How is widespread use of helicopters to study polar bears defensible in a warming world?

From Polar Bear Science

Dr. Susan Crockford

If all of us should be doing “everything possible” to stop climate change, why is it still OK–15 years after polar bears were declared threatened with extinction because of predicted climate change effects–for researchers across the Arctic to use helicopters to study polar bears? Aircraft that consume massive amounts of aviation fuel and engine oils, otherwise known as ‘fossil fuels.’

Money quote: “…the lifeblood of most polar bear research is jet fuel needed by helicopters.” (Derocher 2012:107).

From Hudson Bay and the High Arctic in Canada, the Beaufort Sea off Alaska, to Svalbard in Norway (above, from 2015), polar bear research is impossible without helicopters powered by fossil fuels. This has been true since the 1980s (e.g. Ramsy and Stirling 1988). And this doesn’t even take into account the fossil fuel-powered fixed wing aircraft needed in some locations, commercial airline flights that transport personnel and equipment to distant locations, or the Tundra buggies used in Churchill (Western Hudson Bay) to get up close to bears and educate indoctrinate the tourists.

USFWS in the Beaufort Sea 2001, Amstrup photo.

If there is such an indisputable correlation between human-caused CO2 and sea ice decline that the total collapse of polar bear populations can be predicted with certainty (Molnár et al. 2020), why bother with these energy-intensive studies? If researchers are so sure what will befall polar bears under a “business as usual” approach to CO2, how can they possibly justify the ‘greenhouse gas’ emissions their own work adds to the problem?

Western Hudson Bay research 2023, Derocher photo.

Why not leave the polar bears to their inevitable fate and engage in some other form of research that doesn’t contribute so dramatically to the damage they insist is being done?

Is it possible polar bear biologists know in their hearts, because of their own data, that the damage being done is not as bad as they claim?

Or is it that they consider their work to be so much more important than anyone else’s job that their contribution to the climate change problem should be discounted?

Funny how journalists never ask these kinds of questions. Governments around the world are planning to ban gasoline powered cars, which millions of people depend upon to get to their jobs but no one, it seems, talks about the hypocrisy in Arctic research.

USFWS Beaufort/Chukchi Sea 2009, Rode photo


Derocher, A.E. 2012. Polar Bears: A Complete Guide to their Biology and Behavior. Photographs by Wayne Lynch, in association with Polar Bears International. Johns Hopkins University Press. [see my review here]

Molnár, P.K., Bitz, C.M., Holland, M.M., et al. 2020. Fasting season length sets temporal limits for global polar bear persistence. Nature Climate Change.

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Tom Halla
May 19, 2023 6:03 am

Use dog sleds! Pulled by vegan dogs!

Reply to  Tom Halla
May 19, 2023 11:24 pm

Use dog sleds! Pulled by vegans dogs!

Dr. Bob
May 19, 2023 6:11 am

PBLM! Polar Bear Lives Matter! Don’t fly to study the polar bears, bring the polar bear to the scientist and study them that way. Much easier on the polar bear as it won’t be chased by a helicopter and shot with a dart gun. Where is the MSM when polar bears are victims of environmental racism by everyone that uses fossil fuels. Ooops, that IS everyone!
Polar Bears must be included in every companies’ ESG program so that they get the justice they deserve.

Reply to  Dr. Bob
May 19, 2023 7:12 am

They would make great security guards if you could get them to stay at the front desk or gate. I have a feeling they would wonder around and eat staff in addition to visitors, however.

Reply to  Scissor
May 19, 2023 8:34 am
Last edited 13 days ago by MarkW
Reply to  MarkW
May 19, 2023 10:18 am

Imagine Michael Mann as a polar bear.

Ron Long
May 19, 2023 6:14 am

Dr. Susan is right to call out the hypocrisy of fossil fuel consumption to check on polar bear, the poster child of the CAGW Loonies. However, the amount of fossil fuel, utilized by helicopters, in inspecting, servicing, and repairing the giant wind turbines, is an enormous number, and calls into doubt the Net Zero idea. Amazing how Reality Checks keep piling up.

Reply to  Ron Long
May 19, 2023 1:12 pm

And that is disregarding the panic caused in walruses by Attenborough’s television crew!

J Boles
May 19, 2023 6:21 am

OH! but the little peasants need to go without so that the high and mighty climate elite can have more jet fuel for their research, to study the bears so they can tell the little people not to use fossil fuels. It is a circular road.

John Oliver
May 19, 2023 6:21 am

The real reason is one we know and they know. The research is a cover and excuse to get paid and expenses covered to do an adventure job. I say “ get a real job”

Steve Case
Reply to  John Oliver
May 19, 2023 8:05 am


Reply to  Steve Case
May 19, 2023 1:13 pm

One day that will surely be removed from the family photo album!

May 19, 2023 6:22 am

One thing that bugs me is tagging. Tell me this collar is comfortable…

comment image

Last edited 13 days ago by strativarius
John Oliver
Reply to  strativarius
May 19, 2023 6:27 am

perhaps we should tag collar or track the researchers

Reply to  John Oliver
May 19, 2023 6:30 am

Not a bad idea. I’d certainly back it.

Len Werner
May 19, 2023 6:25 am

I’ve never met an environmentalist who didn’t fervently feel that everything they were doing was noble, necessary, and justified,,,,and if there was still a problem, they wanted laws to control me.

Reply to  Len Werner
May 19, 2023 6:41 am

“”who didn’t fervently feel that””

They know better than everybody else

More Soylent Green!
May 19, 2023 6:26 am

If I could make a living pointing out the hypocrisy, illogical and inconsistent behavior of human being I would be a trazillionaire. And I would never run out of material, either.

Look, you’re on the team or you aren’t. If you’re on the team, you have different rules. Simple as that. We live in a post-accountability world. There has always been a class of people who lived by different rules — people power, money, nobility, fame, etc., etc., live differently and by different rules.

In the past, the social justice activists, the muckrakers, the troublemakers all worked tirelessly to expose this corruption. But now these people give a free pass to anyone who talks the talk. Just donate to the right causes, says the correct things and you get a free pass.

Reply to  More Soylent Green!
May 19, 2023 8:33 am

Agree. Used to be virtue was important. Now virtue-signaling will do just fine, thank you very much.

Btw, virtue is to virtue-signaling what data from real world measurement is to “data” from computer models.

May 19, 2023 6:29 am

Hypocracy is the life blood of the green blob, and they are unrepentant about it. There is no greater example than Justin Trudeau.

Joseph Zorzin
May 19, 2023 7:08 am

It should be required of these researchers to use only electric powered ‘copters. 🙂

Reply to  Joseph Zorzin
May 19, 2023 1:16 pm

with no recharing facilities!

Steve Case
May 19, 2023 7:18 am

 “Governments around the world are planning to ban gasoline powered cars…” 

Ordinary people i.e., those of us who aren’t climate policy wonks, need to understand that they really mean it.

May 19, 2023 7:30 am

Hypocrisy is the life blood of modern climate science alarmists.

John Hultquist
May 19, 2023 9:00 am

This is an interesting “shout-out”, but I’ll suggest the studies provide useful information about the bears. Because I am not concerned about CO2, the discordant thing is the hypocrisy.
Even this hypocrisy is not as concerning as that of the filthy rich that have yachts as large as a naval destroyer.

Mr Ed
May 19, 2023 9:25 am

Some polar bear climate change alarmism porn—>

The enviros reintroduced the wolf and now we have packs of
–coy-wolves — but don’t tell them that.

Smart Rock
Reply to  Mr Ed
May 19, 2023 11:10 am

The barren-land grizzlies and the west Hudson Bay polar bears have overlapping territories, without any contribution from the sea ice that disappeared in 2013. Or was it 2014?

And if they can interbreed, doesn’t that mean they are the same species, just a different colour (not unlike homo sapiens).

Typical alarmist misinformation. Nice photography though.

Smart Rock
May 19, 2023 10:50 am

Slightly off topic, but a related story.

I’ve had helicopter pilots telling me about biologists studying caribou, and landing helicopters right next to a herd of caribou in the calving season, new-borns trying to run away, mothers with half-born babies hanging out. A right old mess.

But if we (in the mineral exploration business) use a helicopter, we are ordered to stay away from caribou herds, and if have to fly over a herd, not to drop below 1,000 feet.

But it’s OK, because their work is soooo much more important than exploring for critical metals.

May 20, 2023 6:01 am

About 355 days out of 365, anybody north of latitude 40 will agree that if the forecast for tomorrow is one degree warmer, the weather is getting nicer….but somehow….

Last edited 12 days ago by DMacKenzie
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