By Susan Crockford
In an unexpected statement, Dag Vongraven (the out-going Chairman of the Polar Bear Specialist Group) suggests that much of the incessant dire warnings of doom about the future of polar bears from PBSG members has been a counter-measure to offset the effective efforts by myself and others to expose the flawed rhetoric this group promotes.
You may remember Vongraven, who in 2014 famously sent me an email alerting me to a PBSG statement that later came back to bite them (in part because it was included in a CBC documentary called The Politics of Polar Bears later that year, see below):
It is important to realize that this range [i.e. their polar bear population estimate] never has been an estimate of total abundance in a scientific sense, but simply a qualified guess given to satisfy public demand.
Will this be another? You be the judge.
In an interview available only in Norwegian on the website for the Norwegian Polar Institute, Dag Vongraven expressed his opinion that “climate change will ultimately lead to the extinction of the polar bear population in Svalbard and major parts of the Russian Arctic“. This dire prediction was reported in English by the Barents Observer (2 July 2021).
However, it turns out Vongraven had more to say which the reporter for the Observer left out but which the folks who write IcePeople (2 July 2021) thought was worth a mention. They wrote:
Vongraven, incidentally, acknowledges in this week’s report [sic, they mean the NPI interview] the increasing visibility of climate change deniers in recent years – and declares that’s partially why there’s an increasing number of dire reports being released.
“Before the (specialist group) meeting in Tromsø in 2009, a physical meeting in the specialist group for polar bears and a report every four years was enough, but after 2009 this has been insufficient because there has been a constant demand for information about the polar bear’s status and future prospects,” he said. “But the increase is also due to the fact that climate deniers and this type of force have become much more active, and polar bears as a symbol of climate change have been reduced as ‘climate hysteria.’”
By the way, the IcePeople piece also provided a link to my July 1 blog post (“Barents Sea polar bears thriving despite huge summer ice loss spring research results are in”), in which I reported the results of spring 2021 research on polar bears in Svalbard posted for all to see on the NPI website by NPI polar bear biologists. Apparently, to some people, posting data such as this is evidence of “denier activity”.
The failure of Svalbard area polar bears to show evidence of harm to their health or population size from the huge decline in summer sea ice seen in the Barents Sea is a problem because it is such a stark contrast to the continued claim that polar bears in Southern and Western Hudson Bay have already registered significant declines in body condition and cub survival in response to only a fraction of the ice loss experienced by Svalbard bears. As I pointed out last year and in The Polar Bear Catastrophe That Never Happened, this contradiction is one of the real conundrums that plague the PBSG.
Meanwhile, the PBSG website is unavailable because the NPI has stopped hosting (as it has done since 2001) and the PBSG must ‘transition’ to a new platform. In the announcement I saw 28 May 2021, there was no hint of how long this might take. Therefore, this website link produces only a snapshot of the PBSG homepage and an obituary for Markus Dyck: the rest of it, with all the content from years ago, is effectively gone. Good thing I’ve downloaded virtually all of their content to my own archive over the years.
Therefore, without the NPI interview as reported by the Barents Observer, we would never know that Vongraven was stepping down as PBSG chairman to be replaced by Nick Lunn (Canada) and Kristin Laidre (USA/Greenland) as co-chairs, which as far as I know has never been done before (having two chairmen). It’s certainly high time for this group to have a female chair (which they have certainly never had before) but it looks to me like this bunch of macho-men don’t expect a woman to do the job competently all by herself. Perhaps I’m wrong: maybe she is so busy she declined the post unless she had help. However, I find it odd that none of the previous male chairs have ever needed to share the chairman load.
Lastly, as an added bonus to Vongraven admitting that my colleagues and I have been doing a good job in exposing the unsubstantiated hysteria around polar bear predictions of doom, the IcePeople article link to the NPI interview inadvertently led me to their ‘publications’ page (which I had not seen before). There you will find links to papers by NPI researchers and critically, pdf copies for download of many papers that are not otherwise available except by journal subscriptions. A gold mine. Thanks, guys!
Below: The CBC’s ‘The Politics of Polar Bears’ (from 2014), short version (the full length version has disappeared):