Monthly Archives: January 2023

Lomborg responds to polar bear abundance challenge

Money quote from Bjorn Lomborg’s response to being ‘fact-checked’ on polar bear numbers, Wall Street Journal, 26 January 2023:

It does more good for polar bears, and the rest of us, if those trying to help them use accurate facts.”

Lomborg responds himself after I challenged the ‘fact-checkers’ last week:

Relying on the data I referenced used to be uncontroversial. When a CNN science journalist did an investigation similar to AFP’s in 2008, he spoke to numerous scientists and they agreed “that polar bear populations have, in all likelihood, increased in the past several decades.” When polar bears in 2008 were listed as a threatened species under the Endangered Species Act, the decision noted that the population “has grown from a low of about 12,000 in the late 1960’s to a current worldwide estimate of 20,000-25,000.” The data here haven’t changed, only the media’s willingness to disregard annoying facts.

The result is that the public is denied access to accurate data and open debate about these very important topics. Ridiculous points on one side are left standing while so-called fact-checking censors inconvenient truths. If we’re to make good climate policy, voters need a full picture of the facts. Lomborg 2023, backup link

I would add this fact: in 1982, polar bears were listed by the IUCN as ‘vulnerable’ but by 1996, that had changed to ‘lower risk/conservation dependent’–now called ‘least concern‘ (see screencap below) because population numbers had rebounded after more than 20 years of international protection from over-hunting. The reversion to ‘vulnerable’ in 2006 was based entirely on predictions that population numbers would decline in the future due to see ice loss, which so far has not happened (Crockford 2017, 2019; Crockford and Geist 2018).

References

.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. https://peerj.com/preprints/2737/

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. and Geist, V. 2018. Conservation Fiasco. Range Magazine, Winter 2017/2018, pg. 26-27. Pdf here.

Two dead in fatal polar bear attack in Alaskan village of Wales on the Bering Strait

Two people tragically died yesterday afternoon after an attack by a polar bear in the village of Wales on the Bering Strait. Few details are available and bad weather apparently hampered officials getting to the village immediately.

As expected, virtually all news reports are implying that a generic ‘lack of sea ice’ can be blamed for the incident. As usual, the specifics of this case show this claim is not only nonsense, but dangerous.

With the loss of sea ice and the ocean staying open later in the year, polar bears have been spending more time on land, which increases the chance of human encounters, said Joseph Jessup McDermott.

Polar bear attacks in winter are almost always associated with a bear that has not been able to resume feeding in the fall. More bears and restricted hunting means more young bears (as well as old bears or sick ones) become food stressed because they can’t compete with big mature males for food. Mature bears often steal any seals that young bears are able to kill, making the youngsters desperate for food.

The Chukchi Sea polar bears are currently thriving and numbers may still be increasing (AC SWG 2018; Conn et al. 2021; Regehr et al. 2018; Rode et al. 2014, 2015, 2018).

More details to follow on this horrific incident as they become available.

UPDATE 18 January 2023, 5:30PM PT: According to an Associated Press account, the victims were a 24 year old woman and her one-year old son: “Summer Myomick of Saint Michael and her son, Clyde Ongtowasruk, were killed in the attack, Alaska State Troopers said in a statement.”

No more details were provided on the state of the bear involved (sex, age, body condition). Regarding the blame-game, even though recent studies have shown that ringed and bearded seals in the Chukchi Sea are doing very well (Adam et al. 2019; Crawford and Quakenbush 2013; Crawford et al. 2015), Geoff York from Polar Bears International suggests there may not be enough seals for polar bears or the something may be wrong with the sea ice:

In this case, even though there is ice in the Chukchi and northern Bering seas, the quality of that ice is not known that well. More importantly, York said they don’t know what’s going on under the ice — or what the availability of seals and other prey is for polar bears.

The changes are also happening in winter, when people assume they are safe from polar bears being on shore.

Communities may no longer be,” York said.

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No more WEF backroom deals for Sir David Attenborough?

On the first anniversary of Fallen Icon, I wonder if Sir David has made his last backroom deal? His years of relentless messaging anti-capitalist climate doom seemed like a concerted plan to build a legacy based on something other than smooth talking: I am convinced Attenborough saw the shocking film footage of walrus falling to their deaths presented in the Netflix/WWF extravaganza Our Planet as the leverage he needed to kick-start an aggressive campaign to promote action on climate change and curb capitalism. But it all collapsed at COP26 in 2021 with his failure to make any difference at all.

Attenborough made an on-camera plea in early November 2022 to promote yet another film but he hasn’t been seen in public in ages. After being oddly MIA at the Queen’s funeral last September, he’s apparently not attending the 2023 World Economic Forum meeting in Davos this week either, after making a huge splash there in 2019.

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Here comes the pack ice for the Canadian East Coast

Davis Strait pack ice is now descending on the Labrador coast. Only slightly later than usual but it looks like there’s plenty of it.

This is the ice that brings polar bears to Newfoundland and southern Labrador (photo above from April 2022). Be careful what you ask for…

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Activist fact-checkers are misleading the public on polar bear numbers

My press release response to activist ‘fact checkers‘ attacking a graph used by Bjorn Lomborg on social media:

Canadian zoologist Dr. Susan Crockford warns that some polar bear specialists are attempting to cast a smoke-screen over the growth of global polar bear numbers.

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Recent paper on W. Hudson Bay polar bears includes new official sea ice freeze-up data

Even though it’s in graph form only, we finally have an update on sea ice freeze-up dates for Western Hudson Bay for 2016-2020 (but not breakup dates).

This graphed data published by Miller et al. 2022 extends by five years that published in 2017 by Castro de la Guardia and colleagues, which contained graphed data for breakup and freeze-up dates from 1979-2015 (with exact dates for 2005-2008 only).

It confirms a statement I made last month, that between 2016 and 2021 “there has been only one ‘late’ freeze-up year (2016)–but five very early ones.” Of course, 2021 was not included in this new dataset, so that would be “four very early ones” up to 2020.

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Svalbard walrus thrive in the face of sea ice decline, mocking predictions of future catastrophe

The extended visit of an immature male walrus to the UK last month (dubbed ‘Thor’, presumably from Svalbard, Norway) has precipitated the tired and vacuous ‘victim of climate change’ cries from the peanut gallery, including Bob Ward of the Grantham Institute. The facts, however, put all that to rest.

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Inuit in Arctic Canada now observing higher numbers of polar bears, says government report

A 2021 publication by the government of Canada released last month called Species at Risk in Nunavut says the region is “now observing higher numbers of polar bears“, and that management goals are “more focused on maintaining or reducing numbers in communities and in sensitive areas (i.e. bird colonies)“. Local Inuit are said to be “concerned about the increasing number of encounters and property damages” caused by polar bears.

Polar bear in Arviat, Nunavut, 3 October 2022. Chris Mikijuniak photo.

Polar bears in Canada are considered a species of ‘special concern’ (COSEWIC 2018), not threatened as they are in the USA. See the map of Nunavut below.

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Where were the starving W. Hudson Bay polar bears in 2020 if the population had declined by 2021?

Polar bears are supposed to starve before they die, the experts said. They said only a few years ago that dead or emaciated individuals onshore were evidence that many polar bears would soon be dying of starvation out on the sea ice. So, if the Western Hudson Bay (WH) subpopulation had indeed dropped by 27% by late summer 2021 as researchers claimed, where are all the photos of starving bears in the fall of 2020, the year before the count? The photo below of a thin female and cub was taken in late fall of 2021 (the year of the count) by a stationary web cam. In other words, some bears came off the ice without an optimal amount of fat because of poor hunting conditions over the winter but they were still alive. We know that 2020 had the shortest ice-free season in at least 20 years (and no similar images were captured), so bears went into the winter of 2020/2021 in good condition. Ditto for 2017-2019. In contrast to 2021, in 2016 (the year of the previous survey that also indicated a declining population size), bears reportedly came off the ice in good condition.

All I’ve seen are photos of fat bears and fat cubs, even a triplet litter in fall 2020. The shore of WH near Churchill should have been abounding with starving bears in 2020 (and in 2015), if the experts were right about starving bears preceding a population decline. More importantly, where are the studies on food-deprived bears onshore, as were done in the 1980s when WH bears were emaciated and cub survival poor (e.g. Ramsay et al. 1988)? WH bears are being used exclusively to model an implausibly pessimistic future for polar bears across the entire Arctic (Molnar et al. 2010; 2020), which means lack of good science for WH polar bears has big consequences. Covid restrictions in two of those ten years don’t excuse lack of study on this phenomenon.

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