Tag Archives: politics

Terrestrial food fight amongst polar bear researchers reflects political differences

With a few big guns on one side and some fringe folk on the other, a dichotomy of opinion has developed amongst polar bear researchers regarding whether or not consumption of land-based foods is making a difference to polar bear survival (or is likely to in the future).

Polar bears eating terrest foods WHB_Rockwell press release

It’s been going on for a while now. Last year, two US Geological Survey members of the IUCN Polar Bear Specialist Group (PBSG) apparently got fed up with the scatter-shot of papers promoting terrestrial foods as a possible salvation for polar bears (e.g. Iles et al. 2013;  Iverson et al. 2014; Rockwell and Gormezano 2013a, 2013b). In April, they published a canon volley of a paper meant to blow all that ‘polar-bears-might-survive’ talk out of the water once and for all (Rode et al. 2015).

Note that although the PBSG didn’t bother to update their website with the IUCN Red List assessment when it came out last November, they had a link up to the USGS terrestrial feeding paper within 16 days (with an editorial summary in the “NEWS” section as well as a listing of the paper in the “RECOMMENDED READING” section). As I suggest below, this difference in treatment may not be a coincidence.

However, another group of non-PBSG researchers  haven’t given up just yet, as shown by the title chosen for the most recent news report (Alaska Dispatch News, 16 June 2016) on the just-finished International Bear Conference:

Want to know how a changing climate is affecting polar bears? Look at what they’re eating.

Apparently, Jeff Welker, a University of Alaska Anchorage researcher who is co-author on two recent papers on the subject of polar bear consumption of terrestrial foods (Tartu et al. 2016 and Rogers et al. 2015), gave a presentation at the conference that raised this topic yet again. His talk came on the heels of an earlier presentation by Todd Atwood, who suggested Southern Beaufort polar bears might benefit from staying onshore to eat left-over whale scraps instead of staying on the sea ice during the summer (even though he had no data to support that opinion – as I discussed in this post).

Here’s the question: is this dispute really about what polar bears eat or don’t eat when they’re on land – or is it symptomatic of the underlying politics of polar bears? [CBC documentary video by that name here]
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More politics of polar bears courtesy WWF: impaled polar bear sculpture

The offensively tasteless “art” produced by Danish sculptor Jens Galschiøt, in collaboration with the World Wildlife Fund, for the specific purpose of influencing politics has reappeared.

‘Unbearable’ is a portable exhibit originally designed for the Paris COP21 climate talks in December 2015 but here it is again in Copenhagen. [h/t Tom Nelson]

It’s simply the Politics of Polar Bears on a global scale that has no basis in science: polar bear numbers have not declined as CO2 has risen. Jens Galschiøt’s tasteless and costly message funded by WWF is not much better than Plane Stupid’s 2009 ad of polar bears falling from the sky (see below). It’s just about as asinine and not supported by science. Continue reading

Head of IPCC resigns in disgrace – says protection of species is “my religion”

Rajendra Pachauri, who led the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) since 2002, resigned today. He faces possible arrest on accusations of sexual assault, stalking, and harassment of several female employees.

Pachauri quote_resignation letter 24Feb2015You might be as appalled as I was to read the statement above, quoted from Pachauri’s resignation letter — which has nothing to do with the allegations and everything to do with his attitude to science and thus his leadership of the IPCC.

Journalist Donna Laframboise could not have said it better than I regarding Pachauri’s statement:

“Yes, the IPCC – which we’re told to take seriously because it is a scientific body producing scientific reports – has, in fact, been led by an environmentalist on a mission. By someone for whom protecting the planet is a religious calling.

Even here, at the end, Pachauri fails to grasp that science and religion don’t belong in the same sentence; that those on a political mission are unlikely to be upholders of rigorous scientific practice.” [emphasis in original]

The IUCN Polar Bear Specialist Group and conservation organizations like Polar Bears International routinely tout the IPCC as the highest arbiter of science on issues of present and future climate. For 13 long years this man has been their leader.

Add this to “The Politics of Polar Bears.

Read the rest of Donna’s commentary here, and the Pachauri resignation letter here.

UPDATE 1 (24 Feb 2015): Amazingly, the press release issued by the IPCC makes no mention of why Pachauri has resigned: http://www.ipcc.ch/pdf/ar5/P41_acting_chair.pdf