Tag Archives: climate change

The Hounding of Roger Pielke Jr amid the demise of academic freedom in climate change

Academic freedom is squashed when scholars challenge any of the principle tenets of climate change and one of the most egregious examples of this has been the hounding of Roger Pielke Jr., explained in detail in a briefing paper published today.

If this is what climate change activists and their supporters in academia will do to a senior professor like Roger Pielke Jr., who really only disagrees with them on a single point, it’s no wonder that adjunct professors like myself have been virtually powerless in defending ourselves when the university mob mobilizes to attack with earnest (Laframboise 2019).

Here’s the executive summary, by civil liberties journalist Donna Laframboise:

Climate change, we’re told, threatens the ‘viability of our societies‘. In August 2021, United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres declared the alarm bells ‘deafening‘. If this is even remotely the case, humanity is in urgent need of clear thinking.

But the climate movement rejects clear thinking. It has little interest in sorting facts from fiction, in ensuring its efforts are based on evidence rather than dogma. The hostility and venom directed at Roger Pielke Jr, a natural disasters expert who wholeheartedly supports decarbonisation of the global economy, demonstrates this beyond doubt.

Stray but a little from the dominant climate narrative, and activists will fantasise about your violent death. They will dismiss your peer-reviewed publications as marginal, accuse you of spreading disinformation, and successfully campaign to get you fired from part-time jobs. They will publish false allegations about you on the White House website, target journalists who quote you in news stories, and subject you to punitive, intrusive, and extensive financial investigation.

In recent years, Roger Pielke Jr has further discovered that academic freedom is an empty slogan at the University of Colorado (Boulder), his primary employer. Rather than defending its most senior environmental studies professor, his own department is now determinedly harassing and humiliating him.

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Conditions were not golden for polar bears in the 1980s despite what activist expert claims

Does the following statement stand up to scrutiny – i.e. a fact check – of the scientific literature on polar bear ecology?

In the 1980s, “the males were huge, females were reproducing regularly and cubs were surviving well,” Amstrup said. “The population looked good.”

[Steven Amstrup, Anchorage Daily News (Borenstein and colleagues), 5 November 2021: ‘How warming affects Arctic sea ice and polar bears’]
Steven Amstrup

In short, it does not.

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Polar bear watching in high gear near Churchill as everyone waits for the sea ice to form

All of the bears within view of the coastal web cams on the shore of Wapusk National Park near Churchill on Western Hudson Bay seem to be in very good shape this year, despite having come off the ice a few weeks earlier than they have over the last few years. Despite this, problems with bears in Churchill seem to have been below average this year. Some great action can be seen via several Explore dot org live web cams that are streaming from shore right now.

A sow with yearling cub; 1 November 2021

No ice forming yet along the west coast of Hudson Bay as of today, which is a bit later than it has been for the last few years. That means some of these bears will likely have spent almost 5 months onshore by the time they get back on the newly-formed ice and resume hunting seals.

Hudson Bay shows no ice forming along the west coast, closeup at 2 November 2021
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Fact checkers fail to refute polar bear number increases despite extensive ‘expert’ rhetoric

There’s seems to be something about polar bears that really sets off the climate change fact-checkers. Mention that the situation for the bears is not quite as dire as we were told they would be 15 years ago and they can’t wait to sink their teeth in.

In early September this year, an Australian a woman I’ve never heard of gave a lecture to students at her former girl’s school and in the process made some critical remarks about Al Gore’s ‘An Inconvenient Truth’. Gina Rinehart said, among other things:

“I’d heard that senior school students in a previous headmistress’s time, were having to watch … An Inconvenient Truth. Catchy title, but sadly short on delivery as far as truth is concerned, e.g. the sad loss of polar bears, when actually their numbers have increased…”

The folks who ‘fact-check’ at the Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC) seemed to feel that Ms. Rinehart needed to be taken down a peg for the temerity of that remark, perhaps as it afforded an opportunity to take me down along with her: it seems some things I’ve said or published over the last few years were identified by her office as the source of her remark that polar bear numbers had increased.

In a long-winded essay of more than 2,500 words published yesterday (26 October 2021) the fact checkers provide one of the best examples yet of how convoluted is the official answer to the question: have overall polar bear numbers declined or increased over time? They interviewed a number of experts from the Polar Bear Specialist Group (PBSG) who had a lot to say but claimed it is impossible to address the global population issue.

Sadly, the question of how many polar bears exist today compared to decades ago is unnecessarily complicated and messy, as I discovered years ago. I dealt with this topic in my latest book, The Polar Bear Catastrophe That Never Happened, so for now I’ll just quote a bit from one of the chapters and let you decide for yourselves if the experts quoted by the ABC fact-checkers have a strong enough case to say without question that Rinehart was wrong. For example, you might ask why the PBSG experts used the estimate generated for the Kara Sea subpopulation of about 3,000 bears compiled by Russian researchers (Matishov et al. 2014) for their official IUCN 2015 assessment (Wiig et al. 2015; Regehr et al. 2016) but didn’t include that number in this ‘fact-check document – or why they similarly used an estimate of 2,000 for East Greenland for the 2015 assessment but provide no number for this ‘fact-check’. I’ll probably have more to say later.

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No signs of a climate emergency for W. Hudson Bay polar bears this year ahead of UN climate meeting

I’ve been told that another complete aerial survey of the Western Hudson Bay polar bear subpopulation (from the Nunavut to Ontario boundaries) was conducted in August this year and that the bears have been hanging out further south than usual. It will be years before the results of the population count are published, of course (especially if it’s good news) but my contacts also say virtually all of the bears are in great condition again this year.

This is significant because W. Hudson Bay bears are one of the most southern subpopulations in the Arctic (only Southern HB bears live further south) and older data from this region is being used to predict the future for the entire global population based on implausible model projections (Molnar et al. 2020). And scary predictions of future polar bear survival are often taken to be proxies for future human disasters (see ‘Polar bears live on the edge of the climate change crisis‘), a point that some activists will no doubt make in the coming weeks, as the long-awaited UN climate change bash #26 (COP26) gets underway in Glasgow, Scotland on October 31.

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Still waiting for two thirds of polar bears worldwide to disappear due to lack of summer sea ice

It’s hard to believe that a polar bear specialist would claim that their predictions have come true, given the facts of the matter: that polar bears arguably number over 30,000 worldwide and regions with the most dramatic sea ice declines have not documented reduced polar bear health or survival. But in mid-July this year, Andrew Derocher – one of the field’s most vocal promoters – did just that: proclaimed on twitter that “virtually all of our predictions are coming true.” Except, none of them did, especially the most widely-promoted one, which failed spectacularly.

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Svalbard polar bear paper falsely assumes that loss of genetic diversity has negative consequences

A new paper published today deals with an animal conservation issue I’ve addressed twice before: the theoretical assumption that loss of genetic diversity must be detrimental to species survival despite there being little evidence that this has been the case in real life. For this new study, the authors carried out some complicated measuring of genetic diversity loss and inbreeding amongst and between Svalbard region polar bear populations between 1995 and 2016 (see map below), and then modelled what this could lead to in 100 generations (1210 years), with the over-anxious hand-wringing we’ve all come to expect from such prophesies. As far as I can see, it’s all meaningless number-crunching without relevance to the real world of polar bears.

To support their claim of harm from loss of genetic diversity, the authors of this paper (Maduna et al. 2021) cite four theoretical papers that assume as fact that loss of genetic diversity is harmful but not the evidence to back up the claim. They apparently never bothered to look at species that have actually suffered dramatic loss of genetic diversity. Northern elephant seals, for example, reduced to 20-30 animals more than 100 years ago, have rebounded to a population of about 170,000 with extremely low genetic diversity but no apparent health or survival repercussions. Similar genetic bottlenecks and recoveries have been documented in Guadalupe fur seals, San Nicolas Island foxes, mouflon sheep, and North Atlantic right whales (among others), which I discussed in detail here (with references). I discussed the issue again in regards to a similar polar bear ‘genetic diversity’ paper in 2016.

Conspicuous by its absence in this new publication is a citation of the recent paper that revealed the body condition of female Svalbard polar bears had increased significantly between 2004 and 2017 despite a pronounced decline in summer and winter sea ice extent (Lippold et al. 2019: 988). Nor did the paper cite data collected by the Norwegian Polar Institute that show the body condition of adult males in Svalbard has not changed since 1993 or that population numbers have not declined. Instead, the authors mention only that reduced numbers of pregnant females have reached traditional denning areas due to lack of ice and that bears have spent less time feeding at glacier fronts than they used to do (Maduna et al. 2021: 2), as if the only polar bear data available in relation to sea ice decline was negative.

Figure 1 from Maduna et al. 2021

Population bottlenecks during the Last Glacial Maximum when suitable habitat was scarce and another in the late 1800s/early 1900s due to wanton overhunting left polar bears with remarkably low genetic diversity but no apparent ill-effects to their overall heath. Oddly, this recent work by Maduna and colleagues assumes without evidence that a bit less genetic diversity could be devastating to Svalbard bears more than 1000 years from now. While the media expectedly promote this as scary new evidence of what climate change has wrought (here and here), I am not impressed.

This is conservation biology done WWF-style: loss of genetic diversity sounds bad to people who don’t know better, but real-world evidence shows it isn’t.

References

Lippold, A., Bourgeon, S., Aars, J., Andersen, M., Polder, A., Lyche, J.L., Bytingsvik, J., Jenssen, B.M., Derocher, A.E., Welker, J.M. and Routti, H. 2019. Temporal trends of persistent organic pollutants in Barents Sea polar bears (Ursus maritimus) in relation to changes in feeding habits and body condition. Environmental Science and Technology 53(2):984-995. https://pubs.acs.org/doi/10.1021/acs.est.8b05416

Maduna, S. N., Aars, J., Fløystad, I., Klütsch, C. F. C., Zeyl Fiskebeck, E. M. L., Wiig, Ø. et al. 2021. Sea ice reduction drives genetic differentiation among Barents Sea polar bears. Proceedings of the Royals Society B  288 (1958): 20211741. https://doi.org/10.1098/rspb.2021.1741 OPEN ACCESS

Tipping points, Attenboroughesque narratives of climate doom and dying polar bears

Outlandish ‘tipping point’ rhetoric is about to be regurgitated once again during the promotion of the latest IPCC report, due today. Tipping points are those theoretical climate thresholds that, when breeched, cause widespread catastrophe; they are mathematical model outputs that depend on many assumptions that may not be plausible or even possible.

Polar bears often get caught up in motivational tales of sea ice tipping points.

Tipping points are not facts: they are scary stories made to sound like science.

This is why Sir David Attenborough has totally embraced the tipping points narrative. He even made a movie fully devoted to them, called, Breaking Boundaries – The Science of Our Planet. Tipping points are the animal tragedy porn of mathematical models and Attenborough has adopted them both.

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A literary review of my polar bear attack thriller, with all the condescending attitude you’d expect

For your amusement, I present a book review of Eaten from an Austrian academic specializing in contemporary literature by the name of Michael Fuchs. I came across his book chapter last week, buried deep within Google offerings, while looking for something else. I laughed all the way through it.

Here is the abstract:

This chapter draws on Margaret Atwood’s vision of Canada as a Gothic space, examining how contemporary texts continue to invoke imagery of human and animal as antagonists competing for the same space. Fuchs analyzes a corpus of three “bear horror” fictions, the horror film Backcountry (2014) and two novels, The Bear (2014) by Claire Cameron and Susan J. Crockford’s near-future polar bear-themed Eaten (2015). It argues that animal predation on humans provides a powerful symbolic vehicle for bridging the human–animal divide, as it overrides the theory of human exceptionalism, offering a critical view of the entanglement of humans and nonhumans in the Anthropocene.”

A friend that I shared the essay with commented:

“My favourite sentence (new word of the day, class, please use “diegetic” in a sentence):

These constant slippages between ontological levels puzzle the reader in ways similar to how Anna is confused by the goings-on in the diegetic reality.” [pg. 263]

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Surprising sea ice thickness across the Arctic is good news for polar bears

This year near the end of May the distribution of thickest sea ice (3.5-5m/11.5-16.4 ft – or more) is a bit surprising, given that the WMO has suggested we may be only five years away from a “dangerous tipping point” in global temperatures. There is the usual and expected band of thick ice in the Arctic Ocean across northern Greenland and Canada’s most northern islands but there are also some patches in the peripheral seas (especially north of Svalbard, southeast Greenland, Foxe Basin, Hudson Strait, Chukchi Sea, Laptev Sea). This is plenty of sea ice for polar bear hunting at this time of year (mating season is pretty much over) and that thick ice will provide summer habitat for bears that choose to stay on the ice during the low-ice season: not even close to an emergency for polar bears.

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