Polar bear walking onshore along the coast of Hudson Bay near Churchill, Manitoba, autumn 2012. No sea ice in sight

Polar bear walking along the coast of Hudson Bay near Churchill, Manitoba, autumn 2012. No sea ice in sight
Photo Credit: A.E. Derocher- Univ. Alberta

Climate change and polar bears: deniers de-bunked

Polar bears populations are declining because of climate change; polar bear populations are doing just fine and can adapt.

Who’s right?

A new scientifica analysis shows a wide gap between actual facts, and opinions expressed on social media.

The report begins, “Increasing surface temperatures, Arctic sea-ice loss, and other evidence of anthropogenic global warming (AGW) are acknowledged by every major scientific organization in the world”, and then goes on to say that deniers use social media, i.e, blogs, to spread doubt and confusion.

In the middle are polar bears which have come to symbolize climate change.

The study was published in the journal, Bio Science, under the title “Internet Blogs, Polar Bears, and Climate-Change Denial by Proxy (available here)

An polar bear specialist found bears in the Beaufort sea were forced to swm much farther to find sea ice, resulting in a hgher cost in the animal’s energy reserves.
A polar bear specialist found bears in the Beaufort sea were forced to swm much farther to find sea ice, resulting in a hgher cost in the animal’s energy reserves. © Andrew Durocher- University of Alberta

The study says that climate denial involves a complex web of blogs, Facebook, twitter, and a variety of corporate interests, conservative foundations and think tanks.

Lead author of the report is NIOO-KNAW researcher Jeff Harvey (Netherlands Institute of Ecology) and co-authored by an international group of respected scientists.

Harvey, quoted by the science website Phys.Org, said, We found a major gap between the facts from scientific literature and the science-based blogs on the one hand, and the opinions aired in climate change-denying blogs on the other,” says Harvey. “It’s a very dangerous gap, as these blogs are read by millions.”

Polar bears eating bird eggs. Without sea ice to hunt seals, in desperation bears will forage in bird colonies and can literally destory an entire colony
Polar bears eating bird eggs. Without sea ice to hunt seals, in desperation bears will forage in bird colonies and can literally destory an entire colony © Courtesy Steve Marson)

The group compared 90 climate change blogs and 92 scientific papers on the subject.

They found the blogs often used name calling, and questioning scientists credibility and deliberately take statements out of context, and tend to simply quote other denier blogs and sources.

In Phys.Org Harvey says, “And 80 percent relied on one blog in particular, whose author, had neither conducted any original research nor published any articles in the peer-reviewed literature on polar bears”.

The comment referred to Susan Crockford, an adjunct professor in the Deparment of anthropology at the University of Victoria in British Columbia.

She has written articles for the “Science and Public Policy Institute”, a known climate-change denial organization, and associations with other denial organisations like the Heartland Institute in the U.S.

Scientists have long said, while some of the approximately 19 populations of polar bears throughout the circumpolar region are stable, others are in decline. They also point out that as ice continues to melt through climate change, the stable populations will be seriously compromised in the relatively near future.

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3 comments on “Climate change and polar bears: deniers de-bunked
  1. Dennis Compayre says:

    There is no doubt mother earth is hurting and we need to ease her burden. The polar bear has been chosen as leverage to convince the population to do something about it. Fair enough. Both sides of the climate debate are guilty of leading the public towards specific agendas and both are guilty of information misdirection and halftruths. Peer reviewed papers mean nothing when the organizations who release this information to the public tweak them to further their cause…good or bad. The truth lives in facts and unfortunately if facts get in the way of an agenda they are either left out or given in a leading context. And don’t think for one minute each side doesn’t bow down to a certain degree to their benefactors. Polar Bears International, the worlds leading organization that claims to be champions of the polar bear, had listed BP as their platinum corporate donor so all dance with the devil. In the end the truth is that we need to act now in stopping the decay of our planet. In our hearts we know what has to be done so ignore this brawl and start the healing NOW.

  2. Bob Deakin says:

    Quote from Judith Curry “This is absolutely the stupidest paper I have ever seen published” Says it all.

  3. Peter Ashcroft says:

    Polar bear adaptability may take time, and this can differ in different part of the changing Arctic environment.