Category Archives: Summary

Science, optimism, and the resilience of polar bears in an ever-changing Arctic

Optimism in conservation science — which the Smithsonian says we desperately need (Earth Optimism Summit 21-23 April 2017, apparently a huge success) — means it’s time to acknowledge and celebrate real conservation success stories. The Smithsonian folks probably won’t say it but I will — one of those successes is the recovery of polar bears.

Female with cub_Shutterstock_PolarBearScienceIt’s time to abandon the focus on prophesies of impending loss and accept that recovery of polar bears from the over-hunting of last century has continued despite a decade of low summer sea ice (Aars et al. 2017; Crockford 2017; Dyck et al. 2017; SWG 2016; York et al. 2016). Why not focus on the numerous images of fat, healthy bears rather than the anomalous starving ones?

It’s time to let go of imagined future catastrophes based on pessimistic failures of adaptation (Amstrup et al. 2007, 2008; Atwood et al. 2016; Stirling and Derocher 2012) and acknowledge that polar bears and Arctic seals, just like Pacific walrus (MacCracken et al. 2017; US Fish & Wildlife Service 2017), are resilient species with adaptive capabilities we are are only just beginning to comprehend (Crawford and Quakenbush 2013; Crawford et al. 2015; Escajeda et al. 2018; Rode et al. 2014; Stirling and Lunn 1997; Stirling et al. 1975a; Vibe 1965). Continue reading

2017 in review: polar bear prophesies of doom more at odds with current reality

Tales of doom and gloom about polar bears reflect what some people think might happen in the future, not what is happening right now.  Currently, polar bears are doing just fine despite the low summer sea ice coverage they’ve experienced since 2007 (Crockford 2017a; York et al. 2016). In other words, there has been no global population decline as predicted: officially, the numbers were 22,000-31,000 (or 26,500 average) in 2015 (Wiig et al. 2015) but about 28,500 when estimates published since then are included (Aars et al. 2017; Dyck et al. 2017; Matishov et al. 2014; SWG 2016), up from about 22,500 in 2005).

Wrangel Island bears on whale_29 Sept 2017 SUNThis increase might not be statistically significant but it is most assuredly not the decrease in abundance that was predicted by ‘experts’ such as Steve Amstrup and colleagues (Amstrup et al. 2007), making it hard to take subsequent predictions of impending catastrophe seriously (e.g. Atwood et al. 2016; Regehr et al. 2016; Wiig et al. 2015).

The doomsayers can’t stand to have someone provide the public with unbaised evidence of this failure so they attack my scientific integrity with an academically weak and aggressively vindictive ‘peer-reviewed’ paper (Harvey et al. 2017, in press) that you’ll hear more about in the new year.

Wiig to Laidre_9 May 2014 follow up to Lunches with Resit_first part_redacted highlighted

Bottom line: 2017 saw abundant good news stories about polar bears, which I’ve summarized below. See also Crockford 2017b: Twenty reasons not to worry about polar bears, the 2017 update and my 2017 block-buster video, Polar Bear Scare Unmasked: The Saga of a Toppled Global Warming Icon:


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Twenty reasons not to worry about polar bears, the 2017 update

Cover image_Twenty Reasons_polarbearscienceJust in time for Polar Bears International’s self-proclaimed fall Polar Bear Week (5-11 November 2017), here’s a new resource for cooling the polar bear spin. I’ve updated my 2015 summary of reasons not to worry about polar bears, which is now more than two years old. In this new version, you will find links to supporting information, including published papers and fully referenced blog posts of mine that provide background, maps and bibliographies, although some of the most important graphs and maps have been reproduced here. I hope you find it a useful resource for refuting the pessimism and prophecies of catastrophe about the future of polar bears. Please feel free to share it.

As global leaders meet in Bonn for COP23 (6-17 November 2017), it’s time to celebrate the proven resilience of polar bears to their ever-changing Arctic environment.

Twenty Reasons: the bullet points

  1. Polar bears are still a conservation success story: there are more polar bears now than there were 40 years ago.
  2. Fewer populations are in decline than in 2010 (only one, officially) and only six are data deficient (down from nine).
  3. Abrupt summer sea ice decline has not affected polar bear numbers as predicted: even though sea ice levels dropped to mid-century levels in 2007, the expected decimation of polar bears failed to occur.
  4. The Chukchi Sea population is thriving despite a pronounced lengthening of the ice-free season since 2007.
  5. Less sea ice in the summer in the Chukchi Sea has meant a healthy prey base for polar bears because ringed seals feed primarily in the ice-free season.
  6. Polar bears have shown themselves to be adaptable to changing ice conditions in several regions.
  7. Southern Beaufort numbers have rebounded since the last survey count.
  8. Barents Sea numbers have probably increased since 2005 and have definitely not declined despite much less sea ice cover.
  9. There is no evidence that record-low summer sea ice in 2012 had a harmful effect on Southern Beaufort bear numbers.
  10. Other species are being negatively impacted by high polar bear numbers, especially nesting sea birds and ducks.
  11. Western Hudson Bay population numbers have been stable since 2004, despite what scientists are telling the media.
  12. Hudson Bay sea ice has not changed since about 1999: breakup dates and freeze-up dates are highly variable but the ice-free period was not any longer in 2015 than it was in 2004. However, this fall freeze-up is shaping up to be the earliest in decades.
  13. Problem bears in Churchill are not lean or starving.
  14. Churchill Manitoba had the most problem bears in 1983 and 2016, which were late freeze-up years, but many of the incidents in 2016 can be attributed to increased vigilance on the part of patrol officers after an attack in 2013.
  15. There have been only marginal sea ice declines during the feeding period in spring, when polar bears need sea ice the most.
  16. The is no evidence that subsistence hunting is affecting bear populations.
  17. Stressful research methods have been curtailed in much of Canada.
  18. There have been no reports of polar bear cannibalism since 2011.
  19. Polar bears appear unaffected by pollution: studies suggest only that harm is theoretically possible, not that it has happened.
  20. Polar bears have survived past warm periods, which is evidence they have the ability to survive future warm periods.

Conclusion

  • Polar bears are thriving: they are not currently threatened with extinction.
  • Tens of thousands of polar bears did not die as a result of more than a decade of low summer sea ice, as was predicted.
  • Polar bears don’t need sea ice in late summer/early fall as long as they are well-fed in the spring.

[full text below, pdf with footnotes and references here]

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Fabulous polar bear science book for kids now available in French and German

Announcing the French and German translations of my popular science book, Polar Bear Facts and Myths (suitable for children aged seven and up), are now available through Amazon worldwide in paperback. Please pass along to your friends, relatives, and colleagues in North America and abroad. The English version still available in paperback and ebook formats.

FRENCH

Crockford Ours Polaire_French front cover_web size_10 Sept 2017

Titre: Ours Polaire Faits et Mythes: Un résumé scientifique pour tous âges
L’autheur: Susan J. Crockford
Traduit par: Reynald Duberger
Date de publication: 10 September 2017
ISBN: 1976158362
Nombre de pages: 44
Le price: USD $12.99  €10.87  £9.94 [soon to be £10.03 to qualify for free shipping]  CAD $20.22 [with free shipping]

Acheter-le ici: Amazon.com [USA]; Amazon.ca [Canada, also in the French Immersion Store]; Amazon.fr [France]; Amazon.uk [UK]; Amazon.de [Germany]

On a fait croire aux enfants qu’il ne reste que quelques centaines d’ours polaires,  mais l’implacable message sur les ours polaires condamnés (par la faute de l’homme) est heureusement faux. Il est temps qu’on révèle la vérité aux jeunes.

Voici donc les bonnes nouvelles qu’on doit apprendre aux enfants: les ours polaires n’ont jamais été menacés d’extinction à cause d’un réchauffement global anthropique. Il y a effectivement davantage d’ours polaires qu’il y en avait il y a 50 ans, et la population globale est d’un taille respectable, en dépit du fait que la banquise d’été ait atteint des niveaux ayant dû, selon les prévisions, mener à la catastrophe depuis 2007.

Les ours polaires se sont adaptés admirablement bien à ces niveaux, et contre toute attente, leur nombre a augmenté et non pas diminué au cours des années.

L’ours polaire: Faits et Mythes est un livre scientifique inspirant sur la survie dans l’Arctique qui plaira aussi bien aux parents qu’aux enfants.

À propos de l’auteur: Susan Crockford est une zoologiste professionnelle. Depuis plus de 20 ans elle étudie l’écologie et l’évolution de l’ours polaire. Elle possède un PhD et maintient un blog sur le passé et le présent des ours polaires appelé http://www.polarbearscience.com.

Depuis longtemps, les lecteurs réclamaient un livre clair et simple sur la science de l’ours polaire s’adressant aux enfants comme aux adultes, offrant la même approche rationnelle que celle de ses publications scientifiques pour adultes. Susan leur livre enfin cet ouvrage.

Un livre d’accompagnement (en anglais) est aussi disponible (Polar Bears: Outstanding Survivors of Climate Change) présentant des détails bien référencés sur les questions et enjeux récents concernant la conservation de l’ours polaire. Pour les amateurs de fiction, elle propose aussi un thriller sur les attaques d’ours polaires (EATEN: A Novel), également en anglais.

GERMAN

Crockford FM FRONT cover only_German 10 Sept 2017 web size

Der Titel: Eisbären Fakten und Mythen: Eine wissenschaftliche Zusammenfassung für alle Altersgruppen
Der Autor: Susan J. Crockford
Übersetzt von: Marie McMillan
Datum der Veröffentlichung: 10 September 2017
ISBN: 1976305748

Seitenzahl: USD $12.99  €10.87  £9.94 [soon to be £10.03 to qualify for free shipping] CAD $20.22 [with free shipping]

Kauf es hier: Amazon.com [USA]; Amazon.de [Germany]; Amazon. ca [Canada]; Amazon.uk [UK]; Amazon.fr [France]

Beschreibung auf Deutsch

Vielen Kindern weltweit wurde erzählt, dass es nur noch ein paar hundert Eisbären auf der ganzen Welt gibt. Zum Glück ist die Nachricht, dass der Polarbär dem Untergang geweiht sei (und dass das allein die Schuld der Menschen sei) falsch. Es wird Zeit, dass die Kinder dies erfahren.

Die gute Nachricht, die Kinder hören müssen, ist diese: Eisbären sind nicht vom Aussterben bedroht aufgrund des Klimawandels. Tatsächlich gibt es heute viel mehr Polarbären als vor 50 Jahren und die Population weltweit hat eine gesunde Größe. Und das obwohl das Meereseis seit 2007 ein Niveau erreicht hat, von dem es hieß, dass es katastrophale Folgen haben würde. Eisbären kommen ganz gut mit weniger Meereseis im Sommer klar; entgegen allen Erwartungen ist ihre Zahl über die Jahre gestiegen, sie sind nicht weniger geworden.

Eisbär Fakten und Mythen ist ein ermutigendes wissenschaftliches Buch über das Überleben in der Arktis, welches Kindern und Eltern gleichermaßen gefällt.

Über die Autorin: Susan Crockford ist eine professionelle Zoologin, die seit mehr als 20 Jahren Polarbär-Ökologie und Evolution studiert. Sie hat einen Doktortitel und schreibt einen Blog über die historische und gegenwärtige Situation der Polarbären: http://www.polarbearscience.com. Seit Jahren fragten Leser sie nach einem wissenschaftlichen Buch dass sich auch an Kinder richtet und in gleichsam rationaler und umfassender Perspektive gehalten ist wie ihre wissenschaftlichen Texte für Erwachsene. Dieses Buch ist Dr. Crockfords Antwort.

English version of above descriptions copied below:

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Video: Death of a Climate Icon, the polar bear’s demise as a useful poster child

Last week I asked: “What’s causing the death of the polar bear as a climate change icon?”

I was echoing the conclusion of a commentator at the Arctic Institute (22 August 2017) who lamented: “The polar bear is dead, long live the polar bear” and climate scientist Michael Mann, who told a lecture audience a few months ago that polar bears are no longer useful for generating “action” on climate change.

Crockford 2017_Slide 15 screencap

This is slide 15 from my presentation at ICCC-12 in Washington, D.C. in March 2017.

Now here’s the video. Watch “The Death of a Climate Icon” (31 August 2017):

The video was made possible with the assistance of the Global Warming Policy Foundation.

Kind of makes you wonder: is Al Gore’s recent climate change movie, An Inconvenient Sequel: Truth to Power, tanking at the box office because he couldn’t include polar bears as an example of the effects of human-caused global warming as he did in his award-winning 2007 effort? Did too many polar bears doom Gore’s 2017 movie?

Conclusions in the video about the predictions of polar bear decline vs. the current status of polar bears and sea ice are documented in my 2017 published paper:

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 2017 sea ice graphic

Polar Bear Facts & Myths translations in French and German coming soon

Translations of my popular polar bear science book Polar Bear Facts & Myths — suitable for readers aged seven and up — are almost complete. Versions in French and German will be available soon through Amazon.

FM French and German covers_10 Sept 2017

 

These translations have been done by native French and German speakers. They are particularly suitable for Canadian French immersion science classes and home school science lessons worldwide. But most importantly, they offer the chance for young children whose first language is French or German to read a sensible book about polar bears loaded with fabulous colour images.

Ours Polaire Faits et Mythes — Bientôt disponible!

Eisbären Fakten und Mythen — Bald erhältlich!

These translated versions of Polar Bear Facts & Myths will delight children of all ages as well as adults: they have the same question and answer format and are based on the most up-to-date science.

Please pass this notice along to teachers and parents you think might be interested.

Pacific walrus haulout two weeks early, US gov’t agency blames “earliest” ice loss

Walrus 2012 July USGSThis year’s baseless media frenzy over walrus survival and loss of summer sea ice blamed on human-caused global warming was initiated by a press release from US Fish and Wildlife last week (16 August 2017, pdf here: “Pacific walruses haul out near Point Lay earlier than in previous years“). Quote below, my bold:

In the first week of August, several hundred Pacific walruses were observed on a barrier island near the Native Village of Point Lay, a small, Iñupiaq community on the northwest coast of Alaska. This is the earliest date yet for the haulout to form…This year, sea ice has retreated beyond the continental shelf earlier than in previous years

But is this all true? In a word, no — and it didn’t take much research to uncover the truth.

UPDATE 24 August 2017: A few minutes after this post was published, I became aware that just yesterday, 20 conservation activist organizations, lead by the Center for Biological Diversity (who led the polar bear listing charge) issued a press release regarding a letter (pdf here) pressuring the US Fish and Wildlife Service to list Pacific walrus as threatened or endangered under the Endangered Species Act. Apparently, a decision must be made by the end of September on whether to actively list walrus or not. The text below has been amended to reflect this development.
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