Climate Activists are Silent on Polar Bears Because their Doom-Mongering Blew Up in their Faces

From Polar Bear Science

Susan Crockford

Grist article last week pandered to activist polar bear specialists over their failed climate change agenda as it tried to minimize why the climate movement doesn’t talk about polar bears anymore. Apparently, the Arctic icon has “largely fallen out of fashion” through “overexposure” resulting in polar bear images invoking “cynicism and fatigue.” But that isn’t really true, is it?

Midjourney generated polar bears

While there is an admission that the over-hyped lies about starving bears promoted by National Geographic in 2017 and 2018 were a factor, there is no mention in the article of the well-known, documented evidence of scientists’ own failed assumptions that polar bears require summer sea ice for survival have had any impact on public opinion (Amstrup et al. 2007; Crockford 2015, 2019, 2022, 2023; Lippold et al. 2019; Rode et al. 2021).

Thriving populations in the Chukchi Sea and elsewhere amid low summer ice levels have busted the myth that polar bears need ice year-round.

Andrew Derocher was also allowed to repeat, unchallenged, the ridiculous narrative he and his activist supporters have peddled before, that insists the polar bear had become a climate change icon by accident rather than design, a lie I addressed in detail last year. Some excerpts from that 2022 post are copied below.

Excerpts from “Polar bears became global warming icons because biologists promoted a narrative of doom since 1999: it didn’t happen by accident,” originally published 1 September 2022.

The polar bear became an ‘accidental icon’ of climate change“, claims a recent CBC Radio interview with ardent global warming promoter and polar bear catastrophist Andrew Derocher. Derocher’s insistence that the polar bear became a climate change icon “by accident” is historical revisionism. While such a statement may be attractive now that polar bears are not dying in droves as he and his colleagues predicted in 2007, that doesn’t make it true.

In the summer of 1999, polar bear biologist Ian Stirling helped produce a short doomsday film spectacular for the biggest news outlet in Canada at the time, in which he hyped his ‘climate warming’ fears about Hudson Bay polar bears, yet we are expected to believe Derocher that on September 4, 2000, Time Magazine put polar bears on its “Arctic Meltdown” cover because they ‘just happened’ to hear about an academic paper Stirling had written the year before.

Ian Stirling (Derocher’s Ph.D. supervisor) arranged for a team of CBC reporters to accompany himself and colleague Nick Lunn during their tagging of Western Hudson Bay bears. His paper had been just been published in January that year. Perhaps someone from the CBC just happened to be reading that particular scientific journal and saw his paper, or perhaps Stirling just happened to make a phone call and gave them a heads-up, especially when sea ice breakup came earlier than expected that summer.

The ensuing video feature (originally called “The shrinking polar bears of Hudson Bay”, now “Climate change threatens polar bears”, see link below), was shown on CBC television’s nightly news program (The National) on the 23rd of September, and was probably picked up by other news outlets around the world. As I wrote about in 2015, it included Stirling voicing his dire warning that these polar bears would soon disappear if nothing was done about human-caused ‘climate warming’. That was 1999, remember: based only on a just-published academic paper (Stirling et al. 1999) that showed a statistically-insignificant correlation between polar bear survival and sea ice coverage in Western Hudson Bay only, and which did not mention that declines in survival had been happening since the early 1980s without any changes in sea ice (more on that below).

The News Feature: Climate change threatens polar bears” Broadcast date 23 September 1999, Duration 16:40 Disappearing ice in Hudson Bay in 1999 means polar bears can’t build up their fat reserves and nourish their young.

The basis for the Stirling hype and its consequences

What Derocher failed to explain to the CBC Radio host that in the late 1980s and early 1990s, Ian Stirling was struggling to explain why polar bear survival in Western Hudson Bay in the 1980s (especially 1983) had taken such a nose-dive (Derocher 1991; Derocher and Stirling 1992, 1995; Stirling 2002; Stirling and Lunn 1997) or that he and Derocher (his student at the time) embraced climate scientist James Hansen’s notion of human-caused global warming and expeditiously dropped their previous explanation that the population was approaching carrying capacity — even though it fit their observations perfectly. Both researchers had to have known that asking the government for research grants to document this new ‘climate warming’ threat to polar bear survival would be more likely to get funded than a request to study polar bears reaching a peak of abundance (Crockford 2019).

1983 was a worrying year for polar bear biologists working in Western Hudson Bay: this female weighed only 99kg when captured that year. Many others were in similar condition, a phenomenon that hasn’t been seen since, yet sea ice breakup had not been earlier than usual.

Derocher also fails to mention the fact that polar bear specialists so hated the ‘least concern’ Red List classification the bears were given by the IUCN in 1996 after their swift recovery from over-hunting (achieved through international treaty protection) that these science-trained advocates — encouraged by Stirling and egged on by aggressive conservation organizations — worked tirelessly to create an apparent connection between predictions of declining sea ice due to global warming and a possible future threat to polar bear health and survival (Crockford 2019).

By 2006, polar bear biologists got the IUCN classification changed back to ‘vulnerable’ based on predictions of future sea ice loss due to human-caused global warming and by 2008 were successful in having the bears classified as ‘threatened’ on the US Endangered Species List, also based on future threats due to human-caused global warming (Stirling and Derocher 2007). This had never been done for any other animal by either agency and none of it would have been possible without the scientific studies undertaken expressly to support this agenda.

In other words, far from being “accidental”, polar bear specialists (and Ian Stirling in particular) used the fledgling global warming agenda for their own ends: they employed emotionally manipulative narratives about starving and dying animals to boost funding for their field and ensure their job security. Polar bear specialists fed the climate change beast by providing it with an icon, and then sat back to reap the rewards. I have no doubt Ian Stirling knew exactly what the media and climate activists would do with that short documentary for the CBC back in 1999.


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

Castro de la Guardia, L., Myers, P.G., Derocher, A.E., Lunn, N.J., Terwisscha van Scheltinga, A.D. 2017. Sea ice cycle in western Hudson Bay, Canada, from a polar bear perspective. Marine Ecology Progress Series564: 225–233.

Crockford, S.J. 2015. The Arctic Fallacy: Sea Ice Stability and the Polar Bear. Global Warming Policy Foundation Briefing Paper 16. London. Pdf here. Available at

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

Crockford, S.J. 2022. Fallen Icon: Sir David Attenborough and the Walrus Deception. Amazon Digital Services, Victoria. Available in hardcover, paperback and ebook formats and

Crockford, S.J. 2023. Polar Bear Evolution: A Model for How New Species Arise. Amazon Digital Services, Victoria.  Available in hardcover, paperback and ebook formats and

Derocher, A.E. 1991. Population dynamics and ecology of polar bears in western Hudson Bay. Ph.D. Thesis, Univ. Alberta, Edmonton.

Derocher 2005. Population ecology of polar bears at Svalbard, Norway. Population Ecology 47:267-275.

Derocher, A.E. and Stirling, I. 1992. The population dynamics of polar bears in western Hudson Bay. pg. 1150-1159 in D. R. McCullough and R. H. Barrett, eds. Wildlife 2001: Populations. Elsevier Sci. Publ., London, U.K.

Abstract. Reproductive output of polar bears in western Hudson Bay declined through the 1980’s from higher levels in the 1960’s and 1970’s. Age of first reproduction increased slightly and the rate of litter production declined from 0.45 to 0.35 litters/female/year over the study, indicating that the reproductive interval had increased. Recruitment of cubs to autumn decreased from 0.71 to 0.53 cubs/female/year. Cub mortality increased from the early to late 1980’s. Litter size did not show any significant trend or significant annual variation due to an increase in loss of the whole litter. Mean body weights of females with cubs in the spring and autumn declined significantly. Weights of cubs in the spring did not decline, although weights of both female and male cubs declined over the study. The population is approximately 60% female, possibly due to the sex-biased harvest. Although estimates of population size are not available from the whole period over which we have weight and reproductive data, the changes in reproduction, weight, and cub mortality are consistent with the predictions of a density dependent response to increasing population size. [my bold]

Derocher, A.E. and Stirling, I. 1995. Temporal variation in reproduction and body mass of polar bears in western Hudson Bay. Canadian Journal of Zoology 73:1657-1665.

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.

Ramsay, M.A. and Stirling, I. 1988. Reproductive biology and ecology of female polar bears (Ursus maritimus). Journal of Zoology London 214:601-624.

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.

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.

Stirling and Derocher 1993. Possible impacts of climatic warming on polar bears. Arctic 46(3):240-245. Open access

Stirling, I. and Derocher, A.E. 2007. Melting Under Pressure The Wildlife Professional, Fall: 24-27, 43. pdf here.

Stirling, I. and Lunn, N.J. 1997. Environmental fluctuations in arctic marine ecosystems as reflected by variability in reproduction of polar bears and ringed seals. In Ecology of Arctic Environments, Woodin, S.J. and Marquiss, M. (eds), pg. 167-181. Blackwell Science, UK.

For more from Dr. Crockford on Polars Bear

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August 9, 2023 6:13 am

The CAGW scam in a nutshell!

Ben Vorlich
August 9, 2023 6:17 am

Got to feel sorry for Polar Bears and the Arctic. Been replaced on the BBC by Emperor Penguins and the Antarctic sea ice.
Antarctic means opposite of Arctic, which in turn comes from the Greek word ‘arktos’, meaning ‘bear’ – the northern polar region is the sacred land of the polar bear.
So Antarctic. you could say, means No Polar Bears.

Reply to  Ben Vorlich
August 9, 2023 6:41 am

BBC and big Dave love penguins. Unfortunately, they forgetting to inform the public that in reality, more penguins keep turning up….

Reply to  mrbluesky
August 9, 2023 11:17 am

They don’t forget to inform us

A lie by omission is still a lie

Steve Oregon
August 9, 2023 6:37 am

No doubt a younger Greta was shaken and stirred over the threat to polar bears. That farce was probably a big part of her early brainwashing.

Mumbles McGuirck
Reply to  Steve Oregon
August 9, 2023 8:53 am

from last week….

August 9, 2023 6:38 am

Love it! Dr Crockford tells it like is, pulls no punches and hits the climatards right where it hurts….

August 9, 2023 7:18 am

Why do the global-warming scaremongers think polar bears need sea ice to survive?

Just because polar bears can tolerate the extreme cold of an Arctic winter doesn’t mean that they need frozen conditions year-round. Polar bears normally feed on seals during the spring and fish during the summer and early autumn.

If the climate were to become much colder so that the entire Arctic Ocean and Hudson Bay were frozen over year-round, the seals would not be able to reach their current mating areas in the Arctic, and would have to give birth farther south where open water was available near the shore. The polar bears would either have to follow the seals or starve.

Polar bears need a season of open water to survive, whether it’s long or short.

Reply to  SteveZ56
August 9, 2023 3:11 pm

The slight recovery of Arctic sea ice from the extreme high extent of the LIA and 1979 has allowed a lot of sea dwelling creatures, that were prevalent during the MWP, to return to the area.

What’s not to like !

August 9, 2023 7:34 am

Let’s use some common sense thinking here:

There is indisputable evidence that levels of arctic sea ice has ebbed and flowed upwards and downwards over the centuries. Ok, we’ve not had satellite data before 1979, but the qualitative eye witness accounts of the 18th and 19th centuries, along with those of the early 20th, show quite clearly that ice levels can vary significantly from decade to decade.Given such data, it’s really pretty likely that such conditions were also prevalent through most of the interglacial, with ice levels rising and falling on multidecadal to multicentennial beats. That being the case, the fact that the polar bears are still with us does make the hypothesis that polar bears are evolutionarily adapted to varying ice levels pretty easy to posit.

John Hultquist
August 9, 2023 7:36 am

 The photo of the once-upon-a-time 99 kg female being 410 kg is amazing.
I think I knew a . . .
Never mind.

Thanks Susan. Well done.

Dave Fair
Reply to  John Hultquist
August 9, 2023 4:02 pm

Yeah, can you imagine the reaction of the soon-to-be father? But … but … you were soooo hot!

Reply to  Dave Fair
August 9, 2023 4:39 pm

How do you change a fox into a hippopotamus ??

August 9, 2023 7:44 am

The Arctic is being blanked. All attention is on creating alarm in the Antarctic

“”Sea ice in the Antarctic region has fallen to a record low this year as a result of rising global temperatures and there is no quick fix to reverse the damage done, “”

Nature just refuses to play ball

Reply to  strativarius
August 9, 2023 9:41 am

The Antarctic is even farther away, so it suits the purpose better.

Gunga Din
Reply to  strativarius
August 9, 2023 11:01 am

Reminds me of the MSM’s coverage of Al Gore’s “Ozone Hole”.
Ozone needs Sunlight to form so it would naturally thin over whichever pole was experiencing the seasonal “Midnight Sun”.

Reply to  strativarius
August 9, 2023 3:14 pm

There is bio-evidence that there have been plenty of times in the past when Antarctic sea ice was considerably diminished.

No-one was harmed then either.

Time for another “ship of fools” trip ? 😉

August 9, 2023 7:45 am

Back in 1982 Manzur Olson gave us the concept formulation “Institutional Sclerosis”. Mainly this term was based on the free-rider-problem and the logic of collective actions (Consensus).

If you take these concepts formulations a step further you get to rent-seeking behaviour. By doing this it´s hard not to conclude, that this old story about the polar bears as many, many, many, many, others, and many, many, many, more, could be described as “financial-get-on-the-train-sclerosis” just follow the rolebook of IPCC … The Role of the IPCC is to assess information relevant to understanding the Risk of human induced Climate Change.

To get fundings which focus on any benefits of warming is the opposite because presenting benefits would change the wanted superficial degree of divergence in Feynman diagrams, taking this “get-on-the-train-narrative” under consideration, one could “only” blame him self, that he didn´t come up with the idea, that climate changes maybe can cause blindless. There´s funding in this kind of BS that 97, 98, 99 percent of all scientist agress that AGW is the main cause of mere or less everything.

In this “game” you have the big grifters like JK and his “unconvenient” pal Al … and below them people like Ian Stirling and Andrew Derocher and many of the others “how-could-we-find-fundings-if-we-are-not-part-of-the-“gravy”-train-narrative.

My question is, can anyone come up with an idea that wouldn´t sell as potential climate changes in this era of “Global Boiling” that is stupid enough not to fall under the category Breaking News under the reciprocal of climate changes focal lengths.

Reply to  MB1978
August 9, 2023 8:01 am

“Institutional Sclerosis” is frequently accompanied with “Engineering Dyslexia”.
This ensures that funding only goes to complete incompetents.

h/t Eric🍸

Richard Page
Reply to  Brad-DXT
August 9, 2023 10:56 am

Is that anything like the ‘Ideological blindness’ I’ve mentioned at times?

Reply to  Richard Page
August 9, 2023 10:01 pm

Ideological Blindness, I think, means that they can’t see anything that doesn’t fit the narrative while “Engineering Dyslexia” means they have no concept on how things actually work and function in real life.

I stole the phrase from Eric so I have to buy him a drink every time I use it.
🍸 🍸

John Hultquist
Reply to  MB1978
August 9, 2023 12:12 pm

“hardening of the arteries”
This phrase refers to roads, power and sewer systems, parcel boundaries, rights-of-way, and anything similar that makes it difficult to change certain things about places. After a disaster court cases increase as folks work through these issues.

Reply to  John Hultquist
August 9, 2023 1:57 pm

Olsons point with his definition of “Institutional Sclerosis” was the following … That a narrative handled by the same politicians and government agencies year after year would create a situation were it became cheaper and cheaper to lobby speciel intrests, why the risk of lobbying becoming an integral part of the system becomes imminent.

Ask a politician what AGW means, there is a 99,99 percent, that they doesn´t know it, ask them if there is a climate crisis and they will say a big “boiling” yeah, so the term “institutional sclerose” tells us this, that the “headlines” in MSM, by UN and the IPCCs SPMs have become an integral part in the way they adresses the question about AGW´s.

If you told them about Global Cooling and the threats from acid rain which were the headlines in the 70s, they propably haven´t heard about that part of the story either, ask them about the dust-bowl in the 30s and they would propably look at you if you were making things up … the fact is, that what Olson described is long due when it comes to the word imminent the narrative have become an integral part when isolated talking about CC.

Mike Maguire
August 9, 2023 7:54 am

Dr. Crockford,

Thank you for continuing to gift the world with objective, authentic science, despite the attacks on you for not falling in line with the dishonest, mainstream DISinformation campaign.

August 9, 2023 9:03 am

Polar bears are still featured by the World Wildlife Fund to elicit donations, as if they were a threatened animal species.

In the interest of not propagating unwarranted climate alarmism, I won’t provide a linked URL, but under the “Climate” tab on their home page, one finds these words in a text box overlaying a heartwarming photo of a mother polar bear and her cub:
“Changes in climate are altering the timing of life cycles, causing species to shift where they live, and in some cases even leading to extinction. We can help species adapt to our changing world by ensuring that our own responses to climate change factor in the health and wellbeing of the habitat and resources on which they depend.”

Notice the subtle-but-stupid message: climate change leads to species extinction in some cases, but your $ can prevent such by “helping species adapt” to changing climate (whatever the f*** that means).

Reply to  ToldYouSo
August 9, 2023 10:40 am

I do wonder how many gullible folk are still paying out every month to the WWF in response to their ‘sponsor a polar bear to save them from the threat of climate change’ adverts. Haven’t seen that advert for a while.

Reply to  DavsS
August 9, 2023 11:13 am

Many people willingly pay for the enjoyment of virtue signaling, whether just for themselves or to publicize such to others . . . independent of the facts that very often don’t support the basics of the underlying appeal.

IOW, a fool and his money are soon separated.

Steve Case
August 9, 2023 10:37 am

Ted Talks is still telling us the Polar Bears need ice story.

Steve Case
Reply to  Steve Case
August 9, 2023 10:44 am

From the Ted Talk

Polar bears are no more likely to actively hunt and kill people than black bears,

Polar bears are fat, white, hairy canaries in the coal mine, warning us to act now.

Reply to  Steve Case
August 9, 2023 11:40 am

Seems that Ted is one of 10% that didn’t get the memo.

Gunga Din
August 9, 2023 11:05 am

It’s not about polar bears but I think I’ll recycle this old comment.
“When glaciers calve, alarmist have a cow.
That explains all the bellowing!”

August 9, 2023 11:36 am

The stake through their black hearts would be taking the bears off the endangered list altogether but then the problem of over hunting would probably emerge again.

It seems that nowadays when they write about polar bears their theme is that the bears have only survived because they have congregated in places where they can raid dumps. And so the theme is now that climate change has caused the bears to be a greater threat to humans. Never mind that surveys don’t support that claim.

Lee Riffee
August 9, 2023 2:02 pm

Polar bears as a specie have been around for at least a few hundred thousand years. So how on earth do these warmist nutters explain how they made it thru all of the previous warm periods (some much warmer than now) in that time frame?
Surely, if a little increase in warmth and a minor retreat of ice will lead to their demise, then why aren’t they extinct?
Fact is, pretty much all animals that have gone extinct in historical times went extinct due to very obvious reasons. A big one is overhunting/harvesting. A secondary one is destroying said animal or plant’s habitat and/or food sources. Polar bears would have fit into the first reason, but luckily hunting was reduced or stopped in some places.

I remember the WWF used to use the panda and also the tiger as their “poster child” animal for fundraising. Way back when environmental orgs did more (or at least claimed to) than go on and on about “climate change” and ignore real problems. But I guess because those two animals live in tropical and temperate regions (and they are fully protected) they are no longer of use.

August 9, 2023 2:06 pm

We’re talking about Ursus maritimus, right?

Literally, “Sea bear” in Latin?

Edward Katz
August 9, 2023 2:41 pm

As a regular listener to the CBC, I can tell you that it can match any network on earth for over-exaggerating and over-alarming any bit of climate-related information. This is because it gets financing from numerous environmental organizations plus the Liberal Party of Canada with the stipulation that it does so while downplaying anything that refutes these exaggerations. Trying to hear anything from it pointing out how fossil fuels, for example, have benefited the world’s living standards would be as likely as finding polar bears on the streets of Singapore.

Dave Fair
August 9, 2023 3:58 pm

Winners write history. The Leftist alarmists are currently winning. We’ll see in the future who writes climate change history.

August 9, 2023 4:21 pm

Very nice Susan. Alarmists are pure evil, nothing more than power hungry tramps. I know some may say but not all are, some scientists and researchers are good and true and their words and work have been mangled by bad people. That may be true but it is an empty argument for this reason. If their words or work are being mangled then it is their duty/obligation to stand up and say so. I haven’t seen or heard of a single one of them even suggesting that. Therefore they are evil.

Jon Le Sage
August 9, 2023 9:07 pm

The year was 1997 I believe, and I was working at Pump Station #3 on the Trans Alaska Pipeline… Pump 3 is about 100 miles inland from the Arctic ocean.. We had a Polar Bear alert… Polar bears like Muskox, and there was a herd hanging out just north of the pump station.. A bears gota eat…

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