China ruins Antarctic Treaty attempt to enact special protection status for Emperor penguins

China has thwarted an attempt by members of the Antarctic Treaty organization to enact special protection status for the Emperor penguin, which would have generated a ‘Species Action Plan’. Apparently, such a proposal required a consensus of all parties and China wouldn’t go along.

But as we know from past actions by the IUCN Polar Bear Specialists Group against former member Mitch Taylor, such impediments are easily sidestepped when a decision requiring consensus doesn’t go your way.

Hyping the Demise of Emperor Penguins

Over the last few years, a few scientists–see here and here–have used totally implausible climate models (those that use ‘worst case’ or ‘unmitigated’ scenarios, see graphic below) to predict the future near-extinction of Emperor penguins due to sea ice loss. I commented on this issue two years ago in detail (with references).

I’d suggest that using far-fetched ‘worse case’ scenario predictions to propose an unlikely but scary-sounding future catastrophe isn’t likely to work any better for emperor penguins than it has done for polar bears, especially when the animals keep thriving.” Crockford, 2020.

These ‘worst case’ scenario models to project future climate have been deemed totally inappropriate by respected scientists (e.g. Burgess et al. 2021; Hausfather and Peters 2020; O’Neil et al. 2020; Spencer 2021) but activist conservation specialists studying polar bears and penguins continue to use them to press for special protection status for their beloved species. In recent years, both polar bears (Crockford 2022) and Emperor penguins (Fretwell et al. 2012; Fretwell and Trathan 2020; Trathan et al. 2020) have documented slight increases in overall population size.

Pointing this out has gotten me ‘climate mauled’ by the scientific community–see my length response to the 2018 BioScience attack on my reputation and integrity–and cancelled by the academic community (Laframboise and Crockford 2020). But I digress…

Antarctic Treaty Thwarted

With China obstinately standing in their way, the other members of the Antarctic Treaty organization intends to do what they want regardless, according to a report by PBS (3 June 2022):

“An overwhelming majority of parties held the opinion that there is sufficient scientific evidence for the species to be put under the special protection,” the German government, which hosted the May 22-June 2 meeting, said in a statement Friday.

While a formal decision was “blocked by one party,” it said that most countries attending the meeting planned nevertheless to put in place national measures to protect emperor penguins.

PBS, 3 June 2022

However, the lack of consensus means they didn’t get the ‘Species Action Plan’ they were really after: having failed to achieve their objective, they are trying to spin it into a positive result.

Background: Antarctic Sea Ice

The minimum extent for Antarctic sea ice since 1979 has been highly variable without showing a meaningful long-term declining trend, with extent for a few years recently lower than average but many years well above average. The graph below is based on data from NSIDC for February 2022:

The maximum extent overall looks to be increasing:


Burgess, M.G., Ritchie, J., Shapland, J. and Pielke Jr., R. 2021. IPCC baseline scenarios have over-projected CO2 emissions and economic growth. Environmental Research Letters 16:014016.

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.

Crockford, S.J. 2022. The State of the Polar Bear 2021. Global Warming Policy Foundation Note 29, London. pdf here.

Fretwell, P.T., LaRue, M.A., Morin, P., Kooyman, G.L., Wienecke, B., Ratcliffe, N., Fox, A.J., Fleming, A.H., Porter, C. and Trathan, P.N. 2012. An emperor penguin population estimate: the first global, synoptic survey of a species from space. PLoS One 7: e33751 [open access] doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0033751.

Fretwell, P.T. and Trathan, P.N. 2021. Discovery of new colonies by Sentinel2 reveals good and bad news for emperor penguins. Remote Sensing in Ecology and Conservation 7(2):139-153.
Hausfather, Z. and Peters, G.P. 2020. Emissions – the ‘business as usual’ story is misleading [“Stop using the worst-case scenario for climate warming as the most likely outcome — more-realistic baselines make for better policy”]. Nature 577: 618-620.

Laframboise, D. and Crockford, S.J. 2020. Walruses, polar bears, and the fired professor. In: Climate Change: The Facts 2020, J. Marohasy (ed.), pp. 21-34. Institute of Public Affairs, Melbourne, Australia.

O’Neil, B.C., Carter, T.R., Ebi, K., et al. 2020. Achievements and needs for the climate change scenario framework. Nature Climate Change 10:1074-1084.

Spencer, R.W. 2021. ‘An Earth Day reminder: ‘Global Warming’ is only ~50% of what models predict. Dr. Roy Spencer blog, 22 April.

Trathan, P.N. and others, including Fretwell, P. T. 2020. The emperor penguin – Vulnerable to projected rates of warming and sea ice loss. Biological Conservation 241:108216. [open access]

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