Choose verifiable facts over emotional narratives on polar bear conservation

Polar bears continue to be described as ‘canaries in the coal mine’ for the effects of human-caused climate change, but the evidence shows they are far from being a highly-sensitive indicator species.” Susan Crockford, 24 February 2021

You’ll find the evidence I allude to above – backed up by references to the peer-reviewed literature – in my many publications (Crockford 2015; 2017; 2019, 2020, 2021). My open-access research paper from 2017 has been downloaded more than 6,000 times and despite this being an online forum for legitimate scientific critique, none has been offered. My comprehensive polar bear science book released just two years ago (see below) has a 4.7/5.0 star rating on Amazon, with 132 reviews so far.

For recent blog post examples of the evidence that polar bears are thriving despite profound summer sea ice loss, see this discussion about the many contradictions that exist for claims that sea ice declines have caused harm to polar bear health and survival and this review of the evidence that less summer sea ice has meant more food for polar bears.

For those who haven’t seen it, I’ve copied below the preface from The Polar Bear Catastrophe That Never Happened. This book is an antidote to the emotional blackmail coming at the public from all sides by journalists, polar bear specialists, and elite influencers like David Attenborough.

The polar bear is a powerful animal that inspires a conflicting mix of awe and fear. Its life on the sea ice, dictated by one of the harshest environments on earth, is unlike that of any other top predator. We are fascinated by the polar bear’s ability to live off its fat, but tend to forget that such an existence is possible only because it is such a proficient and formidable killer. Endearing polar bear cubs, with their virginal white coats and big dark eyes, evoke a different emotion when covered in bright red blood from a recent meal. Adored by those who view the Arctic from afar, those who live amongst these apex predators cannot afford that luxury of emotion: polar bears can kill humans in the blink of an eye, if the right situation presents itself.

In sub-Arctic regions, where it is possible for domestic livestock to be kept, horses, sheep, pigs, and ducks have also fallen victim to polar bears’ predatory skills, but sled dogs, which are still an essential support animal across much of the Arctic, are by far the human companion taken most often. Even well-fed polar bears, always looking for ways to top up their fat stores, will destroy seasonal cabins and cause havoc in small remote communities where people only survive because they can store enough food to last them through the long, dark winters.

This combination of hunting and scavenging behaviour hints at the resourcefulness and adaptability of the polar bear. Researchers have learned a lot over the last two decades about bears’ ability to thrive in the Arctic and to take dramatic changes in that hostile environment in their stride — in particular changes in sea ice levels. Unfortunately, that understanding came too late to prevent the polar bear becoming listed as a species threatened with extinction because of future climate changes.

This is the story of how the polar bear came to be considered `Threatened’ with extinction, and its subsequent rise and fall as an icon of the global warming movement. This also happens to be the tale of why the catastrophic decline in polar bear numbers we were promised in 2007 failed to materialize. It is also, in part, the story of my role in bringing that failure to public attention, and the backlash against me that ensued.

It is a story of scientific hubris and of scientific failure, of researchers staking their careers on untested computer simulations and the attempts to obfuscate inconvenient facts. Polar bear scientists were responsible for elevating the polar bear to climate-change-icon status in the first place, actively promoting the idea of a catastrophic future due to man-made global warming. The failure of their predictions has resulted in a loss of public trust that they entirely deserve.


Crockford, S.J. 2015. The Arctic Fallacy: Sea Ice Stability and the Polar Bear. Global Warming Policy Foundation Briefing Paper 16. 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 19 January 2017. Doi: 10.7287/peerj.preprints.2737v1 Open access.

Crockford, S.J. 2019. The Polar Bear Catastrophe That Never Happened. Global Warming Policy Foundation, London. Available in paperback and ebook formats.

Crockford, S.J. 2020. State of the Polar Bear Report 2019. Global Warming Policy Foundation Report 39, London. pdf here.

Crockford, S.J. 2021. The State of the Polar Bear Report 2020. Global Warming Policy Foundation Report 48, London. pdf here.

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