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Right Hooks

New Study Debunks Polar Bear Scare

Canadian researchers can't find cataclysmic evidence of polar bears' demise.

Jordan Candler · Mar. 28, 2016

If past predictions are any indication, enough ice should have melted by now as a result of anthropogenic global warming to threaten the existence of polar bears. That’s not to say Arctic sea ice is doing exceedingly well or even that it’s near average. For the record, ice extent appears to have registered a new record low this winter, though any alarm is dampened by the fact El Niño and an overall warm Pacific ocean contributed to more heat across the globe, and likely significantly so. On the flip side, it’s true also that the Arctic has not experienced the death spiral that was predicted by so many. That goes for both ice and polar bears. A new study conducted by scientists at Lakehead University in Canada should help alleviate any concerns we might have that polar bears are nearing extinction.

The authors write, “[W]e suggest that the current status of Canadian polar bear subpopulations in 2013 was 12 stable/increasing and one declining (Kane Basin). We do not find support for the perspective that polar bears within or shared with Canada are currently in any sort of climate crisis.” They continue: “We show that much of the scientific evidence indicating that some polar bear subpopulations are declining due to climate change-mediated sea ice reductions is likely flawed by poor mark–recapture (M-R) sampling and that the complex analysis models employed to overcome these capture issues apparently fail to provide accurate estimates of the demographic parameters used to determine subpopulation status.”

These findings are more or less in line with other studies, including one by Dr. Susan Crockford of the Global Warming Policy Foundation. Last year she wrote, “On almost every measure, things are looking good for polar bears. Scientists are finding that they are well distributed throughout their range and adapting well to changes in sea ice. Health indicators are good and they are benefiting from abundant prey.” Moreover, other estimates show that the polar bear population has increased significantly over the years and now sits in the tens of thousands, perhaps as high as 30,000.

Paradoxically, alarmists may be looking at the situation totally backwards — and again we turn to Crockford for explanation. As The Daily Caller’s Michael Bastasch writes, “Shrinking Arctic sea ice may not be the real threat to polar bears. Veteran zoologist Susan Crockford argues that thick spring ice is a bigger problem for polar bears than sparse summer ice.” Crockford says, “Thick spring ice near shore drives seals to give birth elsewhere because they cannot maintain their breathing holes in the ice. This leaves mothers emerging from onshore dens with newborn cubs with nothing to eat at a time when they desperately need food: cubs die quickly, mothers more slowly.”

We conclude by noting the Lakehead University researchers aren’t what we would label climate “deniers.” In the report, they write, “We see reason for concern, but find no reliable evidence to support the contention that polar bears are currently experiencing a climate crisis. We suggest that the qualitative projections for dramatic reductions in population numbers and range are overly pessimistic given the response of polar bears, climate, and sea ice to the present.” In other words, they’re demonstrating an objective approach to the scientific evidence. And that’s something the entire climate community should emulate.

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