by John Goetz
OK, I know the catchy headline and picture of Hannibal Lecter got you worrying a little about that neighbor of yours who is stocking up on fava beans and chianti. But the headline is misleading, as is this one posted yesterday (September 23) at cnn.com:
Polar bears resort to cannibalism as Arctic ice shrinks
By Marsha Walton, CNN
I was looking for a good, sensational read. I really thought the article would be about the many ways in which global warming was causing cannibalism amongst polar bears in the arctic. I searched for the heart-wrenching stories about how increasing temperatures forced mom to bop pops on the head when he was not looking and toss daddy-kibble to the kids to keep them from starving to death. Instead, the story began as follows:
Summer is over in the northern hemisphere, but it’s been another chilling season for researchers who study Arctic sea ice.
“It’s definitely a bad report. We did pick up little bit from last year, but this is over 30 percent below what used to be normal,” said Walt Meier, a research scientist with the National Snow and Ice Data Center in Boulder, Colorado.
This past summer, the Arctic sea ice dwindled to its second lowest level. Arctic sea ice is usually 1 to 3 meters, or as much as 9 feet thick. It grows during autumn and winter and shrinks in the spring and summer.
Scientists have monitored sea ice conditions for about 50 years with the help of satellites. Changes in the past decade have been alarming to climate researchers and oceanographers.
“It is the second lowest on record. … If anything, it is reinforcing the long-term trend. We are still losing the ice cover at a rate of 10 percent per decade now, and that is quite an increase from five years ago,” Meier said. “We are still heading toward an ice cover that is going to melt completely in the summertime in the Arctic.”
Huh? This was not at all what I expected. Where was the blood and gore?
Then I noticed something in the upper left part of the page. Those rascals at CNN got me again!
It was a CNN Planet in Peril story! Sensationalist journalism at its best, but without all the fact-checking of the National Enquirer.
So did the story ever mention polar bear cannibalism? You betcha, right near the end:
“The Arctic sea ice melt is a disaster for the polar bears,” according to Kassie Siegel, staff attorney for the Center for Biological Diversity. “They are dependent on the Arctic sea ice for all of their essential behaviors, and as the ice melts and global warming transforms the Arctic, polar bears are starving, drowning, even resorting to cannibalism because they don’t have access to their usual food sources.”
Scientists have noticed increasing reports of starving Arctic polar bears attacking and feeding on one another in recent years. In one documented 2004 incident in northern Alaska, a male bear broke into a female’s den and killed her.
Hey, what was news in 2004 is still headline-worthy today, right?