These four images of thin or emaciated polar bears falsely blamed on climate change have scared kids like Greta Thunburg to death: the four white lies that scarred a generation.
If you see kids marching with signs like the one below – from a protest earlier this year in Montreal – you know they have seen the white lies that have been spread online. Note the poster starving bear below compared to the real-life on from 2015 above.
Here I summarize the truth about all four of these starving polar bear images that have been used since 2009 to emotionally manipulate the public (especially young girls), into getting on board the climate change band wagon. Rational people have seen through the rhetoric and come to realize that climate change is virtually never the cause of starvation. However, some poor kids have been scared to death by these images and the stories of climate change catastrophe they inspired – they are very real victims of climate change messaging at its worst.
2009 An act of cannibalism
An act of cannibalism by a lean – but not starving – adult male in November 2009 near Churchill was witnessed by tourists and caught on film by professional photographer Daniel Cox. It was falsely blamed on climate change by polar bear specialist Ian Stirling. The truth is that even fat adult males will kill and eat cubs: they don’t do it just because they are desperate for food. The news media ran with the story and despite rational people trying to set the record straight, the images and false message went viral on social media. My take on it and other incidents of cannibalism here and here.
2013 – Svalbard starving dead bear
In August 2013, polar bear specialist was acting as a guide for wealthy tourists in Svalbard, Norway when he came across the carcass of an emaciated polar bear. Stirling told the media it had probably died from lack of sea ice caused by climate change when he had no evidence that this was the case. Starvation is the leading natural cause of death for all polar bears. More on another dead starving bear sob story from 2014 here.
2015 – Svalbard starving bear
The hype over a photo of an apparently injured and emaciated polar bear near Svalbard was almost entirely social-media-driven. A photographer with no knowledge of polar bears took the picture and posted it on Facebook with her uninformed speculation that this was caused by climate change to get an emotional reaction from people – and it went viral. Traditional media stories followed. Norwegian polar bear specialist Magnus Andersen pointed out that the photographer’s conclusion was erroneous and reiterated my point that starvation is the leading natural cause of death for old animals. This time, Ian Stirling stated that lack of sea ice was not likely the cause of this bear’s condition but that it was probably hurt or sick.
2017 – National Geographic starving bear
This is the video that jumped the shark – the film of an emaciated bear on Somerset Island in the Canadian Arctic (falsely report initially as Baffin Island) used to tell the public that “this is what climate change looks like.” The video went mega-viral, apparently viewed more than 2.5 billion times. Some questions were raised about the photographer’s ethics in his quest for an image to fit his global warming message. National Geographic later apologized for the message, admitting that there was no evidence that climate change had caused the bear’s poor condition. It was the biggest of the four white lies.