Why are polar bears going extinct? (Spoiler: They’re not)

Reposted from Dr. Susan Crockford’s Polar Bear Science

Posted on February 24, 2020 |

Google says many people ask this question so here is the correct answer: polar bears are not going extinct. If you have been told that, you have misunderstood or have been misinformed. Polar bears are well-distributed across their available habitat and population numbers are high (officially 22,000-31,000 at 2015 but likely closer to 26,000-58,000 at 2018): these are features of a healthy, thriving species. ‘Why are polar bears going extinct?’ contains a false premise – there is no need to ask ‘why’ when the ‘polar bears [are] going extinct’ part is not true.1


It is true that in 2007, it was predicted that polar bear numbers would plummet when summer sea ice declined to 42% of 1979 levels for 8 out of 10 years (anticipated to occur by 2050) and extinct or nearly so by 2100 (Amstrup et al. 2007). However, summer sea ice has been at ‘mid-century-like’ levels since 2007 (with year to year variation, see NOAA ice chart below) yet polar bear numbers have increased since 2005. The anticipated disaster did not occur but many people still believe it did because the media and some researchers still give that impression.

Sea ice extent_2012_Sept low_reduced by more than 50pc_NASA Ice Imagery

The prediction of imminent extinction of the polar bear was an utter failure, as I’ve shown in this scientific paper (Crockford 2017) and my most recent book, The Polar Bear Catastrophe That Never Happened.

Examine the evidence and you will see that claims of polar bears going extinct are simply not true. So far, the response of polar bears to recent ice loss suggests that they will continue to thrive with even less summer ice than there has been in recent years as long as ice in winter (December-March) and spring (April-June) remains reasonably abundant, as has been the case to date. The most recent information available is summarized in the upcoming State of the Polar Bear Report 2019, to be released 27 February 2020 but see also the 2018 report (Crockford 2019b).

The graph below was constructed by NASA sea ice expert Walt Meier and published by the US National Snow and Ice Data Center in early October 2019. It shows clearly that summer sea ice (measured as the average for September) has not declined further since 2007 but has had a flat trend.

Sea ice extent 2019 Sept average NSIDC_graph extent and trend showing stall

The graph below is from my book and shows the growth of global polar bear numbers since the 1960s. The final estimate 26,000-58,000 or 39,000 average) is my plausible and scientifically defensible ‘best guess’ based on extrapolation of recent survey results, summarized here and explained in detail in my book.

Population size estimate graph my estimate


One of Google’s top ‘suggestion’ when I search for the term ‘polar bear’ is a list of questions that people supposedly ask the most (‘People also ask’), including ‘Why are polar bears going extinct?’

The ‘answer’ provided is not an actual answer but a statement from WWF, an multi-national organization financially invested in promoting the idea that polar bears are suffering due to declining sea ice: it’s paid Google advertising meant to look like answers and facts:

‘Because of ongoing and potential loss of their sea ice habitat resulting from climate change, polar bears were listed as a threatened species in the US under the Endangered Species Act in May 2008. The survival and the protection of the polar bear habitat are urgent issues for WWF.’

Note the statement misleadingly says ‘sea ice’ when it really means ‘summer sea ice’ – the predictions of potential polar bear population decline were based exclusively on summer ice (Amstrup et al. 2007; Crockford 2017, 2019).

As I said above, ‘Why are polar bears going extinct?’ contains a false premise – there is no need to ask ‘why’, when the ‘polar bears [are] going extinct’ part is not true. This post is for the people who search the internet thinking that polar bears really are going extinct.

Another question Google offers is: ‘How many polar bears are left?’ Answer [my bold]:

‘In fact, the World Wide Fund for Nature (or WWF) estimates that there are only 22,000 to 31,000 polar bears left in the world. Jan 25, 2019’

Only? This global estimate, provided by the IUCN Red List (not the WWF) means there are almost three times more polar bears than the 10,000 or so there were in 1960 (Regehr et al. 2016; Wiig et al. 2015). But the Red List figure includes out-of-date estimates and low-balled guesses for many of the 19 subpopulations and my book (Crockford 2019) explains why this 2015 estimate sanctioned by the IUCN was almost certainly too low.


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

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

Crockford, S.J. 2019b. State of the Polar Bear Report 2018. Global Warming Policy Foundation Report 32, London. pdf here.

Regehr, E.V., Laidre, K.L, Akçakaya, H.R., Amstrup, S.C., Atwood, T.C., Lunn, N.J., Obbard, M., Stern, H., Thiemann, G.W., & Wiig, Ø. 2016. Conservation status of polar bears (Ursus maritimus) in relation to projected sea-ice declines. Biology Letters 12: 20160556. http://rsbl.royalsocietypublishing.org/content/12/12/20160556

Wiig, Ø., Amstrup, S., Atwood, T., Laidre, K., Lunn, N., Obbard, M., et al. 2015. Ursus maritimus. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 2015: e.T22823A14871490. Available from http://www.iucnredlist.org/details/22823/0 [accessed Nov. 28, 2015]. See the supplement for population figures here.

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Steve Case
February 26, 2020 2:41 am

in 2007, it was predicted that polar bear numbers would plummet when summer sea ice declined to 42% of 1979 levels

Why is 1979 the standard for the “Sea has declined since…” meme? The first two IPCC reports had sea ice data back to 1973:

IPCC’s Second Assessment Report Page 150 Paragraph Sea Ice extent and mass Figure 3.8: Sea ice extent anomalies relative to 1973-1994 for (a) the Northern Hemisphere and (b) the Southern Hemisphere.

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It seems that the pigs from George Orwell’s Animal Farm successfully rewrote the history. Why is it that everything “Global Warming/Climate Change/The Climate Crisis” is subjected to historical re-writes?

Reply to  Steve Case
February 26, 2020 2:46 am

The adjustocene.

Steve Case
Reply to  Steve Case
February 26, 2020 2:56 am

While I’m at it, here’s a comparison of sea ice extent over the five IPCC reports:
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Steve Case
Reply to  Steve Case
February 26, 2020 3:12 am

I hate making errors, it’s the first three IPCC reports not two that go back to 1973.

Reply to  Steve Case
February 26, 2020 7:08 am

Excellent stuff, Steve.
The differences as time progresses proves we have lived during the adjustocene.

Reply to  Steve Case
February 26, 2020 5:35 am

The Arctic ice extent today is significantly higher than 1974’s maximum from Parkinson (1989). Of course it will be said that it is minimums that matter.

The fact is there is more ice in summers now than for most of the past 10,000 years. Polar bears survived significantly warmer periods.

Steve Keohane
Reply to  Scissor
February 26, 2020 8:57 am

Your second statement is the real point. The Arctic ice is only beginning to grow from much less. How much ice was there 4-5,000 years ago when the sea levels were 6′ higher? At the alleged rate of sea level rise it would take over 600 years to return to that past level. We are just seeing an oscillation about a line with a positive slope.

February 26, 2020 2:44 am

When I was born there were about 7000 polar bears left, mainly due to excess hunting. Sadly, due to less sea ice there are now only about 39,000 left………….😎

Krishna Gans
February 26, 2020 3:27 am

One thing is corrtect, the difference between summer low and winter high seaice extend seems to increase.

Krishna Gans
Reply to  Krishna Gans
February 26, 2020 8:06 am

See PNG as illustration of the said.

February 26, 2020 3:32 am

It is so easy to use the polar bears as mascot for GCCCP (Global Communist Climate Change Propaganda, called CCCP between 1922 and 1991), because the average people don’t see them, can’t count them and don’t get eaten by them.
People tend to believe more in what the media tells them, rather than what they see right outside their house. The “real world” experience grows out of MSM, not in the physical world. But it is in the physical world you demonstrate against whatever you are told in the MSM.

I found an article titled “Video To Educate Danish School Children Into Climate Army” with the following fragment:
In Arctic the temperature increases much more than one degree. Thereby the melting of the sea ice continues, which means that species like polar bear, ring seal and walrus looses their habitat and risk extinction. It applies, by the way, to 10% of the animals on land. Most of the worlds coral reefs disappear.
Ref.: https://klimabedrag.carl-fh.com/article/full/524
This site has been suspended for 8 years, but I decided to open it again here in 2020 for the sake of Climate Change history.

Reply to  Carl Friis-Hansen
February 26, 2020 5:44 am

I’ve often said, the areas “most affected” must be far from civilization, thus difficult to go see for yourself. I’d be inclined to think all the excess warming might result in growing deserts, and failing plant life in the tropics, but that never gets mentioned, for some reason.

Patrick MJD
February 26, 2020 3:32 am


Reply to  Patrick MJD
February 26, 2020 4:46 am

Griff does not allow any bits of inconvenient data to interfere with his preconceived conceptions.

Bryan A
Reply to  Kamikazedave
February 26, 2020 6:32 am

I was under the impression that Griff suffered from Preconceived Misconceptions

Reply to  Patrick MJD
February 26, 2020 4:55 am

Patrick, not sure if you refer to my comment above, but I can assure you I am not Griff 🙂
The comment above is a snippet from an article I wrote back in 2011. The article is about how polar bears etc. are used in a video for Danish school children to educate them into political correctness. The video is no longer available, but this English translation and the whole website is now made online after 7 years of Limbo.
Again, I am not Griff, I stand by my own name after I became a pensioner. Before that, I used the name Karl J. Hansen in order to stay employed.

Juan Slayton
Reply to  Carl Friis-Hansen
February 26, 2020 5:29 am

Pleased to meet you, Carl. : > )

Reply to  Patrick MJD
February 26, 2020 6:16 am

Griff believed the Polar Bears had become extinct, but was eaten by one when he went to the Arctic.


Reply to  Patrick MJD
February 26, 2020 6:52 am

Has Griff decided for the third time that he won’t grace us with his presence anymore?

Reply to  MarkW
February 26, 2020 12:01 pm

There is a person going under the name of Griff on “Mail on Line”. May be the same as the comments have a certain ring to them.

Reply to  Greytide
February 26, 2020 3:54 pm

Griff used to haunt the climate change pages of the Daily Telegraph before they sacked their environmental columnists ‘because advertisers would no longer pay their salaries’

February 26, 2020 3:43 am

Fate of these big fat bullies is only a minor irritation among many others including the impeding for ever 12 years away doomsday, corona virus, Brexit, grumpy Greta, Putin vetting candidates for the USA’s presidency and god knows what else. These are interesting time to live in, the old Chinese curse finally caught up with us.

February 26, 2020 3:43 am

Thanks to Dr. Crockford.
But tell me what happened to Mitchell Taylor?

Michael Darby
February 26, 2020 3:57 am

1. WWF is a dangerous, anti-humanity, poverty promoting, misery manufacturing hard-left cabal masquerading as a charity.
2. There is not one polar bear remaining on the Great Barrier Reef.
3. Great work by Dr Susan Crockford

Reply to  Michael Darby
February 26, 2020 5:59 am

“2. There is not one polar bear remaining on the Great Barrier Reef.”

Thanks, Michael. That made me laugh.


Eamon Butler
Reply to  Bob Tisdale
February 27, 2020 5:01 am

Wait till the kids find out. 😉

Krishna Gans
Reply to  Michael Darby
February 26, 2020 9:07 am

On the other hand, WWF knows, that seaice is retreating since over 160 years as in 2003 they started a study about the retreaing
WWF reconstructs climate change in the Arctic

Düsseldorf (rpo). The Arctic ice has been on the retreat for at least 150 years. This is the result of a new study by the WWF and the Norwegian Polar Institute (NPI).
For this purpose, the researchers consulted the records of long-dead polar explorers and discoverers and reconstructed the extent of the Arctic ice in different eras on the basis of these sources. The slow but steady melting of the ice can be traced on 6,000 maps.

Translated with http://www.DeepL.com/Translator (free version)
German source

Historical seaice chart archive
Unfortunately, an SQL error occured while testing the link.

Reply to  Michael Darby
February 26, 2020 3:57 pm

WWF makes billions out of promoting ‘species in danger’ narratives.
I regard them as the least reliable source on any ecological issues

February 26, 2020 4:06 am

Polar Bears are NOT going extinct because we stopped shooting them.
Has nothing to do with climate.

Reply to  Matthew W
February 26, 2020 7:13 am

Matthew: Actually Canada does still allow a hunt for polar bears. Most of the world’s bears live in Canada and their biologists don’t think they are endangered. Neither do the Inuit, who live there.

Joseph Zorzin
February 26, 2020 4:08 am

“Old carbon reservoirs unlikely to cause massive greenhouse gas release, study finds” : https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2020/02/200220141710.htm
“As global temperatures rise, permafrost and methane hydrates — large reservoirs of ancient carbon — have the potential to break down, releasing enormous quantities of the potent greenhouse gas methane. But would this methane actually reach the atmosphere? Researchers found that even if methane is released from these natural stores in response to warming, very little reaches the atmosphere; therefore, anthropogenic emissions should be more concerning than these natural feedbacks. “

Steve Case
Reply to  Joseph Zorzin
February 26, 2020 5:20 am

Joseph Zorzin … 4:08 am
“…the potent greenhouse gas methane…”

Why do people keep buying into this bullshit?

The usual meme is, “Pound for pound, methane traps 86 times more heat than CO2.” Atmospheric components are usually expressed as volume not mass or pounds. The molecular weight of methane is 16 and the weight of CO2 is 44. So if methane increases by 500 parts per billion by 2100 an equal mass of CO2 would be (15/44)x500=182 ppb or .182 ppm.

So if CO2 increases from 400 ppm to 400.182 ppm how much will that run up global temperature and then multiply that answer by 86. It’s rather obvious that an increase of .182 ppm would increase temperature by nearly nothing, and 86 times nearly nothing is still nearly nothing.

The 86 multiplier is the Global Warming Potential GWP that can be found in all five IPCC reports although over time the GWP increases along with the increase in the concentration of atmospheric CO2

The forgoing is a convoluted exercise and the reason why the “Methane is a potent greenhouse gas” myth persists.
A few days ago
tty February 20, 2020 at 1:27 pm
TTY Said:
According to MODTRAN a doubling of CH4 from 1.7 to 3.4 ppm will cause a temperature rise of 0.2 degrees given a US 1976 Standard Atmosphere Profile.

At current rates this will take about 400 years.

Mike O
February 26, 2020 4:32 am

1979 becomes a good date because it was the start of the modern Satellite era for temperatures and other measurements. Coincidentally, it was also the bottom of the last global cooling of any consequence. The confluence of these two facts give rise to a lot of “unprecendented” talk.

Steve Case
Reply to  Mike O
February 26, 2020 5:30 am

Mike O February 26, 2020 at 4:32 am
1979 becomes a good date because… blah… blah… blah

That doesn’t explain why the IPCC changed the 1973-1979 trend in Figure 2.14 in their TAR report.

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As CW2 pointed out above, “The Adjustocene”

Reply to  Mike O
February 26, 2020 5:41 am

Satellite data from the early 70’s is well documented, e.g. Parkinson and Cavalieri; it is just inconvenient, like that from IPCC’s 2nd Assessment Report given by Steve Case above.

February 26, 2020 4:43 am

There is no mention of polar bears in Summary for Policy Makers 2013.
In AR 5 WG 1 (2013) the topic of polar bears is covered at 28.2 in some dozen paragraphs.
The essential claim is that there is potential for large reductions in the global polar bear population if sea ice loss continues which is FORECAST by climate models and other studies.
Critically, there are no peer reviewed papers that contest the claim of potential loss in numbers of some 30% over the next decades.
How can that be?
There are certainly numerous papers since 2013 that directly contradict the orthodox view besides Susan Crockford’s book “ The Polar Bear Catastrophe that never happened”.
These papers are collected at NoTricksZone.
To see the continuing strained orthodox position on polar bears, read the extraordinary paper, Harvey et al 2018 which claims there is “overwhelming evidence” that polar bears will be ultimately adversely affected.

February 26, 2020 4:44 am

There are several lines of evidence that the arctic was seasonally free of sea ice during the early Holocene, ie. within the last 10,000 years. example

The polar bears did not go extinct when the arctic was free of summer sea ice. Why would they do so now even if the arctic does go ice free in the summer.

The other thing about ice free arctic summers is that they indicate that the global temperature has been warmer than now and there’s no evidence of ‘tipping points’.

The proxy record of arctic sea ice, as validated by a number of different proxies, is a big problem for the alarmists. This is the kind of problem Dr. Mann tried to obliterate with his, admitted by him, fraudulent hockey stick.

Ron Long
February 26, 2020 4:46 am

Good of you to post this, Charles Rotter. I am happy to se Dr. Crockford keeps her head in the game, politics at universities notwithstanding. Polar bears are near apex predators, with only humans above them. Their apex position made them rich hunters favorite trophy, and this got a little out of control during the 60’s. Remember “American Sportsman” where Fred Bear was bowhunting for polar bears? When Fred stepped out from behind an ice wall and drew his bow at the approaching polar bear, and the bear raised up on his hind legs, Fred lowered the arrow and the bow and stepped back behind the ice wall, and said something along the lines of “&%#)/&?¡!xx!, did you see how big that thing is?”.

Hokey Schtick
February 26, 2020 5:42 am

But the children are already crying. If we tell them now the polar bears are not going extinct, this will be cruel and unsettling for them. It is far better that we continue to promote the prediction rather than confuse people with the reality. It is a small price to pay to consider the polar bears extinct even if they are not if it means it will galvanize people into grand useless gestures designed to prevent global catastrophe due to temperature increase due to the increase in atmospheric carbon dioxide levels. Seriously, what is wrong with you people.

Thomas Mark Schaefer
February 26, 2020 6:23 am

I’ll suggest the reason they’re going extinct is that they are too stupid to realize they live in a frozen wasteland, and that their constant discomfort from being cold and struggling for food has drained them of whatever will to live they previously had. In the past, they were blissfully unaware that warmer places existed, and that their lot in life was as it always had been. Now, with brief exposure to men and artificial heat, they are crestfallen. Why don’t we see polar bears, or at least some enlightened individual animal, move to Prince of Whales Island or some other warmer place? People are leaving even the warmer parts of Alaska.

Joe G
February 26, 2020 6:42 am

Well polar bears are definitely extinct in Massachusetts. So there’s that. 🙂

Steve Z
February 26, 2020 8:50 am

According to Ms. Crockford’s last graph, from 1994 through 2014 the polar bear population was roughly stable at about 22,000 to 25,000 bears, while the minimum September sea ice was decreasing. By 2018 or so, the population suddenly increases to 39,000 bears, or about a 60% increase, while the minimum September sea ice continued to decrease, albeit more slowly.

These two graphs clearly show that there is no statistical correlation between minimum September sea ice and polar bear population, so why do climate alarmists say that low summer sea ice is dangerous to polar bears? Science (the data) seems to say otherwise.

If the polar bears’ main source of food is seals and walruses when they come ashore in spring to reproduce, sea ice must recede from the shore to enable the seals to breathe as they swim to their breeding grounds–a colder than normal spring would mean the sea ice would recede later, and the seals would arrive later, and polar bears would have to fast for a longer time, which would be detrimental to them.

In mid- to late summer, when the edge of the sea ice is hundreds of miles from the coast, and the tundra is snow-free, and small mammals thrive on vegetation, polar bears will likely stay on land to hunt small mammals or freshwater fish in rivers, and they don’t really need sea ice.

February 26, 2020 9:23 am

Most of the successful growth in polar bear populations can be attributed to my successful Shave The Bears Campaign. We recruited environmentalists to shave polar bears with Barbisol and Bic razors. This was a practical response to global warming. Not sure how many bears were shaved but none of the environmentalists returned resulting in better decision making. You are welcome.

Reply to  Troe
February 26, 2020 10:17 am

Much like my “Feed the Bears” charity buying one way tickets and a large raw steak necklace for progressives who believe polar bears are extinct…..

Krishna Gans
February 26, 2020 9:53 am

BTW, in the last polarbear thread someone asked, what happend to the 2012 Arctic temperatures.
It’s fixed, the data are back again, why wmail request to DMI was answered sometimes later.

shortus cynicus
February 27, 2020 3:30 am

Polar Bears deserve full respect and support because of the White Privilege they inherently poses.

MSM will never dare to critic them even for raping their females and killing then eating their children.

If Weinstein and Epstein (or other –steins) would self-identify as Polar Bears, whey would never be prosecuted for anything. In multi-cultural society we cannot discriminate against nordic culture.

PS: just got a flayer for a climate-change propaganda event where staff will be apparently dressed up as white bears. I will go there and ask them about white privilege and hope not be eaten alive.

February 27, 2020 10:25 am

Maybe the most appropriate question to ask is whether sea ice was at a relative maximum in 1979 compared to the 40 or so years prior to that initial satellite measurement being made? If so, are we seeing a regression in sea ice to the degree of cover consistent with that experienced (but not visualized by satellites because they didn’t exist) in the mid-1940s? So perhaps we’ve seen the current sea ice reach the approximate same extent as it was around 1940 or so, the last time we had temperatures similar to this?

Phil Salmon
February 27, 2020 2:18 pm

Arctic ice is looking very healthy just now – as discovered by yet another “ship of fools”


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