Over the weekend in Canada, the CBC ran a polar bear news feature that is now available online (“Polar bears in peril: the bleak future of Churchill bears,” The National, CBC, 3 December 2018). It gave polar bear biologist Nick Lunn of Environment Canada free rein to spread unsubstantiated claims and outright falsehoods about the status of Western Hudson Bay polar bears and sea ice. Apparently, he and the CBC learned nothing from National Geographic‘s fiasco over their ‘starving’ polar bear video last year: they still think the public will be swayed to “act” on human-caused global warming if a persuasive expert tells them that polar bears are on their way to extinction. I expect many were convinced otherwise, since the facts are available for all to see.
No triplet litters born since 1996? Nonsense, as the photo below (from 2017) shows.
The CBC video is described this way:
“They are a majestic icon of Canada’s North, but polar bears have also come to symbolize climate change. And scientists say the future for one particular population of polar bears in northern Manitoba is dire.“
Watch the video (11:20 minutes long) and see for yourself.
I think you’ll spot most of the contentious issues, as I’ve raised many of them here before (backed up by scientific references), including:
- The claim that there is a correlation between population size and breakup dates of Hudson Bay sea ice: since there has been no trend in breakup dates since 2001, it is impossible for the decline in population size to be correlated with breakup dates (Castro de la Guardia et al. 2017; Lunn et al. 2016).
- The claim that declining weights of females mirrors declining population size: if this is really true, why hasn’t the data been published? Data on the weight of Western Hudson Bay females have not been published since 2004, see “Critical evidence on W Hudson Bay polar bears still not published after 25 years” (Stirling and Derocher 2012).
- The claim that no triplets have been born since 1996: if this is really true, why hasn’t the data been published? Data on the incidence of Western Hudson Bay triplets has not been published since 1992, see “Critical evidence on polar bears in W Hudson Bay is unpublished” (Stirling and Derocher 2012). This claim is made into a deception by a report from Polar Bears International in 2011 on a set of triplets near Churchill which Nick Lunn apparently witnessed and by a Churchill Wild report on a triplet litter in excellent condition photographed at the Seal River Lodge in September 2017 (see video below).
- The claim that sea ice has been steadily declining over the last couple of decades: this is simply not true, as data published by Nick Lunn himself has shown (Lunn et al. 2016). There has been no trend in either breakup or freeze-up dates since 2001, see “New paper updates lack of trend in W Hudson Bay breakup, freeze-up dates to 2015” (Castro de la Guardia et al. 2017). Since 2015, only freeze-up in 2016 was out of the ordinary (one of the latest on record, as late as 1983). Moreover, freeze-up in 2017 and 2018 was as early as it was in the 1980s, a fact not mentioned in the CBC report, and breakup dates have continued the “no trend” pattern seen between 2001 and 2015.
- The claim that polar bear numbers have declined to only 800 bears from a previous high of 1200: I have shown time and again that these figures are not comparable yet Lunn and colleagues continue to compare them in media interviews. The 2016 estimate (842 bears) is only comparable to the estimate from 2011 (949 bears)(Dyck et al. 2017), an insignificant 11% decline. See also “Polar bear numbers margins of error & consequences for conservation status“
See my op-ed in the National Post (29 August 2018) and the GWPF video below on the National Geographic starving polar bear video:
Castro de la Guardia, L., Myers, P.G., Derocher, A.E., Lunn, N.J., Terwisscha van Scheltinga, A.D. 2017. Sea ice cycle in western Hudson Bay, Canada, from a polar bear perspective. Marine Ecology Progress Series 564: 225–233. http://www.int-res.com/abstracts/meps/v564/p225-233/
Dyck, M., Campbell, M., Lee, D., Boulanger, J. and Hedman, D. 2017. Aerial survey of the Western Hudson Bay polar bear sub-population 2016, final report (26 June 2017). Status report 2017-xx, Nunavut Department of Environment, Wildlife Research Section. Igloolik, Nunavut. pdf here.
Lunn, N.J., Servanty, S., Regehr, E.V., Converse, S.J., Richardson, E. and Stirling, I. 2016. Demography of an apex predator at the edge of its range – impacts of changing sea ice on polar bears in Hudson Bay. Ecological Applications, in press. DOI: 10.1890/15-1256
Stirling, I. and Derocher, A.E. 2012. Effects of climate warming on polar bears: a review of the evidence. Global Change Biology 18:2694-2706. doi:10.1111/j.1365-2486.2012.02753.x