Tag Archives: science

Polar bear numbers not declining despite media headlines suggesting otherwise

In scanning comments generated by the recent flurry of internet interest in polar bears and blogs I noticed that a good many people, fed alarming media stories, are still convinced that polar bear numbers are declining rapidly when nothing could be further from the truth.

Crockford 2017_Slide 12 screencap

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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

Consensus polar bear experts dealt with criticism differently in 2007

Frustration with criticism over the fate of polar bears decades into the future has plagued consensus experts since they first brought their concerns to the attention of conservation organizations in the mid-2000s. But now that catastrophe has not materialized, these researchers have shifted their defensive style from logical reasoning to relentless insult.

Dealing with criticism 2007 vs 2017

A decade ago, doubts about the veracity of the proposed ESA conservation status of “threatened” with extinction due to predicted effect of global warming came primarily through the media, who were seen to give critics a platform.

In a revealing article published 10 years ago in the fall of 2007 (before the ESA decision had been made) by polar bear biologists Ian Stirling and Andrew Derocher (“Melting Under Pressure: The real scoop on climate warming and polar bears”) in The Wildlife Professional, some of the same concerns were being raised as in 2017 by Harvey and colleagues (that including Stirling and fellow polar bear biologist Steven Amstrup) in BioScience (“Internet blogs, polar bears, and climate-change denial by proxy”), but the approach and the language is startlingly different.
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Harvey et al. attack article mum on real selection process for polar bear papers used in their analysis

The Harvey et al. Bioscience article that attacks this blog and others that link to it — a veritable tantrum paper that took 14 people to write — included a sciency-looking analysis of peer-reviewed articles said to have been retrieved by the database “Web of Science” using the search terms “polar bear” and “sea ice.”

Temper-Tantrum graphic

“Consensus science pounds the floor and chews the carpet in angry frustration.” [mpainter, 25 December 2017]

Other critics have pointed out that the Harvey paper used 92 such references:

“Of the 92 papers included in the study, 6 are labeled ‘controversial.’ Of the remaining 86, 60 are authored or co-authored by Stirling or Amstrup, or Derocher. That is, close to 70% (69.76%) of the so-called ‘majority-view’ papers are from just three people, 2 of whom wrote the attack paper themselves.” [Shub Niggurath, crossposted at Climate Scepticism, 14 December 2017]

The bias of co-author papers used to represent the “expert consensus” on polar bear biology is only one problem with this particular attempt at making the Harvey paper look like science: in fact, the short list of papers used for analysis is a far cry from the original number returned by Web of Science for the search terms the authors say they used in the supplementary information.

How that large original number (almost 500) was whittled down to less than 100 is not explained by the authors. As a consequence, I can only conclude that the “methodology” for paper selection was likely defined after the fact. While the method of paper selection sounds simple and reasonable, apparently not one of the Harvey et al. paper’s co-authors checked to see if it was plausible (or didn’t care if it was not).

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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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Amazon Black Friday deals and author bonus on polar bear books

As you plan your Amazon Black Friday/Cyber Monday gift shopping (see the deals in the US here, in Canada here, in the UK here), don’t forget to add a few polar bear books to your order to give to relatives, friends, and local libraries. Although price cuts don’t appear to extend to my books, there are other good book offers and free shipping deals, and I’ve put together a special bonus to brighten your gift package.

Book mark and note_adultsSpecial bonus: I’ve designed two polar bear bookmarks and a postcard-sized personal note signed by me to include with your gifts. Find the bookmark for kids here and the bookmark for adults here (both three per page); the person note is here (four per page), all as downloadable pdfs to print out on heavy photo paper or card stock. Spread the word.

Book mark and note_kids

My thriller (EATEN: A novel) couldn’t be more relevant this year: remember that while 2016 had the second lowest coverage of summer sea ice since 1979, the East Coast of Canada had much thicker spring ice than average this year. As a result, Newfoundland and Labrador in particular experienced heavy ice conditions and were inundated with polar bears.

And as described in my novel under similar circumstances, Newfoundland in 2017 had the most sightings ever recorded — it was a wakup call that polar bears really could become the kind of wildlife problem that EATEN describes. This food-for-thought thriller is a great gift for teenagers and adults alike.

Don’t forget the basic science! Polar bear science got a recent boost with my books for kids and adults that relays facts without fearmongering. Expand the minds of those around you and give them something to think about. Both are perfect library donations.

There’s even a preschooler picture book version (Polar Bears Have Big Feet) so they don’t feel left out if older siblings or parents have their age-appropriate books (Polar Bear Facts & Myths for ages 7 and up — the first ever for this age group, which is also available in French and German — and Polar Bears: Outstanding Survivors of Climate Change for adults and teens).


I don’t ask for donations to support my work here; buying my books for your friends, neighbours, and family benefits everyone. Spread the polar bear science, support a science writer.

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.


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.


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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