Category Archives: Population

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).


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

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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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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W. Hudson Bay polar bear population decline stories are unethical and ignore critical caveats

Canadian government scientists created headline news worldwide last week when they told the media that Western Hudson Bay polar bear numbers appeared to have declined by 27% between 2017 and 2021, based on a survey report that has not been made public. This is called ‘science by press release’. Its practice is rightfully considered unethical, as it is usually associated withpeople promoting scientific ‘findings’ of questionable scientific merit who turn to the media for attention when they are unlikely to win the approval of the professional scientific community.

Not surprisingly, all of the stories stated or implied a strong association between this purported population decline and lack of sea ice due to ‘climate change’. However, sea ice conditions have been particularly good over the last five years–for both freeze-up and breakup dates–calling into question how ‘lack of sea ice’ could possibly be to blame for the apparent decline.

A Reuters story (dated 23 December 2022) admits this is the case and included another critical caveat that only one news outlet I saw bothered to mention, which happened to be BBC News:

Scientists cautioned a direct link between the population decline and sea ice loss in Hudson Bay wasn’t yet clear, as four of the past five years have seen moderately good ice conditions. Instead, they said, climate-caused changes in the local seal population might be driving bear numbers down.

For example, an Associated Press story published the day before (22 December 2022), picked up by many other outlets, did not include these critical pieces of information about recent good sea ice conditions and possible declines in seal abundance.

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Polar bears became global warming icons because biologists promoted a narrative of doom since 1999: it didn’t happen ‘by accident’

The polar bear became an ‘accidental icon’ of climate change“, claims a recent CBC Radio interview with ardent global warming promoter and polar bear catastrophist Andrew Derocher. Derocher’s insistence that the polar bear became a climate change icon “by accident” is historical revisionism. While such a statement may be attractive now that polar bears are not dying in droves as he and his colleagues predicted in 2007, that doesn’t make it true.

In the summer of 1999, polar bear biologist Ian Stirling helped produce a short doomsday film spectacular for the biggest news outlet in Canada at the time, in which he hyped his ‘climate warming’ fears about Hudson Bay polar bears, yet we are expected to believe Derocher that on September 4, 2000, Time Magazine put polar bears on its “Arctic Meltdown” cover because they ‘just happened’ to hear about an academic paper Stirling had written the year before.

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Inuit are concerned about public safety as Davis Strait polar bears numbers increase

An assessment of the health of Davis Strait polar bears by 35 Inuit polar bear experts was made public two weeks ago. Overall, these experts agree that virtually all polar bears they see are healthy and that the population has been growing over the past few decades, so much so that “public safety has become an increasing concern”. Mainstream media have ignored this report, as far as I have seen.

As we await the latest scientific population estimate of Davis Strait polar bears, completed in 2021 but still not publicly available (only a preliminary gov’t report and a summary graphic from the final report have been released, see Dyck et al. 2019, 2021) this new document (Tomaselli et al. 2022) provides the essential information we need. Polar bears are doing well with no notable changes in cub numbers or survival in the last few decades, abundance is up and reflects a real increase in numbers. There are so many polar bears that communities and individuals feel the need to take extra precautions in protecting themselves from bears.

Oh, and ringed seal numbers are way down: that could be a critical bit of information we won’t get from the polar bear academics.

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Expert admits polar bears in Svalbard are thriving despite the greatest loss of sea ice in the Arctic

In an article published last week, polar bear specialist Jon Aars is quoted as saying that Svalbard bears are “unexpectedly” thriving. However, he fails short of admitting that the bears don’t really need summer ice as long as they are well-fed in spring, which they have been for the last two decadesthis year included.

Aars said the sea ice in this area is declining more than twice as fast as anywhere else in the Arctic. But the polar bears here — unexpectedly — are thriving. [E. Haavik, Svalbard’s polar bears persist as sea ice melts — but not forever, 21 July 2022; my bold]

Spring 2018, Barents Sea

The suggestion by Aars that the Svalbard archipelago could one day be ice-free for the entire year is speculative hyperbole but even if that were to happen, it would only mean the permanent movement of 300 or so Svalbard bears to Franz Josef Land (still within the Barents Sea) where ice conditions are less volatile.

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Arctic sea ice is constantly changing which means polar bears must be flexible in their requirements

In honour of upcoming ‘Arctic Sea Ice Day’ (15 July), I revisit my 2015 essay on sea ice stability and polar bears, called The Arctic Fallacy. It challenges the flawed and out-dated ecological concept that under natural conditions, sea ice provides a stable and predictable habitat for polar bears, walrus and seals. The wide-spread adoption of this fallacy has allowed the present-day doom and gloom attitude of most Arctic specialists to develop.

[Polar Bears International have declared July 15 to be ‘Arctic Sea Ice Day’ to further its propaganda efforts to ‘save our sea ice’, which they claim is disappearing at an alarming rate due to global warming.]

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Newly-discovered SE Greenland polar bear subpopulation: another assumption proven false

Researchers have discovered that the 300 or so polar bears living in SE Greenland (below 64 degrees N) are so genetically distinct and geographically isolated that they qualify as a unique subpopulation, adding one more to the 19 subpopulations currently described by the IUCN Polar Bear Specialist Group.

NASA photo, SE Greenland glacier-front habitat with a polar bear and two cubs.

Previously, polar bear researchers simply assumed all of the bears in East Greenland were part of the same subpopulation but no field work had been conducted in the extreme southern area until 2015-2017. When they included this region, they got a big surprise: now they are spinning it as significant for polar bear conservation (Laidre et al. 2022).

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My scientific blog posts contributed to the failed Antarctic Treaty bid to protect Emperor penguins

There is actual evidence that two of my fully-referenced blog posts caused some Antarctic Treaty delegates to reject a bid for special protected status for Emperor penguins. Activist heads have exploded.

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