Monthly Archives: August 2019

Fear promoted by young activists is based on false walrus & polar bear narratives

Despite a demand by radical protest group Extinction Rebellion that governments “tell the truth” about climate change, it’s apparent that when it comes to walrus extinction risk they prefer the contrived walrus tragedy porn compiled by David Attenborough and his Netflix cronies over scientific evidence.

Netflix falling walrus clipped from trailer 01

For this group of radical protesters, ‘the truth‘ is a narrative that serves their traffic-disrupting purposes. Since many gullible people – young and old – were horrified by the Netflix claim that hundreds of walruses in the western Arctic had hurled themselves off a cliff because of human-caused climate change, Extinction Rebellion plan to exploit this emotional connection during upcoming protests, apparently believing that what Attenborough told them was a fact. But in accepting docu-drama content without question, they are rejecting the best available science produced in 2017 by biologists who determined that Pacific walrus are not being harmed by the effects of climate change and are not threatened with extinction.

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Keeping the climate catastrophe message on track: a friendly warning from a colleague

Given the issues raised by the Nature Communications blacklist fiasco last week, I thought it might be useful to show readers who don’t work in science an example of the kind of not-so-subtle dissuasion that can be used by scientists-with-a-climate-message to keep their colleagues in line.

Sea_ice_near_coast_of_Labrador_-b_wikimedia_sm_26 March 2007

A male colleague I know from work in another field of biology recently sent me a cordial email that I’m sure he thought was simply helpful advice to a like-minded associate. I doubt he realized how outrageously patronizing and presumptuous he was being.

If I were a female scientist with less confidence and experience, a note like this might have intimidated me into silence. The fact that he thought it was an appropriate thing to do is one of the reasons we have such a problem in science right now. See what you think:

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Blacklist by Nature follows defamation by BioScience: journals reject ethics of science

Along with hundreds of other people – 385 to be exact – I have been blacklisted [#181] by the science journal Nature Communications in a recently-published abysmal paper by three authors from University of California Merced, after I and a number of others were publicly defamed by a squadron of authors in a similarly-stupid paper less than two years ago in the general interest journal BioScience. This obsession that scientists-with-a-message have about silencing peers with other viewpoints (rather than constructing and communicating a winning argument themselves) is vile and utterly counter to what real science is about. Not surprisingly, they positively fawn over media stars like Al Gore and Greta Thunberg who have no science background but willingly repeat the accepted message of climate-change-doom.

Stupidest paper ever final

Now we have two stupid papers that purport to uphold the sanctity of one particular view of climate change: the Harvey et al. “absolutely the stupidest paper I have ever seen published” (Curry 2017) – which we all truly thought could not be matched – and now the Petersen et al. “worst paper published in a reputable journal” (Curry, 2019).

Judith Curry: “Apart from the rank stupidity of this article and the irresponsibility of Nature in publishing this, this paper does substantial harm to climate science.

Jo Nova: “Skeptics get banned, rejected, blocked and sacked from the mainstream media yet somehow Nature has a paper on Skeptics getting too much media. Believers don’t have to be an expert to control the news agenda, just a Greenpeace activist, or a teenage girl. Skeptics on the other hand, can be Nobel Prize winners, but the BBC won’t even phone them.”

UPDATE 18 Aug. 2019: Additional commentary on this new paper (new or previously overlooked in my initial story); do cruise the comments, some additional gems of analysis there:

Visibility and Invisibility (15 Aug 2019)

A thin bench (15 Aug 2019)

Nature Defamation (16 Aug 2019)

The Nature Communications hate list – a fast-moving story (17 Aug 2019)

Inside The Sausage Factory 18 Aug 2019

ADDED 20 Aug 2019: See this scathing letter to the Editor of Nature Communications by President of the National Association of Scholars, Peter Wood. (15 Aug 2019). In part, he states:

“Nature Communications has published an article which forwards the technology of censorship in pursuit of political activism, but which does not even pretend to forward scientific knowledge.”
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Media and USGS biologist sensationalize recent report of a polar bear encounter in Alaska

It’s been a slow summer for polar bear news to hype, so we shouldn’t be surprised that a local report that polar bears this summer have descended on the town of Kaktovik, Alaska one week earlier than 2017 has morphed into an international story that makes a 2016 research report sound like this year’s news, with headlines trumpeting: “polar bear encounters are increasing” due to a longer open water period. Nevertheless, it was reported just two weeks ago that Alaska has not had a polar bear attack since 1993.

polar_bear-US FWS_young bear Alaska maybe Kaktovik no date

This is a particularly blatant example of how the media skew polar bear ‘news’ for public consumption, aided by scientists with a particular message to sell. Not surprisingly, a number of essential facts have been left out of this sensationized account, in part because the polar bear specialist the media consulted left those facts out of his statement.  This is the sort of bias displayed by polar bear specialists that I discuss in my new book, The Polar Bear Catastrophe That Never Happened.

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USA finally updates Endangered Species Act after 45 years & the decision is final

Just out this morning:

Today, U.S. Secretary of the Interior David Bernhardt unveiled improvements to the implementing regulations of the ESA designed to increase transparency and effectiveness and bring the administration of the Act into the 21st century.” USFWS Press Release, 12 August 2019.

Although much hue-and-cry will be written by conservation organizations and the media (here is one), I am providing for easy reference here links to the original press releases and documents issued this morning by the Department of the Interior and the US Fish and Wildlife Service. I am also providing pdf copies of the official documents to appear shortly in the Federal Register and quote the above USFWS press release in full.

Polar_bear_resting_but_alert_original USFWS

It remains to be seen whether polar bears or other Arctic species of interest to me and readers of this blog will be affected. The new changes affect both the listing and delisting process as well as designation of critical habitat.

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Not predicted: more sea ice than average in southern-most Arctic first week of August

Polar bear habitat update for the first week of August 2019 shows there is still more sea ice than average in Hudson Bay, the southern-most area of continuous habitation for this species. That certainly wasn’t part of the predictions of doom, especially since freeze-up in that region for the last two years has also been earlier-than-average which means a shorter ice-free season than we’ve seen for decades.

Hudson Bay weekly departure from normal 2019 Aug 5

Despite ice coverage for the Arctic ice as a whole being marginally lower than it has been since 1979 for this time of year, sea ice for the first week of August was also above average around Svalbard in the Barents Sea and higher than the last few years in the Central Arctic, which is a critical summer refugium for polar bears that live in the peripheral seas of the Arctic Ocean, including the Chukchi (see photo below, taken in early August 2018).

Chukchi Sea polar bear Arctic_early August 2018_A Khan NSIDC small

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Alaska waters with no sea ice are not a problem for Pacific walrus or polar bears

One of two alarming headlines that caught my eye this week was the ‘news’ on Monday that the waters off Alaska were now ice-free because of climate change, courtesy a story in the online media outlet Mashable that was later picked up by The Weather Channel and the UK mainstream paper The Independent. In addition, a large number of mainstream news outlets, including the New York Times and Newsweek, have reported that walruses came ashore this year at Point Lay, Alaska two weeks earlier than any year since 2007.

No one claimed this late July onshore movement of walruses was the beginning of the end of walruses but it was still blamed on human-caused climate change because it was associated with the  aforementioned ice loss in Alaska.

Walrus at Point Lay from trail camera in 2015 USFWS

Neither event was truly ‘news’. Moreover, neither an ice-free Alaska in early August or walruses onshore two weeks earlier than 2017 will have any negative impact on local polar bear or walrus populations, whether due to human-caused climate change or natural variation. Well-fed polar bears everywhere are quite capable of going 4-5 months without food in the summer and a few thousand walruses at Point Lay will feed happily from this shore-based haulout for a few days to a few weeks as they have done many summers since 2007 before moving on to other Chukchi Sea beach locations – although the ‘leaving’ events never seem to get any media attention. Walruses will haul out on beaches in Alaska and Russia until the ice returns in October.

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