15 years after ESA listing as ‘threatened’ due to sea ice loss polar bears are abundant & thriving

From Polar Bear Science

Susan Crockford

Experts who used the American Endangered Species Act (ESA) to list polar bears as ‘threatened’ in May 2008 were mistaken: sea ice authorities got their predictions wrong about future ice extent and polar bear specialists erroneously declared that two-thirds of polar bears would disappear if summer sea ice declines continued unabated.

By 2007, there was even less summer sea ice than computer models of the day had predicted (Stroeve et al. 2007, see red line on graph below) and in 2012, it dropped to just above 3 mkm2.

Updated sea ice predictions published in 2014 by the Stroeve team (see below) went to the other extreme, using totally implausible RCP 8.5 scenarios to predict a virtually ice-free Arctic (< 1 mkm2 ice extent) before 2040, which seem just as likely to be just as wrong as their 2007 attempt (Hausfather and Peters 2020; Pielke and Ritchie 2021; Stroeve et al. 2007, 2014; Swart et al. 2015).

In fact, for 12 years out of the last 15, summer ice extent has been below 5.0 mkm2 (often well below), which polar bear experts had not anticipated would happen until at least 2050 (Amstrup et al. 2006).

In 2012, NOAA sea ice experts summarized this sea ice loss as “reduced by nearly 50%” since 1979:

Despite this dramatic decline in sea ice, polar bears are still abundant and thriving because polar bear specialists got it wrong about the bears’ need for this habitat in summer (Crockford 2017, 2019; Crockford and Geist 2018). Polar bear turned out to be more flexible and resilient than predicted and many subpopulations are better off than before. Davis Strait and Chukchi Sea bears are doing very well: Barents Sea bears in particular are thriving despite by far the most sea ice loss of any Arctic region (e.g. Conn et al. 2021; Frey et al. 2022; Haavik 2022; Lippold et al. 2019; Peacock et al. 2013; Regehr et al. 2018; Rode et al. 2014, 2018, 2021, 2022).

This was not what had been predicted when the bears were listed as ‘threatened’ in 2008.

Conclusion: Despite the Arctic warming four times as fast as the rest of the world with rising CO2 levels and almost 50% less summer ice than there was in 1979, polar bears are no closer to extinction than they were 15 years ago, according to the results of field studies. There is no existential emergency for polar bears or any other Arctic sea mammals due to declining summer sea ice, despite continued messages of doom from remorseless experts.


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

Conn, P.B., Chernook, V.I., Moreland, E.E., et al. 2021. Aerial survey estimates of polar bears and their tracks in the Chukchi Sea. PLoS ONE 16(5): e0251130. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0251130

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

Crockford, S.J. and Geist, V. 2018. Conservation Fiasco. Range Magazine, Winter 2017/2018, pg. 26-27. Pdf here.

Frey, K.E., Comiso, J.C., Cooper, L.W., et al. 2022. Arctic Ocean primary productivity: the response of marine algae to climate warming and sea ice decline. 2022 NOAA Arctic Report Cardhttps://doi.org/10.25923/0je1-te61

Haavik, E. 2022. ‘Svalbard’s polar bears persist as sea ice melts — but not forever. The World, 21 July.

Hausfather, Z. and Peters, G.P. 2020. Emissions – the ‘business as usual’ story is misleading [“Stop using the worst-case scenario for climate warming as the most likely outcome — more-realistic baselines make for better policy”]. Nature 577: 618-620. https://www.nature.com/articles/d41586-020-00177-3

Lippold, A., Bourgeon, S., Aars, J., et al. 2019. Temporal trends of persistent organic pollutants in Barents Sea polar bears (Ursus maritimus) in relation to changes in feeding habits and body condition. Environmental Science and Technology 53(2):984-995.

Pielke, R., and Ritchie, J. 2021. How climate scenarios lost touch with reality. Issues in Science and Technology 37(4): 74-83. https://issues.org/climate-change-scenarios-lost-touch-reality-pielke-ritchie/

Pielke Jr, R., and Ritchie, J. 2021. Distorting the view of our climate future: The misuse and abuse of climate pathways and scenarios. Energy Research & Social Science72: 101890. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S2214629620304655

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 Supplementary data here.

Rode, K.D., Regehr, E.V., Douglas, D., et al. 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., Olson, J., Eggett, D., et al. 2018. Den phenology and reproductive success of polar bears in a changing climate. Journal of Mammalogy 99(1):16-26. here.

Rode, K. D., Regehr, E.V., Bromaghin, J. F., et al. 2021. Seal body condition and atmospheric circulation patterns influence polar bear body condition, recruitment, and feeding ecology in the Chukchi Sea. Global Change Biology 27:2684–2701. https://doi.org/10.1111/gcb.15572

Rode, K.D., Douglas, D.C., Atwood, T.C., et al. 2022. Observed and forecasted changes in land use by polar bears in the Beaufort and Chukchi Seas, 1985-2040. Global Ecology and Conservation 40: e02319. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.gecco.2022.e02319

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

Stroeve, J.C., Markus, T., Boisert, L., et al. 2014. Changes in Arctic melt season and implications for sea ice loss. Geophysical Research Letters 10.1002/2013GL058951. https://agupubs.onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/full/10.1002/2013GL058951

Swart, N.C., Fyfe, J.C., Hawkins, E. et al. 2015. Influence of internal variability on Arctic sea ice trends. Nature Climate Change 5:86-89.

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Tom Halla
March 26, 2023 6:23 am

It would appear that the critical thing for polar bears is enough spring ice for seals to whelp on. If the seals actually need ice, is another matter.

Reply to  Tom Halla
March 26, 2023 8:42 am

White bear skins will be fashionable again in 2030s.

Joseph Zorzin
Reply to  Tom Halla
March 26, 2023 10:07 am

good question about seals- anyone know? I doubt any species needs ice- I bet with some warming in the arctic, the seal population will grow

Steve Keohane
Reply to  Joseph Zorzin
March 26, 2023 10:32 am

I agree. If low ice is really a problem, how did the bears fare 6000ya when the oceans were 6′ lower? All the hand-wringing over melting ice seems to be about ice that did not exist 6000ya, e.g. what buried Otzi back then?

Reply to  Tom Halla
March 26, 2023 10:44 am

“Breeding and Raising Young: Seals require ice for breeding and raising their young. They give birth to their young on the ice, and the ice provides a stable platform for the pups to rest, nurse, and learn essential skills like swimming and diving.
Hauling Out: Seals need to haul out of the water to rest, digest food, and regulate their body temperature. Ice floes provide a place for seals to rest, especially when the water is too cold or too deep for them to comfortably haul out.
Access to Food: Seals feed on fish and other marine animals that also depend on the ice. The ice creates a habitat for these prey species, and the seals can use the ice as a platform to hunt from.
Protection from Predators: Ice provides a barrier between seals and their predators, such as polar bears and killer whales. Seals can retreat to the ice to escape predators or use it to hide while hunting.”
Ignore this bit
“However, climate change is affecting the amount and quality of sea ice available to seals, which could have significant consequences for their survival and the health of their ecosystems.”
“especially when the water is too cold” is also questionable statement.”

The above is from ChatGPT” which ‘correctly’ identified solar activity as important component of the global climate change multidecadal oscillation. Read more about it here:

Last edited 2 months ago by vuk
Tom Halla
Reply to  vuk
March 26, 2023 12:28 pm

I saw the elephant seals at Ano Nuevo beach in California. The water is fairly cold, but no ice.

Reply to  Tom Halla
March 26, 2023 1:26 pm

Nearest thing I saw was at the Santa Cruz warf, but I think they may have been sea lions.

Reply to  vuk
March 27, 2023 1:51 pm

How do fish depend on the ice? Ice on top of a body of water tends to shut out the oxygen supply from the air, and lack of sunlight (either due to ice cover or the polar night of winter) prevents phytoplankton from growing, which can be the food source for small fish.

During the winter, when nearly the entire Arctic is ice-covered, fish would move south to find open, oxygenated water and food. They would only enter the Arctic when there is enough open water, and their predators would follow them.

March 26, 2023 6:53 am

Most climate scientists washed up by 2050

I look forward to that.

Reply to  strativarius
March 26, 2023 7:19 am

I saw Mark Serreze the other day. He looked like he had aged 5-10 years in just the past 2.

Reply to  Scissor
March 27, 2023 7:58 am

Constant lying and deceiving tends to rot the soul.

Reply to  strativarius
March 26, 2023 8:38 am

Climate change makes him age exponentially

Last edited 2 months ago by vuk
Reply to  vuk
March 26, 2023 12:32 pm

Is that the famous hockey stick?

Joseph Zorzin
Reply to  strativarius
March 26, 2023 10:07 am

in their old age they’ll probably deny they were alarmists

Reply to  Joseph Zorzin
March 26, 2023 12:42 pm

It is what leftist-marxists do.

Coeur de Lion
March 26, 2023 7:24 am

Autumn Equinox ice ha been above 4Mkm2 for fourteen of the last sixteen years. Relax

Lee Riffee
March 26, 2023 7:50 am

I’d love to know how these so-called “scientists” think that polar bears survived the Medieval warm period, the Roman warm period and other times in history (and prehistory) where the global temperature was as warm and even much warmer than now. Polar bears have been around as long (if not longer than our species) and have seen all sorts of temperature variations, the waxing and waning of glaciers, and other calamities and yet they are still here.

Reply to  Lee Riffee
March 26, 2023 7:55 am

“…these so-called “scientists”  believe that – true to the hockey schtick – it has never been warmer than it is today; despite the evidence to the contrary. That’s an article of [blind] faith in my book.

NB The post-modern biologist/ecologist etc believes nature cannot cope without the help of humans. It can neither adapt, nor evolve.

Last edited 2 months ago by strativarius
Reply to  Lee Riffee
March 26, 2023 9:02 am

When Al Gore was born, there were only 5,000 polar bears.

Now, due to the ravages of Global Warming, only 26,000 polar bears remain!

Walter Sobchak
March 26, 2023 8:29 am

“Polar bear turned out to be more flexible and resilient than predicted and many subpopulations are better off than before.”

They are bears, man. They can and will eat anything. The love to eat seals. But, here is the thing, seals have to come up for air. When that happens, the bea4rs can catch them and eat them.

Reply to  Walter Sobchak
March 26, 2023 8:55 am

Animals are not stupid. Quite a few humans are.

Last edited 2 months ago by strativarius
Reply to  Walter Sobchak
April 7, 2023 2:11 pm

Polar bears hunt seals by waiting at holes in the ice for the seals to come up for air – when there’s so much ice, that this is the only place they can find the seals. If there’s less ice, so the bears can just swim around and look for seals, is their hunting going to go better and worse? Or will they just bypass the seals and hunt oily fish instead?

Andy Pattullo
March 26, 2023 10:20 am

Supposedly educated humans once mocked lemmings for their falsely reported (by same humans) tendency to commit mass suicide. Seems the shoe has been on the other foot for a very long time. Bears and the rest of the natural world are thriving, adapting and going about making the most of whatever opportunities come their way, while the elites of human society spend every breath trying to find a way to sabotage their own success for no other reason than imagined future ghosts and demons.

Reply to  Andy Pattullo
March 27, 2023 5:35 am

Aren’t Brown Bears just Polar Bears with a tan?

Reply to  Yooper
March 27, 2023 8:01 am

They can hybridize, so have to be closely related.

Reply to  Yooper
April 7, 2023 2:19 pm

There are small differences in genetics and metabolism with wide differences in behavior – but different behavior can be learned. If the food is on land, I think a Polar Bear is intelligent enough to learn a new way of hunting. Considering how many glaciation cycles these two species have survived, I can’t see how both could have survived unless they are capable of easily flipping between sea predators and land predators.

March 26, 2023 12:11 pm

Warmer is better. End of story leftist-marxist pukes.

March 26, 2023 12:31 pm

15 years after ESA listing as ‘threatened’ due to sea ice loss

Although to be accurate, my recollection is that the sea ice loss wasn’t real, only predicted.

Reply to  Hivemind
March 26, 2023 1:17 pm

Yep. Lower than 1979 but still about where it was in 2008.

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AGW is Not Science
March 27, 2023 4:10 am

Replace “experts” with “activists.”

People that out of touch with reality don’t deserve to be referred to as “experts.”

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