Activist biologist filled with eco-anxiety shares unfounded fear of polar bear catastrophe

From Polar Bear Science

Posted on September 29, 2019 | Comments Off on Activist biologist filled with eco-anxiety shares unfounded fear of polar bear catastrophe

Misplaced eco-anxiety that kids have about polar bears starts with activist biologists like Steven Amstrup, spokesperson for an organization devoted to raising climate change alarm – and media outlets like The Guardian who help them spread fears unsupported by scientific evidence.

kaktovik-ak-fat-adult-male-polar-bear-mid-september-2019_ed-boudreau-photo-permission-to-use-e1569820166992

Fat healthy polar bear male at Kaktovik, Alaska in the Southern Beaufort Sea, September 2019, Ed Boudreau photo, with permission.

You can’t get much more over the top than these statements from Amstrup today but read carefully: it’s either opinion or factual aspects of polar bear life (“we know that the bears aren’t feeding”) made to sound like new, terrifying developments that can be blamed on climate change.

From The Guardian (29 September 2019), “We know they aren’t feeding’: fears for polar bears over shrinking Arctic ice” [my bold]:

“In 2015, the group reported that the polar bear population in the Beaufort Sea had declined by 40% over the previous decade. “We can only anticipate that those declines have continued,” Amstrup said.

The loss of sea ice this year was so pronounced early in the season that tagging crews from the US Geological Survey (USGS) concluded that the sea ice offshore in the western arctic was too thin and unstable to be able to conduct their studies – the first time the team have pulled their studies because of safety issues.”

“Amstrup said funding cutbacks and the fact that biologists cannot get out and study the bears means it may never be able to collect the necessary data to assess “just how bad this year was”.

Instead, Amstrup says this bad ice year and record warm summer are symbols of what the future will bring. Bad years like this will be increasingly frequent and the bad years will be increasingly worse – as long as we allow CO2 levels to continue to rise.

“We know that as greenhouse gas concentrations continue to rise it’s going to be warmer and we’re going to have less and less sea ice until polar bears disappear,” he said.”

Amstrup has been crying wolf since 2007: the predictions of polar bear catastrophe were all based on his opinion (that’s how the model was constructed) that this species would not be able to cope with 42% less summer sea ice than they had had in 1980 (Amstrup et al. 2007; Crockford 2017, 2019; Durner et al. 2009).

However, the evidence collected by his colleagues has proven him wrong again and again but he hasn’t changed his tune. Polar bears in the Chukchi Sea (the “western arctic”) have been thriving despite the dramatic decline in sea ice there – and so have the seals they depend upon for food (Crawford et al. 2015; Regehr et al. 2018; Rode and Regehr 2010; Rode et al. 2013, 2014, 2018). Barents Sea bears have been thriving despite an even greater loss of summer ice (Aars 208; Aars et al. 2017).

Amstrup suggests that polar bear numbers in the Southern Beaufort this year can only have declined further than the dip calculated for the 2001-2010 period. Not so: it is entirely possible – and eminently plausible – that numbers have increased. That’s because bear numbers declined due to thick ice conditions in spring between 2004 and 2007 that were as bad as they had been in 1974-1976, not because of reduced summer ice since 2007 (Crockford 2017, 2018, 2019; Stirling 2002; Stirling et al. 2008; York et al. 2016).

Southern Beaufort polar bear populations have a long history of declines and recoveries (Stirling 2002) and all the photos of polar bears out of Alaska for the last several years have shown fat healthy bears – two are shown here.  Where are the dozens of starving bears that would supposedly be the harbingers of a declining population since 2010? Amstrup does not produce evidence of them.

polar_bear_family_at_bone_pile Kaktovik 20 April 2016

Fat healthy bear family at the Kaktovik bone pile, 20 April 2016

In addition, the idea that it’s significant that scientists can’t get out on the ice to study polar bears because the ice is “too thin” is bogus. For polar bear studies, sea ice needs to be thick enough to support the weight of a helicopter, research gear and 3-4 people without exceeding the risk threshold for insurance purposes (see photo below). That’s much thicker ice than is necessary to support the weight of a polar bear. Too thin for scientists is not too thin for polar bear survival.

Polar_Bear_Biologist_USFWS_working_with_a_Bear_Oct 24 2001 Amstrup photo

We know they aren’t feeding” Surprise, surprise! Actually, it’s known that well-fed polar bears are able to survive at least 5 months without food and most bears eat little over the summer whether they hang out on shore or stay on the sea ice (Stirling and Øritsland 1995).

Summer sea ice levels since 2007 have not been getting worse and worse: after an abrupt decline in 2007, September ice coverage has varied between about 3-5 mkm2. This year was not worse than 2012 – which did not, by the way, trigger a polar bear catastrophe – but Amstrup tries to make it sound like 2019 was especially horrific.

Amstrup says “we know” that rising CO2 is going to cause sea ice to continue to decline until polar bears “disappear” but that’s simply not true: it’s his opinion that polar bears will disappear. Moreover, he says “sea ice” when he means summer sea ice, which is deliberately misleading: in fact, no sea ice model predicts that sea ice in winter and spring will decline significantly, let alone disappear completely (Stroeve et al. 2007; Overland and Wang 2013; Perovich et al. 2018; Wang and Overland 2012, 2015).

The truth is, Amstrup has a vested interest in advancing polar bear catastrophe: as I explain in my new book, The Polar Bear Catastrophe That Never Happened (Crockford 2019), he considers his 2007 prediction that summer sea ice decline would decimate polar bear numbers to be a career legacy. He cannot bear to admit he was wrong (no pun intended) . That’s highly unscientific. Yet the media assists him in passing his unfounded eco-anxiety about polar bears on to naïve young children and gullible adults without a word about the current healthy status of the bears.

See this post from 2015, with references: If summer ice was critical for S. Beaufort polar bears, 2012 would have decimated them

And this one, also from 2015, with references: Polar bears out on the sea ice eat few seals in summer and early fall

See this post from earlier this month, with references: Western Hudson Bay polar bears in great shape after five good sea ice seasons

And finally, see this important summary post from July this year, with references: 10 fallacies about Arctic sea ice and polar bear survival: teachers & parents take note

References

Aars, J. 2018. Population changes in polar bears: protected, but quickly losing habitat. Fram Forum Newsletter 2018. Fram Centre, Tromso. Download pdf here (32 mb).

Aars, J., Marques,T.A, Lone, K., Anderson, M., Wiig, Ø., Fløystad, I.M.B., Hagen, S.B. and Buckland, S.T. 2017. The number and distribution of polar bears in the western Barents Sea. Polar Research 36:1. 1374125. doi:10.1080/17518369.2017.1374125

Amstrup, S.C., Marcot, B.G. & Douglas, D.C. 2007. Forecasting the rangewide status of polar bears at selected times in the 21st century. US Geological Survey. Reston, VA. Pdf here

Crawford, J.A., Quakenbush, L.T. and Citta, J.J. 2015. A comparison of ringed and bearded seal diet, condition and productivity between historical (1975–1984) and recent (2003–2012) periods in the Alaskan Bering and Chukchi seas. Progress in Oceanography 136:133-150.

Crockford, S.J. 2017. 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). PeerJ Preprints 19 January 2017. Doi: 10.7287/peerj.preprints.2737v1 Open access. https://peerj.com/preprints/2737/

Crockford, S.J. 2018. State of the Polar Bear Report 2017. Global Warming Policy Foundation Report #29. London. pdf.

Crockford, S.J. 2019. The Polar Bear Catastrophe That Never Happened. Global Warming Policy Foundation, London. Available in paperback and ebook formats.

Durner, G.M., Douglas, D.C., Nielson, R.M., Amstrup, S.C., McDonald, T.L., et al. 2009. Predicting 21st-century polar bear habitat distribution from global climate models. Ecology Monographs 79: 25–58.

Overland, J.E. and Wang, M. 2013. When will the summer Arctic be nearly sea ice free? Geophysical Research Letters 40: 2097-2101.

Perovich, D., Meier, W., Tschudi, M.,Farrell, S., Hendricks, S., Gerland, S., Haas, C., Krumpen, T., Polashenski, C., Ricker, R. and Webster, M. 2018. Sea ice. Arctic Report Card 2018, NOAA. https://www.arctic.noaa.gov/Report-Card/Report-Card-2018

Regehr, E.V., Hostetter, N.J., Wilson, R.R., Rode, K.D., St. Martin, M., Converse, S.J. 2018. Integrated population modeling provides the first empirical estimates of vital rates and abundance for polar bears in the Chukchi Sea. Scientific Reports 8 (1) DOI: 10.1038/s41598-018-34824-7 https://www.nature.com/articles/s41598-018-34824-7

Rode, K. and Regehr, E.V. 2010. Polar bear research in the Chukchi and Bering Seas: A synopsis of 2010 field work. Unpublished report to the US Fish and Wildlife Service, Department of the Interior, Anchorage. pdf here.

Rode, K.D., Douglas, D., Durner, G., Derocher, A.E., Thiemann, G.W., and Budge, S. 2013. Variation in the response of an Arctic top predator experiencing habitat loss: feeding and reproductive ecology of two polar bear populations. Oral presentation by Karyn Rode, 28th Lowell Wakefield Fisheries Symposium, March 26-29. Anchorage, AK.

Rode, K.D., Regehr, E.V., Douglas, D., Durner, G., Derocher, A.E., Thiemann, G.W., and Budge, S. 2014. Variation in the response of an Arctic top predator experiencing habitat loss: feeding and reproductive ecology of two polar bear populations. Global Change Biology 20(1):76-88. http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/gcb.12339/abstract

Rode, K. D., R. R. Wilson, D. C. Douglas, V. Muhlenbruch, T.C. Atwood, E. V. Regehr, E.S. Richardson, N.W. Pilfold, A.E. Derocher, G.M Durner, I. Stirling, S.C. Amstrup, M. S. Martin, A.M. Pagano, and K. Simac. 2018. Spring fasting behavior in a marine apex predator provides an index of ecosystem productivity. Global Change Biology http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/gcb.13933/full

Stirling, I. 2002. Polar bears and seals in the eastern Beaufort Sea and Amundsen Gulf: a synthesis of population trends and ecological relationships over three decades. Arctic 55 (Suppl. 1):59-76. http://arctic.synergiesprairies.ca/arctic/index.php/arctic/issue/view/42

Stirling, I. and Øritsland, N. A. 1995. Relationships between estimates of ringed seal (Phoca hispida) and polar bear (Ursus maritimus) populations in the Canadian Arctic. Canadian Journal of Fisheries and Aquatic Sciences 52: 2594 – 2612. http://www.nrcresearchpress.com/doi/abs/10.1139/f95-849#.VNep0y5v_gU

Stirling, I., Richardson, E., Thiemann, G.W. and Derocher, A.E. 2008. Unusual predation attempts of polar bears on ringed seals in the southern Beaufort Sea: possible significance of changing spring ice conditions. Arctic 61:14-22. http://arctic.synergiesprairies.ca/arctic/index.php/arctic/article/view/3/3

Stroeve, J., Holland, M.M., Meier, W., Scambos, T. and Serreze, M. 2007. Arctic sea ice decline: Faster than forecast. Geophysical Research Letters 34:L09501. https://agupubs.onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1029/2007GL029703

Wang, M. and Overland, J. E. 2012. A sea ice free summer Arctic within 30 years: An update from CMIP5 models. Geophysical Research Letters 39: L18501. doi:10.1029/2012GL052868

Wang, M. and Overland, J.E. 2015. Projected future duration of the sea-ice-free season in the Alaskan Arctic. Progress in Oceanography 136:50-59.

York, J., Dowsley, M, Cornwell, A., Kuc, M. and Taylor, M. 2016. Demographic and traditional knowledge perspectives on the current status of Canadian polar bear subpopulations. Ecology and Evolution 6(9):2897-2924. DOI: 10.1002/ece3.2030

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103 thoughts on “Activist biologist filled with eco-anxiety shares unfounded fear of polar bear catastrophe

  1. Susan

    “not be able to cope with 42% less summer sea ice than they had had in 1980″ (Amstrup et al. 2007; Crockford 2017, 2019; Durner et al. 2009).

    One too many “hads”..

  2. A lie, repeated often enough becomes the truth, especially if the groundwork for accepting that lie has already been laid. The reason the polar bear lie won’t go away is that it is part of the Warmunist gestalt.

    • Bruce cobb.. exactly, they are repetitive, plus they won’t stop. The truth is hidden from the masses. We need to have our own truth protests, and a truth child, some one with factual knowledge…. not like the co2 seeing actress.

      • I asked a friend’s daughter recently how many polar bears she thought were left. She did not know, I said take a guess: she suggested 100.

        She seemed a little confused when I said it was north of 25k.

        Another acquaintance who is now a retired medical researcher thought it was about 1000.

      • “The truth is hidden from the masses.”

        No, the truth is there to be seen but it cannot be seen.

        What a fool believes he sees. Show a fool the truth and he will either not see it or, if he does see it, he will not believe it. To do otherwise – to see it or to believe it – will clash with his beliefs. Something, either the truth or the beliefs, will have to give. As stated by Charles Mackay eventually the truth wins out.

        Here: “Men, it has been well said, think in herds; it will be seen that they go mad in herds, while they only recover their senses slowly, one by one.”

    • Exactly! That’s how they are using greta as a puppet for advancing the eco-communist agenda and taking away our liberties

  3. We take this chart of arctic sea ice from 1920 to 1975:

    https://realclimatescience.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/02/Screen-Shot-2017-02-14-at-6.12.59-AM-down.gif

    And tack on the satellite record of arctic sea ice:

    https://realclimatescience.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/02/Screen2-Shot-2017-02-14-at-6.17.49-AM.gif

    And we see that we are currently not experiencing record low levels of arctic sea ice. Showing arctic sea ice from the 1970’s to the present is misleading when the rest of the 20th century is left off the chart. Alarmists have a bad habit of misleading people.

    Steven Amstrup’s polar bear warnings are scaremongering, all the way down. Here we have Figures of Authority lying to children about polar bears being in danger.

    One of these days the children are going to know better, thanks in large part to Dr. Susan Crockford shining light on the truth about polar bears for the rest of us to see.

    • Vuk: “Not to panic, the world ends in 11 years and 2 months, […]”

      My plan is to run up debt into the millions of dollars. It will be really hard to collect after the world ends.
      ;o)

      • H.R.

        I think you will have to entertain the possibility that some people will survive, and they will blame the collapse on those who ran up the most debt, so they will execute those first.

  4. Can we have a caption contest for the picture of the guys from the helicopter with the prone polar bear? My suggestions are:

    Polar bear rendered unconscious without aid of dart gun by being read latest IPCC report (well we all know that will work)

    Alternatively,

    “I’m sure the recipe for Vegan polar bear stew is in here somewhere”.

  5. Apparently the need for cutbacks at USGS continues unabated, until its employees – maybe geologists instead of biologists – are putting labels on rock samples instead of polar bears:

    “The loss of sea ice this year was so pronounced early in the season that tagging crews from the US Geological Survey (USGS) concluded that the sea ice offshore in the western arctic was too thin and unstable to be able to conduct their studies – the first time the team have pulled their studies because of safety issues.”

    “Amstrup said funding cutbacks and the fact that biologists cannot get out and study the bears means it may never be able to collect the necessary data to assess “just how bad this year was”.

    • “Amstrup said funding cutbacks and the fact that biologists cannot get out and study the bears means it may never be able to collect the necessary data to assess “just how bad this year was”.

      Good thing for him. If they did go out and collect data, it might prove him wrong.

      “We can only anticipate that those declines have continued,” Amstrup said.

      “We can only hope that those declines have continued,” Amstrup meant.

  6. “In addition, the idea that it’s significant that scientists can’t get out on the ice to study polar bears because the ice is “too thin” is bogus.”

    It’s bogus for another reason. Note the the helicopter–a Bell 206L–is on floats; it doesn’t need to land on the ice.

    • Good catch.

      Missing from the picture is a ten foot pole with a bayonet on the end. The idea is to prod the bear to make sure it’s really asleep. No, I’m not kidding.

      You don’t need a helicopter. Ian Stirling had some hardy souls who would hop on a snowmobile and go around tranquilizing polar bears. One of them commented to me that you had to be careful because, if the bear rolled over in its sleep it could still kill you.

  7. Can Steven read? If we assume so then he has seen a plethora of proof that he is wrong, wrong and wrong. It’s absolutely shameful that people with degrees are posing as scientists, when in fact they are merely politicians, and I do mean merely, although knowingly lying about your chosen field may make politicians look like good honest people.

  8. And Amstrup is the classic example of a man who will not understand something because his livelihood is dependent upon him not understanding it.

    • Exactly. About 40 years ago met an aspiring medical microbiologist at the gym. Over the years I would see him on the local news every 3-5 yrs talking about his research. I would say, “your govt grant must be ending”. And he would laugh saying “you got to play the game”. Anyway, he knew he was playing the game, when are the likes of Amstrup going to admit they are playing the game. Or as I say “don’t let the facts get in the way of a good story.”

  9. What’s about fund raising for field studies for Dr.Amstrup?
    Perhaps he has a close meeting with one of the poor white Polar-Teddies?
    Too evil?
    Fear mongering our kids is worse!

    • As usual you ignore evidence presented by Dr. Crockford, who REFERRED to Dr. Armstrup’s 2007 paper in her article. I doubt that you ever read any of her articles, since you don’t discuss any of it.

      • Like all true troll masters, griff specializes in refuting charges that nobody made.

        Nobody has challenged Amstrup’s credentials. They’ve all been pointing to his long history of being wrong.

        griff really seems to find it incomprehensible that people would actually question the pronouncements of someone griff has proclaimed to be an expert.

        • I’m convinced that griff is really a computer program; no human could be as lacking in original thoughts as griff is. In fact, his programmer should update his database. It’s gotten quite stale and repetitive. Not even worth responding directly to anymore.

    • griff,

      The ice has retreated. Fair enough. But that is NOT the same thing as “it’s a problem for the bears”.

      My concern with your opinion is that you’ve apparently selected a team to cheer for and one to cheer against. This is fine for sports, but not science. Research offering a counter to published science should not induce vitriol and hate, such as what you seem to have for Dr. Crockford. Stop fearing that you’re wrong, and try opening up your mind to the possibility that she might, just maybe, potentially, be right.

      Respectfully,

      rip

    • That’s an improvement, griff used to proclaim uncategorically that Dr. Crowford was unqualified.

      BTW, having a degree is not the only thing needed in order to be qualified. Sometimes it’s even a hindrance.

      The actual science shows that Amstrup is full of it. His pronouncements have failed to come about and numerous scientists have shown that his claims that polar bears depend on summer ice is nothing but disproven conjecture.

    • Amstrup may be “qualified” in your “opinion”, but he still spouts nonsense as you do.

      “pink line”?
      So what. Polar bears do not worry about pink lines. They catch seals. It is harder to catch seals when it is colder and the ice is thicker. You would know that if you read from the more knowledgeable Dr. Crockford.

    • The only reason as far I can tell why Griff supports Amstrup’s opinion about bears is because Amstrup maintains the alarmist message whereas Crockford does not.

  10. Excerpted from commentary quote:

    “We know that as greenhouse gas concentrations continue to rise it’s going to be warmer and we’re going to have less and less sea ice until polar bears disappear,” he said.”” Steven Amstrup

    SURPRISE, SURPRISE, ……. the above statement is actually and factually correct.

    But I think it was intentionally written to scare the BEJESUS out of those with learning disabilities, poor reading comprehension and/or an IQ of less than 101.

    So “YES”, …. increases in CO2 always follows increase in temperature, …….. and increases in temperature is always followed by less and less sea ice …… and the less and less sea ice there is, the less and less you will see polar bears out on the ice that is no longer there.

    —————–
    Daily CO2
    Sep. 26, 2019: 408.05 ppm
    Sep. 27, 2019: 407.96 ppm
    Sep. 28, 2019: 408.09 ppm

    • “…and the less and less sea ice there is, the less and less you will see polar bears out on the ice that is no longer there.”

      Not being on ice is not the same as disappearing; they’ll be chowing down on garbage in Churchill, in the event, and doing just fine.

  11. Science free self interested plea for money. On the same level as a televangelist. Is the only possible method of observing polar bear populations tranquilizing them from a helecopter. If you have water you have boats. But that’s not his point is it.

    If the US government is really paring the research gravy train it’s a good thing. Bought science is a real thing and in Climate Research it is spectacularly out of control. Thank you Dr Crockford

  12. Go here for the latest information regarding polar bear populations:

    Summary of polar bear population status per 2019
    http://pbsg.npolar.no/en/status/status-table.html

    Pay attention to how often the terms “data deficient”, “likely stable”, and “likely decreased” are used. From this you can decide for yourself just how accurate reports regarding polar bear populations and population trends are and can be.

  13. Exactly. About 40 years ago met an aspiring medical microbiologist at the gym. Over the years I would see him on the local news every 3-5 yrs talking about his research. I would say, “your govt grant must be ending”. And he would laugh saying “you got to play the game”. Anyway, he knew he was playing the game, when are the likes of Amstrup going to admit they are playing the game. Or as I say “don’t let the facts get in the way of a good story.”

  14. Now, that is one Bodacious Bear up there in that photo!

    So how come none of these busybody persons like Amstrup are’t interested in the fate of the Kodiak bears? Huh? Is there some sort of prejudice against brown-coated bears because they aren’t as cute as bears that Cocal Cola can use for their winter ads? I’m going to start hollering “SPECIESIST!” at people like that. Kodiaks Rock!!!

    Prejudice against brown-coated bears and favoring white-coated bears? SPECIESISM!!!!

    And here I thought Trofim Lysenko was a conniving numbskull…..

    • Diversitist, perhaps rabid. Color judgments matter. Color-based value assessments have been tragically, politically normalized.

  15. From the author:
    That’s much thicker ice than is necessary to support the weight of a polar bear.

    And why would a polar bear have to have supporting ice anyway? They are outstanding swimmers…..

    • “And why would a polar bear have to have supporting ice anyway? They are outstanding swimmers…..”
      A 426 mile, 9 day and some hrs swim has been measured by radio collar. There are ~25,000 bears, and they’ve been around for ~500,000 yrs, so the chances that they just happened to put the tracker collar on the all time historical polar bear swimming champ are about nil; you can safely bet that they can swim farther than that.
      She lost 22% of her body weight, and her cub didn’t make it, but I’d be surprised if 450-500 mi isn’t possible. Perhaps the fat bear in the article photo has enough stored energy to do it.

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