About polar bears and science on the front lines of the global warming debate.

By Larry Kummer. From the Fabius Maximus website, .

Summary: Today’s post reviews a book about applied climate science, discussing polar bears — poster animals for the effects of global warming. It tells the rest of the story, the good news seldom mentioned by the news media. It’s well worth reading.

Polar Bear Science

Review of Susan Crockford’s book:
Polar Bears: Outstanding Survivors of Climate Change.

For thirty years we have heard increasingly dire claims about the coming climate Armageddon, divorced from what the IPCC’s physical scientists tell us. We can’t test them. But sometimes we can test smaller predictions by scientists about the climate change and its effects. Such as the recent successful 10-year forecast of global temperatures.

Polar bears provide another test case, well-documented in Susan Crockford’s powerful 2017 book Polar Bears: Outstanding Survivors of Climate Change. It’s a classic example telling the rest of the story to about “doomed polar bears.” She describes the remarkable resilience of polar bears — top predators in one of Earth’s harshest environments — to climate change.

Polar bears survived the Last Glacial Maximum 26 thousand years ago, which probably slashed their numbers — creating the genetic bottleneck seen in modern polar bear DNA. Stories about their vulnerability to climate change seldom mention that polar bears more easily withstood periods roughly 1° warmer than today than much colder periods.

“Yet, polar bears apparently survived the Eemian and early Holocene warm periods with only a moderate drop in population size – nothing like the scourge wrought by the LGM.”

What brought polar bears to the brink of extinction was hunting. Whalers slaughtered uncounted numbers from 1880-1930 (there are no good estimates of their numbers before that). Widespread “sports” hunting after WWII reduced the survivors to just remnants. When hunting restrictions began to be applied in 1960, there were only 5 to 15 thousand. By 1996 there were 25,000. Now there are over 28 thousand, with numbers rising — despite the loss of sea ice (here’s a March 2017 table). These numbers are estimates, since little of the deep polar ice is surveyed.

What the public sees

Before we look at what Dr. Crockford says about polar bears, let’s look at some of what feeds the public’s fear for the survival of polar bears. See this famous, sad picture of a polar bear floating out to sea in Science, 7 May 2010. In fact, polar bears can swim long distances — and it was photoshopped.

Photoshopped polar bear in Science

We also see pitiful pictures of dead or dying polar bears — their fate attributed to global warming without actual evidence. It’s easy and cheap propaganda. Such as this story about the following photograph: “Global warming may have led to the death of this polar bear, researcher says” at Mashable.

Here is an unusually candid confession from a climate activist in 2015 about to make doomster claims about polar bears and climate change: “I do not have scientific data to proof my observations ….”

Starving Svalbard polar bear

Starving Svalbard polar bear. Photo by Kerstin Langenberger.

But the days are fortunately gone when scientists routinely let these claims go by. See this rebuttal by Elizabeth Newbern at Live Science.

“Wildlife photographer Kerstin Langenberger snapped the now-famous photo of the gaunt polar bear and wrote a concerned Facebook post questioning the health of polar bear populations. Though it was widely circulated online, the photograph is misleading, said Karyn Rode, a wildlife biologist at the U.S. Geological Survey in Anchorage, Alaska. ‘I think you are always going to have animals in any population [that are] in poor conditions,’ Rode said. This can be because they have an injury (as may be the case with the polar bear in the photo) or because the animal is old and has lost some of its canines, she said.

“Steven Amstrup, chief scientist at Polar Bears International, a nonprofit research organization dedicated to studying polar bears, agreed and added that seeing a skinny bear in the wild is not altogether uncommon. ‘We know that animals in the wild don’t live forever,’ he said. ‘Polar bears, they don’t have natural enemies, so when they die it’s of starvation.'”

Crawford makes the same point in her conclusion to a fascinating discussion of the “feasting/fasting life of polar bears.”

“Starvation is the leading cause of death for polar bears. Young subadult polar bears hunting alone for the first time (2-5 years old) are less experienced than older bears and often less successful hunters. But young males, especially, also face the challenge of having adult males steak the kills they do make, as do past-their-prime elderly and inured bears.”

The prediction and the results

The core of the book explained how biologists of the Polar Bear Specialist Group predicted in 2007-8 that shrinking polar sea ice would reduce the number of polar bears by 30% by 2050. In 2008 the US Geological Survey predicted that shrinking polar sea ice would reduce the number of polar bears by two-thirds by 2050.

But she says — in a fascinating but lightly documented chapter 5 — that sea ice levels collapsed much faster than they expected (for more see her paper, described below). We already have had years of the sea ice levels that they expected by 2040. Yet, for reasons she explains quite clearly, polar bear numbers have not declined as predicted. This is blockbuster news, a rare test of predictions about the effects of climate change. Let’s hope that there is more research about this.

If true, what does this tell us about those scientists? I believe it shows that they are passionate about their work — and about the animals they study. But they lack the kind of cool supervision that takes those emotions out the equation so that their work provides a reliable basis for making public policy. This is a pervasive problem in climate science, where many scientists believe their goal is to save the world.

About the book

This is a fascinating book about one of our fellow top predators in the age of global warming. It describes how we almost exterminated them, their slow recovery — and new role as poster animals in the debate about global warming. The author briefly and clearly describes how they survive in one of the harshest environments on Earth, and how each year the weather determines how many live or die. She brings the perspective of a zoologist to review the forecasts by specialists of these bears’ fate as the Earth warms.

It provides a brief on-the-ground look at the dynamics of one kind of climate change in a warming world. Crockford writes well. The photos of are excellent and the illustrations are clear. It needs better maps, discussing places not mentioned on them. Crockford says more in 50 pages than others in one hundred.

Update: see the paper

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)” by Susan J. Crockford posted at Peer J Preprints. Abstract:

The polar bear (Ursus maritimus) was the first species to be classified as threatened with extinction based on predictions of future conditions rather than current status. These predictions were made using expert-opinion forecasts of population declines linked to modeled habitat loss – first by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN)’s Red List in 2006, and then by the United States Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) in 2008 under the Endangered Species Act (ESA), based on data collected to 2005 and 2006, respectively. Both assessments predicted significant population declines of polar bears would result by mid-century as a consequence of summer sea ice extent rapidly reaching 3-5 mkm2 on a regular basis: the IUCN predicted a >30% decline in total population, while the USFWS predicted the global population would decline by 67% (including total extirpation of ten subpopulations within two vulnerable ecoregions).
Biologists involved in these conservation assessments had to make several critical assumptions about how polar bears might be affected by future habitat loss, since sea ice conditions predicted to occur by 2050 had not occurred prior to 2006. However, summer sea ice declines have been much faster than expected: low ice levels not expected until mid-century (about 3-5 mkm2) have occurred regularly since 2007. Realization of predicted sea ice levels allows the ‘rapid sea ice decline = population decline’ assumption for polar bears to be treated as a testable hypothesis.
Data collected between 2007 and 2015 reveal that polar bear numbers have not declined as predicted and no subpopulation has been extirpated. Several subpopulations expected to be at high risk of decline remained stable and five showed increases in population size. Another at-risk subpopulation was not counted but showed marked improvement in reproductive parameters and body condition with less summer ice. As a consequence, the hypothesis that repeated summer sea ice levels of below 5 mkm2 will cause significant population declines in polar bears is rejected, a result that indicates the ESA and IUCN judgments to list polar bears as threatened based on future risks of habitat loss were scientifically unfounded and that similar predictions for Arctic seals and walrus may be likewise flawed.
The lack of a demonstrable ‘rapid sea ice decline = population decline’ relationship for polar bears also potentially invalidates updated survival model outputs that predict catastrophic population declines should the Arctic become ice-free in summer.

I have no relevant subject matter expertise, but I have read a great many papers during the past 30+ years. This looks great. Those readers familiar with how climate science works will correct predict the response to it: silence. Perhaps scientists are following ancient rule of silence means assent (“qui tacet consentire videtur”). More likely this is an exercise of power, using their role as “gatekeepers” to keep challenges out of the debate. We can speak out by circulating this paper and force a response.

Susan Crockford

About the author

Susan Crockford is a zoologist with more than 35 years of experience, including published work on the Holocene history of Arctic animals. She is an adjunct professor at the University of Victoria, British Columbia (a “non-remunerated professional zooarcheologist associate”) and co-owner of a private consulting company, Pacific Identifications Inc. See her publications here and her website Polar Bear Science.

She has also written a novel, Eaten — a polar bear attack thriller.

For More Information

If you liked this post, like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter. For more information about polar bears, about the keys to understanding climate change and these posts about the politics of climate change…

  1. Twenty stories of good news about polar bears!
  2. Are 30 thousand species going extinct every year?
  3. Good news about polar bears, thriving as the arctic warms!

134 thoughts on “About polar bears and science on the front lines of the global warming debate.

    • One year in the late 1970s when we went north we were given a polar bear workshop. A salient point that I do remember is that we could expect bears anywhere including in the mountains (Victoria and Albert) far away from sea ice. I can tell you that there is nothing for them to eat there in February. The only reason for them to be there would be that they were in transit across Ellesmere Island. They really are far ranging.

      It is quite possible that the bears travelled some distance to get to the stranded whale. It is also possible that the whale was on a migration route (eg. Churchill) at the right time of year. Anyway, everyone agrees that their numbers have increased significantly since the 1970s. That said, once they are out on the ice, the population isn’t very dense. Depending on where you are, a density of one bear per hundred square miles is reasonable. Dr. Crockford’s website

      • Yeah, they read about it on social media. Do you think they have come from hundreds of miles away somehow?

      • Have you ever been to a crowded restaurant, Griff? Was it crowded because there wasn’t enough food elsewhere? Or was it crowded because it was convenient and/or really good food?

        None of the polar bears in the picture appear to be starving, but you can force anything to fit your paradigm, no matter how illogical it may be.

      • If you were as smart as a bear Griff. Which would you choose? A free meal just lying their ready to eat.
        Or go hunting and spend lots of energy to gather the same number of calories?

      • Yea! Griff is back!

        Gonna make anymore stupid comments about Dr Crockford being “unqualified” to discuss polar bears?

        Maybe you learned your lesson (hope springs eternall…) the last time you pulled that stunt.

      • “No, but their food supply from other sources perhaps was?”

        Utter BS – and well you know it.

        Are you going to apologise for maliciously lying in an attempt to damage Dr, Crockford’s scientific credibility and hence career, you obnoxious, dishonest little propagandist?

      • Yelp reviews for whaling ship locations are few and far between. I don’t imagine whaling ships being tethered to a fixed location like your favorite diner down the street.

      • “brotherStefan October 11, 2017 at 8:40 am
        Yelp reviews for whaling ship locations are few and far between. I don’t imagine whaling ships being tethered to a fixed location like your favorite diner down the street.”

        Is that a presumption that whalers never stopped to take on fresh water or hunt non-whale game?

        It also ignores that whalers participated whole heartedly in collecting furs from seals, bears, foxes, whatever whenever they had the opportunity.

        Whalers also loved to avoid major storms when possible. Breaking wind and waves by anchoring on lee sides of islands, bays, fjords, Greenland, whatever.

        Not that polar bears are put off by a minor swim.

  1. Professor Beth Shapiro, author of How to Clone a Mammal, shared the geneticists have found that Polar Bears are just a subspecies of brown bear. When climate is snowy and icy, the bears are white to blend in with their environment. She also said that during times when there is no ice, the bears may be brown. Then as temps begin to get colder again, the Polar Bear white returns. She has been on a number of international studies exploring the causes of extinction for megafauna after the last major glaciation. These scientists have been working ancient and modern genetics of a number of species. In this case, the increasing number of Polar Bears may indicate that temperatures are now cooler than they have been. An increased number of white moose is also appearing. So it is possible that increasing numbers of animals whose coats blend in to Arctic environments indicate global temperatures are falling in certain areas of the world.

    • … the geneticists have found that Polar Bears are just a subspecies of brown bear.

      My first reaction was that Polar Bears are way bigger than Brown Bears. It turns out that Kodiak Bears are also a subspecies of Brown Bear. link Well OK then.

      Environmentalists insist that each tiny variation in a species creates a special snowflake that must be protected at all costs. If it turns out that species change and adapt rather quickly to changing environments, that dramatically changes the story.

      Animals with the same genes can look and behave quite differently depending on whether the genes are expressed or not. link It seems to me that a lot of the supposed genetic diversity, that the environmentalists worship, is more a case of gene expression.

      • commieBob you are correct. I dealt with endangered/ threatened species management off and on throughout my career. Little was based on good science. We had major battles over subspecies which the environmental community and some scientists involved in studying them (think grant money) insisted on calling species. The worse case concerned a seaside sparrow subspecies. During the winter bird count it was determined that we were down to just six male dusky seaside sparrow. What to do. USFWS captured them all and kept them in captivity. If the concern had been as the environmentalist screamed species and genetic diversity the logical thing to do would have been to have bred the remaining dusky sparrows with adjacent populations of other subspecies of seaside sparrows. Could have ended up with a seaside sparrow that was 99+% dusky. Instead they all passed away while in captivity what USFWS and environmental groups battled “legally.” Environmental groups refused to allow USFWS to breed them. “Joke” was the birds went extinct in the wild because USFWS was not following their own management plans which they would often run out as the be all to end all to protecting critical habitat. Heck, they were not even following statutory mandates which required them to manage the land for endangered species as the priority. Today I am certain some group would blame CAGW.

      • The media is also complicit with its ignorance. Recently there was an article in the BBC on the endangered white tiger species then went on to say the species existed due to a recessive gene. I am not a geneticist, but I’m pretty sure if a trait can be bred out with one mating, it does not constitute a species. Albinism isn’t a species.

      • Edwin,

        The FWS is the gang which can’t shoot straight. Their “red wolf” breeding program is a ludicrous boondoggle, yet has proved hard to kill. There is no red wolf. They’re just large coyotes which sometimes mate with wolves.

        When they release their bred-up Texas coyotes into the wild of NC, they promptly breed with local coyotes. Because they are coyotes. So it has been impossible to establish a breeding population of red wolves, the goal of the program.

    • I like Beth and her genetics is sound but she clearly has not checked her hypothesis against the fossil record or local geology during ice ages. “She also said that during times when there is no ice, the bears may be brown” but watch for that “MAY” because the only evidence for that is ambiguous genetics. No two genetic studies have come up with the same answer twice – that is telling. Just like dogs and wolves…

      She may consider the polar bear a subspecies of brown bear but no one else does. What she means is that the two are as close genetically as some subspecies. But we don’t define species on genetic relationship alone. Everything else about the two bears are different, hence distinct species.

      • Also,

        Polar bears are still evolving farther away from grizzlies. Interbreeding where their ranges overlap also muddies the species picture.

        I agree that polies merit separate species classification. They’re seal-hunting specialists which still retain the ability to live like brown bears, if need be.

      • Two polar bears mating and producing off-spring that are not white, could constitute validation of the hypothesis. Yet, I have never heard of such a thing even among polar bears kept in environments (zoos)decidedly less cold than the arctic. So, it can’t be just a warmer habitat that causes the coloration. It “may” be some gene that is being turned on/off, but it surely hasn’t happen in one or several generations.

  2. Reminds me of the panic over rising sea levels swamping Pacific & Indian ocean islands – until some serious research proved that about 60% of them actually increased in size during the last 30 years.

  3. You are a researcher in the area, one view brings in the money and fame, another does not. If you want a career in the area which one are going for?
    By the way good science has nothing to do with this.

  4. They survived the Holocene extinction event but will struggle to make it through homogenized temperature data and sea ice graphs that start in 1979

  5. Recently read a book called Arctic Dreams which has a marvellous chapter on polar bear adaptations. Go extinct? You must be joking. Think about the FEET. And why the black nose, eh, Darwin?

    • Umm, cuz they inherited it from their brown bear ancestors. Bears, dogs and seals tend to have naked, black noses. Mustelids, too, although pink is not unknown among them. Some sea lions have hairy noses.

      An ermine, or short-tailed weasel:

      Pink is more common on the cat side of Order Carnivora, although hyenas have black noses.

    • A black nose on a polar bear is far better evidence of Natural Selection than Intelligent Design.

      BTW Natural Selection is “Survival of the fit enough, NOT survival of the fittest.” You don’t have to be the fastest or strongest. You merely have to be fast enough or strong enough to clear whatever threshold is necessary to survive.

      • And not just to survive but to reproduce. Evolution is a consequence of differential reproduction.

        Yes, an Intelligent Designer would find a way to give Arctic animals white noses. Only an Idiotic Designer would make polar bears as they are and other Arctic animals as they are.

        The Arctic as we know it is a recent development. During the Pliocene, just three million years ago, the Arctic Ocean was ringed by boreal forest of spruce and pine. Arctic flora and fauna had to adapt from the forms that were already there, living in that very different environment.

      • I should have said that evolution is a consequence simply of reproduction. The evolutionary process of natural selection results from differential reproductive success in a population.

      • It’s also possible that any intelligent designer would be smarter than you and have goals and agendas that you can’t even imagine.

        Just because you think the polar bear could have been better designed is not evidence against the possibility of an intelligent designer.

      • Unintelligent design gives noses without pigment.

        (Some dogs definitely change to pink nose with change to cold weather, why not other animals too?)

      • MarkW October 11, 2017 at 3:50 pm

        Dunno whether to laugh or cry at such an antiscientific comment.

        Seriously, your argument for God is that we can’t understand what Its goals are?

        The indisputable fact is that there are no instances of intelligent design anywhere in the universe, to which objective reality you reply that the Intensely Idiotic Designer has other plans beyond our ken, and you expect to be taken seriously on an allegedly scientific blog?

        Do you have any clue whatsoever how preposterous your argument is, from a scientific standpoint?

        But please, tell me why a supposedly Intelligent Designer would give apes the muscles to move our ears, without the ability to do so. Why would this same apparently idiotic entity give flightless beetles wings, using valuable resources, under carapaces which they can’t open? Why would It cause the gonadal tissue of mammals to develop in the fish position in the chest, only then to have to descend through the abdomen and outside the body, leaving hernia-inducing holes behind?

        If the ID fantasy is to be defensible, there have to be obvious rational reasons for these “design” features and innumerable other examples of Idiotic Design, such as the human foot. It’s not science to say, well, the Designer is inscrutable, yet Intelligent. Either Its designs make functional sense, or they don’t.

        Face palm!

      • Mark,

        You miss the whole point of the ID fraud.

        It claims that there is evidence of ID, such as irreducibly complex structures, like bacterial flagella.

        If it argued, as you do, that ID means structures which make no sense show an inscrutable Creator, then supposedly godless ID is right back where creationism was, i.e. unconstitutional to teach in public schools.

        The whole point of the ID sc@m was to make an end run around the religious basis of creationism.

      • I don’t know if polar bear noses have ever been observed to turn pink in cold weather. They live in cold weather most of the time.

        IMO their noses stay black, like their ancestors and relatives, because their skin is black and black absorbs light, hence stays warmer. They deal with the dark color culturally rather than biologically. While staking out a seal breathing hole, they cover their noses with their paws.

      • PS:

        Dogs noses never completely depigment. Even in the coldest weather, most of the nose remains at least speckled black with melanin. If it goes all pink, your dog is sick.

      • Fitness is not the survival of the individual but of the genetic line; meaning you don’t have to live longer than a rival as long as you’re able to produce offspring, who are better at producing offspring, who are better at producing…etc. than your rival.

  6. It would have been a laugh to put Griff’s credentials at the bottom of the page .

    Our ABC warmist show “Catalyst” has actually filmed polar bears in Antartica so they must really be able to swim , no wonder their skinny after that swim .

    • Ah yes it was “Catalyst” that broadcast a show about how “science” can save the Great Barrier Reef (GBR) by some sort of bioengineering. I watched some of it, and it was dismal. Like the conflicting soil studies posted here at WUWT, there are conflicting “reports” in the media that the GBR is dieing and in full bloom all at the same time.

  7. 230 polar bears showed up to feast on the stranded whale.

    The obvious question: how did they all know that the whale was there?

    Walkie talkies? Fake news reports? Telepathy?

    Actually, all kidding aside, that is a serious question.

    • If you look at the photo, its like looking at a MacDonald’s queue.

      Not many “thinnies” in that bunch of polar bears !!

    • No doubt smell, but how far can they smell something like that? And they are arriving at pretty much the same time, so they must all have come from similar distances.

    • Like sharks and bloodhounds, bears and especially polar bears have phenomenal sense of smell.

      In comparison, human sense of smell capability is negligible when compared to bears.

      • You don’t need a bear’s nose to find a rotting whale carcass. Anywhere down wind will suffice. Although the bears will have a far greater detection range.
        Where the nose comes in handy is sniffing out scarce breathing holes used by seals in the vast arctic ice.

    • My guess: As nearby bears moved out of their usual haunts, those haunts were entered by bears from farther away, Eventually the newcomers caught on to the odor and moved to the shore. Etc. Nature abhors a vacuum. (This assumes that the whale was available, or on the menu, for weeks or months.)

    • Smell is the thing. “Polar bears have hearing and eyesight comparable to humans. Their sense of smell is acute, and is extremely important in detecting food sources. Polar bears are able to smell a seal from a distance of more than 32 km (20 miles).”

  8. Griff to the rescue – trip – stumble- FACEPLANT in 3………. 2…………………………… 1 3/4………………………………………………………………………………….

    • I think the little twerp still has a bloody nose since last time.

      He seems to ALWAYS take on topics he obviously knows absolutely NOTHING about.

      And that is a very, very wide choice of topics. !!

      (STOP ATTACKING GRIFF! When you and Climate Otter made these off topic comments,he had yet to make a comment in the thread,you and others should stop it,or you will get slapped down for it) MOD

      (Dispute his comments,when they show up,if you disagree,otherwise say nothing at all) MOD

      • I think you should be nice. People new to this site read his claims and the replies are quite interesting.

      • Griff! Put the mirror down! There’s Reasonable people here waiting to hear your pearls of wisdom! Oh, wait…

      • Post fewer passive-aggressive, self-important contrarian grunts devoid of facts and you won’t receive so many insults devoid of facts. You reap what you sow.

      • “giffiepooed October 11, 2017 at 4:30 am
        I could I suppose adopt your approach of relentless insult devoid of facts?”

        giffiepooed’s adolescent version of ad hominems. Project giffiepooed attributes at others.

        What about sea ice giffiepooed? After all he harped about sea ice most of last year’s winter. Yet he bleats not so soon after minimum Arctic sea ice.

      • As you well know griff, if you ever post anything you think is a fact, it gets ripped apart in seconds.

        You are a fact free zone.

      • Griff

        Your accusation that Dr Crockford was exactly what you just said: “…relentless insult devoid of facts…”.

        You also tried to do a hit-job on Dr Curry.

        When are you going to learn not to pick on women who can intellectually crush anonymous little trolls (well, actually, neither of the ladies has to stoop so low – the rest of have so much fun watching you wallow in your verbal excrement…)?

      • “I could I suppose adopt your approach of relentless insult devoid of facts?”


        (Another personal attack on Giff erased) MOD

  9. It is quite clear the numbers and breeding rate of Hudson Bay polar bears has been affected by changing ice conditions there.

    The denning success around Svalbard is clearly impacted by the complete lack of sea ice in that region in the winter period when bears are heading for traditional denning sites.

    Beaufort Sea polar bears are resorting to summering on land and scavenging due to the now annual rapid retreat of sea ice in summer in the region

    and there are other examples.

    It is clear the massive decline in sea ice post 2007 is already having an effect. It is not killing them directly… but we can see the next ‘genetic bottleneck’ of reduced numbers approaching.

      • Yes, Griff’s was an odd comment. Such comments were common in ancient times from people who read the “Science Supplement” section in the comics section of the Sunday paper, and acquired “knowledge.”

      • Griff largely stopped posting links after several amusing occasions where it was found the content cited didn’t even support his position.

    • You keep saying “clear” or “clearly” – if you had evidence, you would say, “it has been shown,” or “evidence shows”.

      Just observing something and something else, and saying on thing causes the others is tediously silly. We are talking about science, not conjecture biased towards your own pre-existing conclusions.

    • giffiepooed first makes specious claims regarding Hudson Bay; where polar bears obviously enjoyed excellent great breeding successes.

      Then he switches to Svalbard, still focused on alleged “denning”.
      Female polar bears den when pregnant to bear and nurture cubs.
      Male polar bears usually skip denning and wander freely all winter.

      Females do not require sea ice to den. As with all bears, they can find or make a den in most places.

      What does disturb female polar bears during denning seasons are from direct human interference.

      As usual, giffiepooed spews misinformation, repeatedly. Trollop dependent upon CAGW funding.

      • You know, I have to be honest here, despite the fact that I think you tend to make good points, constantly referring to Griff as “griffiepoo” is annoying and childish, and I wince every time see it. Just sayin…


      • I wince everytime I see the well-meaning complain about it, seemingly unaware that Griff has done his thing for years, with few signs of improvement, and for the most part deserves the ribbing he gets.

        I prefer honest incivility to insidious civility.

    • Even if true, which it probably isn’t, that’s one population of polar bears. I believe there are 23 separate populations, and most if not all of the rest are doing just fine.

    • Griff is right – the reduced summer ice is having an effect.

      That does not mean the effect is entirely negative or unnatural. These are almost certainly the kinds of adjustments in behaviour and distribution (and maybe numbers) that have occurred in the past during times of low summer ice and it’s called adaptation.

      We’ve just never seen it in action before but it’s a good thing. Polar bears are resilient to changing conditions – to presume otherwise, as many specialists do, fails to acknowledge their success as a species.

      The Arctic is not a stable, static habitat and never has been. To assume otherwise is a holdover of a bad paradigm from the 1960s that professionals in most other fields let go of decades ago. For polar bear biologists and some other Arctic specialists, hanging on to the idea that the Arctic is stable just shows their inability to adapt their ideas to the data.

      Thick spring ice in the Southern Beaufort sea in the 1970s was their wake-up call but Ian Stirling dismissed it as noise and they’ve since ignored all other evidence that the Arctic is not a stable habitat.

      • I may disagree with (almost) everything that griff states, but incivility is what I truly hate. A big thanks to Dr. Crockford for a reasoned, dispassionate response to Griff’s claims. Regardless of whether he learns or agrees or changes his mind, it’s a huge help to me, and I imagine many others like me, who are just here to expand their knowledge base.


    • Griff, as you know I am one of your biggest fans. I really enjoy your deadpan delivery of comedy. But … you’ve got to warm up your audience if you are going to get the big laughs. The idea is to lead your audience to your punchline.

      Even the masters of one liners do an introduction. Starting with “It is quite clear …” is a classic amateur mistake.

      Here’s a quick example. Griff says that James Hansen is the true messiah. It is quite clear that he has followed a few.

      Hope that helps.

    • If populations are congregating closer together wouldn’t it be more plausible that breeding choices would be more common thereby increasing genetic diversity?

    • Griff says:
      It is clear the massive decline in sea ice post 2007 is already having an effect. It is not killing them directly… but we can see the next ‘genetic bottleneck’ of reduced numbers approaching.

      As Editor Kummer and Dr Crockford point out, the bottleneck was the early 20th century over-hunting which reduced the numbers to around 5000. Clearly they are on the rebound now, despite the stress of lower ice levels.

      • But there has been NO Arctic sea “decline” [since] 2007’s low point in Sept, and the similar low point in 2012. Since 2006, Arctic sea ice has oscillating about a new “low average” right at the previous -2 std deviation line for 1979-1999 averages, but it has (overall) been steady at that new average daily sea ice extents through the whole year. Yes, it is lower than 1979-1980 record highs, but it is now (Sept – Oct 2017) right in the middle of the past ten years’ sea ice extents.

        It is certainly NOT declining. (Unless your theory requires you draw a straight-line, flat-earth extrapolation.)

  10. “the recent successful 10-year forecast of global temperatures.”

    I see the names Schmidt and Hausfather on that which I normally associate with flat-out distortions. So here we have a graph of CMIP3 demonstrating an absolutely flawless perfect record of two and a half decades hindcasting and decade long forecasting? Wattsupwiththat??

    • cephus,

      “I see the names Schmidt and Hausfather on that which I normally associate with flat-out distortions.”

      That’s an odd way to characterize the work of respected scientists, even if you disagree with aspects of their work (I very much doubt you have read many of their papers). Science is not a baseball team where you root for “your” side, or a Hollywood flick with good guys and bad guys.

      “So here we have a graph of CMIP3 demonstrating an absolutely flawless perfect record of two and a half decades hindcasting and decade long forecasting? ”

      That’s quite a reading FAIL — since that’s not what the post says. Wattsupwiththat?

      • Neither Schmidt nor Hausfather are actually scientists. But even if they had PhDs in real scientific disciplines, they still wouldn’t be scientists, since they don’t practice the scientific method.

        [they are in fact scientists, with degrees, albeit not very good ones IMHO – Anthony]

      • That’s right. I don’t respect either of those two persons as a scientist. I don’t respect people who manipulate data to support political agendas and creep away from debate when challenged. But thanks for the dumb commentary and pearl-clutching clichéd advice anyway.

      • Esteemed Host,

        IMO math, computer “science” and “environmental science” aren’t scientific degrees, and Zeke doesn’t have a doctorate in anything.

        You don’t have to have any scientific degree to be a scientist, if you practice the scientific method. But since neither of them does practice it, then their only possible claim to be scientists must rest upon their degrees, which aren’t in real science, ie life or physical sciences.

      • But then my physicist colleagues don’t consider anyone scientists but themselves, and theoreticals look down on experimentalists.

        Biologists are bird-watchers, chemists paint-mixers, geologists rock hounds, astronomers star gazers and medical doctors and engineers mechanics. I suppose that astrophysicists, especially cosmologists, just might barely make the cut, but geophysicists would be lesser breeds without the law. And yet, none of them can tell me what gravity is.

      • Larry, you say some odd things.

        Who exactly respects Schmidt as a scientist? Can you even point to anything he has done which is deserving of the name science?

        Hausfather is in a different category, he hasn’t quite gone over to producing pure propaganda, yet. But again can you point to anything he has done which is deserving of the name science?

        Fiddling with numbers doesn’t cut it. Otherwise even Mossshhher the once Great and Powerful might qualify as a scientist. So would all the social scientists and ever other field of study which has appended science to its name like climate science.

      • Gone into moderation. How I would like the automatic moderation process to explain what triggered it.

        BTW: the process on this web site of explaining reasons for the little snipping and censoring which occurs are one of the many factors which make this my favourite site on the web.

      • Since they have our e-mail address, I wonder if an automatic e-mail whenever a post goes into moderation explaining exactly which sin put your post into time out would be nice.
        Moderators, is such a thing possible?

      • My post posing a question to the moderators, went into moderation. Isn’t that nice.

        [that’s so we can catch it and read it in the administration interface, no nefarious intent there -mod]

  11. “Those readers familiar with how climate science works will correct predict the response to it: silence.”

    That isn’t how climate science works. The response will not be ‘silence’. The response will be more vicious personal attacks on Susan Crockford and the claim that she is ‘not qualified’ — that’s how ‘climate science’ works

      • I split hairs but the journal could only have maintained silence by ignoring her submitted article. Rejection is not silence.

        Otherwise for the moment the activists have largely given up on the polar bear thing. Just wait though until Susan’s work becomes inconvenient to somebody. For example if somebody lists the major alarmist failures and cites her work as an example. That’s when the silence will be broken.

  12. Polar Bears mostly eat ringed seals and bearded seals for their calories and populations of polar bears mirror the populations of seals. As long as there is seals on the ice and breathing holes they need to breath through there will be polar bears. Sure there could be less ice in the summer in the area but polar bears aren’t on the ice as much in summer, breathing holes and resting seals are harder to sneak up on, ice in the spring/fall/winter hasn’t changed all that much and likely won’t. As the arctic becomes more productive, there will be more seals which means more polar bears.

  13. In the head post:
    “steak the kills” should be “steal the kills”
    “will correct predict” should be “will correctly predict”

  14. Thus far no one has mentioned the comment about the “…successful 10-year forecast of global temperatures.” We hear that the models have had an abysmal record in accurately predicting future climate. But now we read of this remarkable success. So I’m confused.

  15. “Mydrrin October 11, 2017 at 7:16 am
    Polar Bears mostly eat ringed seals and bearded seals for their calories and populations of polar bears mirror the populations of seals. As long as there is seals on the ice and breathing holes they need to breath through there will be polar bears. Sure there could be less ice in the summer in the area but polar bears aren’t on the ice as much in summer, breathing holes and resting seals are harder to sneak up on, ice in the spring/fall/winter hasn’t changed all that much and likely won’t. As the arctic becomes more productive, there will be more seals which means more polar bears.”

    Gross simplification and generalization; which is false.
    Dietary composition and spatial patterns of polar bear foraging on land in western Hudson Bay

    The sea ice claim is likewise false.
    Expanded sea ice is deleterious to polar bears, in spite of greenie fantasies.
    Paris climate change deal will not stop polar bears dying due to thick ice in spring

    • AtheoK,

      (1) I congratulate you on your use of Google. But you should actually read the paper before triumphantly posting it. The paper does not disprove Dr. Crawford’s article. It repeatedly mentions the role of seal meat (e.g., “…especially in spring when polar bears gain most of their annual fat reserves by consuming seal pups before coming ashore in summer.”)

      The paper looks at the diet of one population of bears during the season they spend on land. It would disprove Crawford’s statement if it compared the calories from seals vs. those from other sources over a full year. It does not do so because that is outside of the questions it studied.

      Also note that Crawford specifically mentions that PB’s get their calories from seal meat. The article mentions the role of plant material in providing other necessary nutrients and as supplemental sources of calories. This doesn’t contradict Crawford.

      (2) “The sea ice claim is likewise false.”

      That’s quite a reading FAIL. This review states at some length that she marshals evidence to contest the consensus theory. Citing an article re-stating the consensus theory doesn’t tell us anything new. Science consists of testing theories. Sometimes the paradigm is correct; sometimes it is wrong. I suggest you read a basic intro to science test to learn how this works.

      • Larry:
        You either did not read my links or you completely misunderstand the points.

        Both address giffiepooed’s inaccuracies. Dr. Crawford’s work is wonderful, detailed and very thorough.

        Seals, like dead whales and walruses are sources of concentrated energy; thus the polar bear’s preference for seals.

        Polar bears are not hung up on eating seal. They’re functioning omnivores and if they get a whiff of any food, they’ll seek that food.
        What is important is the effort to capture food versus energy expended for that food intake.

        From the link I provided earlier::
        “Flexible foraging strategies, such as prey switching, omnivory and food mixing, are key to surviving in a labile and changing environment. Polar bears (Ursus maritimus) in western Hudson Bay are versatile predators that use all of these strategies as they seasonally exploit resources across trophic levels.”

        Our results suggest that polar bears are foraging opportunistically in a manner consistent with maximizing intake while minimizing energy expenditure associated with movement. The frequent mixing of plant-based carbohydrate and animal-based protein could suggest use of a strategy that other Ursids employ to maximize weight gain.”

        Your sea ice conclusion is bizarre, Larry. More adhering to the CAGW consensus?
        I’ll stick with Dr. Crawford’s common sense work.

      • Larry,

        You’d benefit from a refresher course in basic philosophy of science.

        The correct term for what you call “theories” and “paradigm” is “hypothesis”. A theory can be tested, but only by testing the hypotheses of which it is composed, to see whether they are confirmed or shown false, based upon whether the predictions made upon them are found valid or not.

        The procedure for testing a paradigm is, at best, vague.

        These distinctions might seem pedantic, but science requires clear thought and well defined terms.

      • Atheok,

        (1) Seals and polar bears

        I’ll just repeat what the study showed: that one population of polar bears made use of a wide range of foods on land (i.e., at one point in their seasonal cycle). There is nothing — zip, nada — in it showing that Crawford’s statement is false — “Polar Bears mostly eat ringed seals and bearded seals for their calories.”

        The quotes you give don’t contradict her statement.

        “Polar bears are not hung up on eating seal.”

        Who says that they are? Not Crawford. She says they are a vital source of calories. The paper cited does not discuss this aspect of their year-long diet.

        (2) “Expanded sea ice is deleterious to polar bears, in spite of greenie fantasies.”

        Your statement is correct, and I misinterpreted what was going on in the thread. It was a total mis-read on my part, for which I apologize.

      • Larry, when you write “Crawford” do you mean “Croxford”? You first mention Crawford about half way through your article.

        Oh, and writing things like “I congratulate you on your use of Google. But you should actually read the paper before triumphantly posting it.” is pretty lame.

    • Harold,

      “It telll us that they are not scientists”

      Scientists are people. They don’t check their humanity at the lab door, and bring their full range of faults to work — just like the rest of us.

      Science is a social activity. These kinds of situations are commonplace. Business as usual.

      Science works so well because its processes tend to be — eventually — self-correcting.

      • Larry, nobody said that scientists were not people. Nobody said that they checked their humanity at the lab door. Describing science as a social activity fails to distinguish science from other social activities or methods of enquiry. That science self-corrects is trite and not relevant to the point made by Har-old’s that “these people are not scientists”.

        Should you actually wish to rebut Har-old’s point (and I have made the same point above) then you will need to identify something that they have done which deserves the name science. Fiddling with numbers does not cut it.

  16. I would like to address the photo in the article of the ‘starving’ polar bear. This interpretation has troubled me since I first saw it as this bear is TOO emaciated to be starving. As a veterinary pathologist, I unfortunately have occasion to autopsy starved animals. Starvation is a state of energy/protein deficiency. However, in terms of survival, it is mainly a state of energy deficiency. Starved animals run out of energy (fat stores) long before they run out of protein (stored in skeletal muscle). Starved animals have exhausted their entire fat stores at the time of their death. Protein is a very poor, slow and laborious source of energy. Starved animals have sufficient skeletal muscle left to adequately cover their skeleton (so that they don’t look emaciated) because they run out of energy long before they can mobilize much protein.
    Animals as emaciated as this bear are either losing or consuming large amounts of protein due to disease. Most often it is kidney failure with more protein leaking out the kidney than can be replaced in the diet. A common cause of protein consumption is cancer, often endocrine based whereby mobilization is abnormally rapid due to inappropriate production of the compounds which mediate protein mobilization.
    So when you see an animal this emaciated (scapula, pelvis and femur clearly visible through the coat) it is most likely suffering from disease, most often kidney disease or cancer. I will agree it may also be starving due to reduced ability to feed itself but starvation is not the primary cause of this degree of emaciation.

    • Interesting observation, thanks for that.

      I recall the animal looked to have had an “injured” leg (see the photo) which could have been the result of a tumor or bone cancer – or it could have injured itself (or been attacked by another bear) due to weakness brought about by kidney disease or another type of cancer.

  17. From the other end of the world 20000 penguin chicks died from starvation caused by …
    Too much Antarctic ice. Worth a column Anthony from one of your Australian correspondents.
    Polar bears dying not enough ice penguins from too much ice. … snap

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