polar bear research (December 7, 2017, Anthony Watts, WUWT)

Polar Bears, Inadequate data and Statistical Lipstick (18 December 2018, by Roman Mureika, guest blog post at Steve McIntyre’s Climate Audit.

Polar bear attack paper invalidated by non-independent analysis. (14 December 2017 by “Scepticus”) Cross-posted from Shub Niggurath

How blogs convey and distort scientific information about polar bears and Arctic sea ice (22 December 2017 by co-author Bart Verheggen, with over 600 comments when closed)

Okay, just one more post on polar-bear-gate…I promise… (28 December 2017 by Thomas W Fuller)

The Value of Dr. Crockford and Polar Bear Science (02 January 2018 by Thomas W Fuller)


1. Compare these examples to Harvey and Pimm’s 2001 derogatory book review of The Skeptical Environmentalist in the journal NATURE, an attack on Bjorn Lomborg for daring to question Harvey’s view that the world is going to hell in a handbasket (which he apparently still believes despite the lack of catastrophic change since then).


Amstrup, S.C., Marcot, B.G. & Douglas, D.C. 2007. Forecasting the rangewide status of polar bears at selected times in the 21st century. US Geological Survey. Reston, VA. Pdf here

Crockford, S.J. 2014. On The Beach: Walrus haulouts are nothing new. The Global Warming Policy Foundation Briefing Paper #11, London. Pdf here.

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.

Crockford, S.J. 2018. State of the Polar Bear Report 2017. Global Warming Policy Foundation Report #29. London. pdf here.

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

Harvey, J.A., van den Berg, D., Ellers, J., Kampen, R., Crowther, T.W., Roessingh, P., Verheggen, B., Nuijten, R. J. M., Post, E., Lewandowsky, S., Stirling, I., Balgopal, M., Amstrup, S.C., and Mann, M.E. 2017. Internet blogs, polar bears, and climate-change denial by proxy. Bioscience 68: 281-287. DOI: 10.1093/biosci/bix133 Open Access, available here.  Supplementary data file available here and the data for the principal component analysis is available here and (h/t to R. Tol), the R code is available here  Corrigendum here (issued 28 March 2018). Scheduled for the April print issue.

Pimm, S. and Harvey, J. 2001. No need to worry about the future [Book Review]Nature 414: 149–150.

Rajan, A. and Tol, R.S. 2018. Lipstick on a bear: a comment on internet blogs, polar bears, and climate change denial by proxy.  Open Science Framework January 2018, DOI10.13140/RG.2.2.18048.12804. Available here.

Selected Crockford publications, reports, books, and videos

Crockford, S. J. 1997a. Osteometry of Makah and Coast Salish Dogs. Archaeology Press #22, Simon Fraser University, Burnaby, B.C.

Crockford, S. J. 1997b. Archaeological evidence of large northern bluefin tuna, Thunnus thynnus, in coastal waters of British Columbia and northern Washington. Fishery Bulletin 95:11-24.

Crockford, S. J. (ed.) 2000. Dogs Through Time: An Archaeological Perspective. Proceedings of the 1st ICAZ Symposium on the History of the Domestic Dog. Oxford, British Archaeological Reports (B.A.R.), Archaeopress S889.

Crockford, S. J. 2002. Animal domestication and heterochronic speciation: the role of thyroid hormone. pg. 122-153. In: N. Minugh-Purvis & K. McNamara (eds.) Human Evolution Through Developmental Change. Baltimore, Johns Hopkins University Press.

Crockford, S. J. 2003a. Commentary: Thyroid hormones in Neandertal evolution: A natural or a pathological role? Geographical Review 92(1):73-88.

Crockford, S. J. 2003b. Thyroid hormone phenotypes and hominid evolution: a new paradigm implicates pulsatile thyroid hormone secretion in speciation and adaptation changes. International Journal of Comparative Biochemistry and Physiology Part A 135(1):105-129.

Crockford, S. J. 2004. Animal Domestication and Vertebrate Speciation: A Paradigm for the Origin of Species. Ph.D. dissertation. University of Victoria, Canada.

Crockford, S. J. 2006. Rhythms of Life: Thyroid Hormone and the Origin of Species. Trafford, Victoria.

Crockford, S. J. 2008b. Be careful what you ask for: archaeozoological evidence of mid-Holocene climate change in the Bering Sea and implications for the origins of Arctic Thule. In Islands of Inquiry: Colonisation, Seafaring and the Archaeology of Maritime Landscapes, 113-131. G. Clark, F. Leach and S. O’Connor (eds.). Terra Australis 29 ANU EPress, Canberra.

Crockford, S. J. 2009. Evolutionary roots of iodine and thyroid hormones in cell-cell signaling. Integrative and Comparative Biology 49:155-166.

Crockford, S. J. 2012a. A History of Polar Bears, Ringed Seals, and other Arctic and North Pacific Marine Mammals over the Last 200,000 Years. A report Prepared for The State of Alaska Department of Commerce, Community and Economic Development and The University of Alaska Fairbanks. Pacific Identifications Inc., Victoria, British Columbia.

Crockford, S. J. 2012b. Annotated Map of Ancient Polar Bear Remains of the World. Spotted Cow Presentations Inc., Victoria, British Columbia. ISBN 978-0-9917966-0-1.
Available at http://polarbearscience/references/

Crockford, S. J. 2012c. Archaeozoology of Adak Island: 6000 years of subsistence history in the central Aleutians. Pg. 109-145 in D. West, V. Hatfield, E. Wilmerding, L. Gualtieri and C. Lefèvre (eds), The People Before: The Geology, Paleoecology and Archaeology of Adak Island, Alaska. Oxford, BAR International 2322.

Crockford, S. J. 2014a. On the Beach: Walrus Haulouts are Nothing New. Global Warming Policy Foundation Briefing Paper 11. Pdf here

Crockford, S. J. 2014b.The Walrus Fuss: Walrus Haulouts are Nothing New

Crockford, S.J. 2015a. Twenty good reasons not to worry about polar bears. Global Warming Policy Foundation Briefing Paper 14. London.

Crockford, S.J. 2015b. The Arctic Fallacy: Sea Ice Stability and the Polar Bear. Global Warming Policy Foundation Briefing Paper 16. London. Pdf here. Available at

Crockford, S. 2016a. Prehistoric mountain goat Oreamnos americanus mother lode near Prince Rupert, British Columbia and implications for the manufacture of high-status ceremonial goods. Journal of Island and Coastal Archaeology.

Crockford, S.J. 2016b. Polar Bear Facts and Myths. Spotted Cow Presentations Inc., Victoria. Paperback and ebook formats.

Crockford, S. 2017a. 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.

Crockford, S. 2017b. Polar Bear Scare Unmasked: The Saga of a Toppled Global Warming Icon. Youtube video, February, Global Warming Policy Foundation

Crockford, S. 2017c. The Death of a Climate Icon. Youtube video, August, Global Warming Policy Foundation

Crockford 2017d. Twenty good reasons not to worry about polar bears: an update. Global Warming Policy Foundation Briefing Paper 28. London.

Crockford, S.J. 2017e. Polar Bears: Outstanding Survivors of Climate Change. Amazon CreateSpace

Crockford, S.J. 2017f. Alaska polar bear subpopulations. pg. 12-23 in Arctic Alaska caribou herds and polar bear subpopulations (M.A. Cronin). Report of Arctic Slope Regional Corporation, Anchorage, Alaska.

Crockford, S.J. 2018. State of the Polar Bear Report 2017. Global Warming Policy Foundation Report #29. London. pdf here.

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

Crockford, S., and Frederick, G. 2007. Sea Ice Expansion in the Bering Sea during the Neoglacial: Evidence from Archaeozoology. The Holocene 17:699– 706.

Crockford, S.J. and Frederick, G. 2011. Neoglacial sea ice and life history flexibility in ringed and fur seals. pg. 65-91 In, T. Braje and R. Torrey, eds. Human and Marine Ecosystems: Archaeology and Historical Ecology of Northeastern Pacific Seals, Sea Lions, and Sea Otters. U. California Press, LA.

Crockford, S.J., Frederick, G. and R. Wigen. 1997. A humerus story: albatross element distribution from two Northwest Coast sites, North America. International Journal of Osteoarchaeology 7: 378.1-5.

Crockford, S.J. and Kuzmin, Y. V. 2012. Comments on Germonpré et al., Journal of Archaeological Science 36, 2009 “Fossil dogs and wolves from Palaeolithic sites in Belgium, the Ukraine and Russia: osteometry, ancient DNA and stable isotopes”, and Germonpré, Lázkičková-Galetová, and Sablin, Journal of Archaeological Science 39, 2012 “Palaeolithic dog skulls at the Gravettian Předmostí site, the Czech Republic.” Journal of Archaeological Science 39:2797-2801.

Crockford, S.J., Moss, M.L., and J.F. Baichtal. 2011. Pre-contact dogs from the Prince of Wales archipelago, Alaska. Alaska Journal of Anthropology 9(1):49-64.

Olesiuk, P.F., Bigg, M.A., Ellis, G.M., Crockford, S.J. and R.J. Wigen. 1990. An assessment of the feeding habits of harbour seals (Phoca vitulina) in the Strait of Georgia, British Columbia, based on scat analysis. Can. Tech. Rep. Fish. Aquat. Sci. 1730: 135 p.

Ovodov, N. D., Crockford, S.J., Kuzmin, Y. V., Higham, T. F.G., Hodgins, G.W.L., and van der Plicht, J. 2011. A 33,000 year old incipient dog from Altai Mountains of Siberia: evidence for the earliest domestication disrupted by the Last Glacial Maximum. PLoS One 6(7):e22821. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0022821.

Rolland, N. and S. Crockford. 2005. Late Pleistocene dwarf Stegodon from Flores, Indonesia? Antiquity 79 (June #304 Project Gallery). http://antiquity/

Tollit, D.J., Schulze, A., Trites, A.W., Olesiuk, P., Crockford, S.J., Gelatt, T., Ream, R., and K. Miller. 2009. Development and application of DNA techniques for validating and improving pinniped diet estimates. Ecological Applications 19:889-905.

Wilson, B, Crockford, S.J., Johnson, J.W., Malhi, R.S., and B.M. Kemp. 2011. Genetic and archaeological evidence of a breeding population of formerly endangered Aleutian cackling goose, Branta hutchinsii leucopareia, on Adak Island in the central Aleutians, Alaska. Canadian Journal of Zoology 89:732-743.

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