January 01, 2007

Ursus Maritimus Delinda Est - NOT!

Ursus Maritimus, the great white Polar Bear is in danger of becoming, not extinct, except to the degree that any species anywhere (including man perhaps) is in danger of becoming extinct. But the Polar Bear is is becoming another symbol. A symbol of the left's attempt to make global warming a dread catastrophe.

The polar bear is an off-shoot of the famous brown bear, the grizzly (Ursus Arctos) along with other Brown bears probably share a common ancestor until about 20,000 years ago. This can be discerned from changes in the molars of the polar bear. It should also be noted that the polar bear can mate with the brown bear (and has) indicating that the polar variety is probably a subspecies of the brown bear.

A little less than two years ago this was reported:

A leading Canadian authority on polar bears, Mitch Taylor, said: "We’re seeing an increase in bears that’s really unprecedented, and in places where we’re seeing a decrease in the population it’s from hunting, not from climate change."

Mr Taylor estimates that during the past decade, the Canadian polar bear population has increased by 25 per cent - from 12,000 to 15,000 bears.

He even suggests that global warming could actually be good for the bears, and warns that the ever-increasing proximity of the animals to local communities could mean that a cull will be required sooner rather that later if bear numbers are to be kept under control.

In another article, published just 6 months later the claim is there is a serious decline due to "global warming"

So, since February of '05, the big fuzzy white bear has gone from a 25% increase to "nearing extinction?" Balderdash.

But really, lets take a look at what the reality is. The reality is that there are a number of differing populations of polar bears. One may decline, others increase. One article noted above indicates a decline in the "condition" of momma bears in the Hudson Bay area while a side article notes that "increased ice" in the Baffin Bay area has threatened narwhals who need holes in the ice to breathe.

The U.S. has indeed indicated that it wants to put polar bears on the endangered list, but is this good science, or more hysteria? Lets look at the numbers:

Estimates of the size of the population of polar bears in the Chukchi Sea are lacking, but the catch per unit of effort during research tagging there may suggest an increase, as do observations and kills by coastal residents. Uspenski and Belikov (1991) believe there are more bears in the Chukchi Sea now than in the past despite the absence of a reliable population estimate.

Thus, the good news of apparent increases in numbers is accompanied by increased challenges for management. Those challenges can only be met by a better understanding of the dynamics of the polar bear's ecosystem. In the Chukchi Sea, there is a pressing need for development of new methods for determining numbers and trends. This need appears more urgent in view of the likelihood that the ban on polar bear hunting in Russia, in effect since 1956, will be lifted. The bounds of optimum sustainable population levels are not known in the Beaufort or Chukchi seas, and interactions between polar bears and their prey and polar bears and sea ice, which establish these levels, are not understood. If managers are to keep polar bear numbers at optimum sustainable population levels in the face of increased harvests and other local and global perturbations, they will need more accurate and precise population estimates and an understanding of the ecosystem forces that limit polar bear population size.

A 2005 estimate was that there were between 20,000 and 25,000 polar bears in all populations.

In a closed meeting here late last month, 40 members of the polar bear specialist group of the World Conservation Union concluded that the imposing white carnivores -- the world's largest bear -- should now be classified as a "vulnerable" species based on a likely 30 percent decline in their worldwide population over the next 35 to 50 years. There are now 20,000 to 25,000 polar bears across the Arctic.
And since these stocks are fertile with other brown bears, the chance of full extinction is slim.

There are other voices however and one wonders why the emphasis on this animal rather than others. One explanation:

Polar bears are cute. Just ask the marketing executives at Coca-Cola which used animated polar bears to hawk their wares in recent years. Bears, pandas, lions and elephants are "charismatic megafauna" -- meaning basically cute animals that people care about. If you want to sell a product, or a cause, just tie it to one of these animals and you've got the attention of millions of people; kids and adults alike.

Thus, environmental alarmists have made much of research claiming the Arctic's great white bear faces extinction from human-caused global warming. Snails, snakes and spiders withering in the sun just don't pack the same emotional punch as a cuddly, furry polar bear slipping beneath the melting ice.

In the same article, we find indications that the picture is much less bleak than the global warming enthusiasts would have you believe:
Fortunately, a new study by David Legates, director of the University of Delaware's Center for Climatic Research, throws cold water on the claim global warming threatens polar bears survival.

Mr. Legates critiques the Arctic Climate Impact Assessment that proclaimed Arctic air temperature trends strongly indicate global warming, causing polar ice caps and glaciers to melt. However, Mr. Legates says, the Assessment ignored data that undermine these claims.

For example, coastal stations in Greenland are cooling and average summer air temperatures at the summit of the Greenland Ice Sheet have decreased by 4 degrees Fahrenheit per decade since measurements began in 1987. In addition, records from Russian coastal stations show the extent and thickness of sea ice has varied greatly over 60- to 80-year periods during the last 125 years. Moreover, the maximum air temperature they report for the 20th century was in 1938, when it was nearly four-tenths of a degree Fahrenheit warmer than the air temperature in 2000.

Ice core data from Baffin Island and sea core sediments from the Chukchi Sea also show that even if there is warming, it has occurred before. In Alaska, the onset of a climatic shift -- a warming -- in 1976-1977 ended the multidecade cold trend in the mid-20th century returning temperatures to those of the early 20th century.

In addition, a study commissioned by Canada's Fisheries and Oceans Department examined the relationship between air temperature and sea ice coverage, concluding, "the possible impact of global warming appears to play a minor role in changes to Arctic sea ice."

The above referenced article concludes:

Interestingly, the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) has also written on the threats posed to polar bears from global warming. But, their own data on polar bear populations contradict claims that rising air temperatures are causing a decline in polar bear populations.

According to the WWF there are some 22,000 polar bears in about 20 distinct populations worldwide. Only two bear populations -- accounting for about 16.4 percent of the total -- are decreasing, and they are in areas where air temperatures have actually fallen, such as the Baffin Bay region. By contrast, another two populations -- about 13.6 percent of the total number -- are growing and they live in areas were air temperatures have risen, near the Bering Strait and the Chukchi Sea.

As for the rest, 10 populations -- comprising about 45.4 percent of the total -- are stable, and the status of the remaining six is unknown. Conclusion: based on the available evidence there is little reason to believe the current warming trend will lead to extinction of polar bears.

These bears have survived for thousands of years, during both colder and warmer periods, and their populations are by and large in good shape. Polar bears may face many threats, but global warming is not primary among them. Global warming alarmists are like the wizard of Oz, asking the public fear the spectacle, but not to pull back the curtain and unmask them for the charlatans they are.

So, Ursus Maritimus Delinda Est? I think not, but then I'm a global warming skeptic. The true believers will use the polar bear issue to the hilt, not because it is true, but because cute cuddly white bears have a definate anthropomorphic quality and the charlatans aren't above pulling on heart strings to get your attention. Fear tactics only work when the populace isn't aware that that is the method being used.

UPDATE: One of our commenters who calls himself GW (but is really Mark York incognitio) typically likes to point out that "government" scientists, in particular "BUSH GOVERNMENT SCIENTISTS" (you do note the sarcasm here don't you yorkie?) upholding his claims of a major catastrophe two weeks from when ever he says it will happen. (snark) Well, here is a "Government Scientist" from Canada that flat out desputes Yorkie:

Dr. Mitchell Taylor
Polar Bear Biologist,
Department of the Environment,
Government of Nunavut , Igloolik , Nunavut , Canada

May 1, 2006
Tim Flannery is one of Australia 's best-known scientists and authors. That doesn't mean what he says is correct or accurate. That was clearly demonstrated when he recently ventured into the subject of climate change and polar bears. Climate change is threatening to drive polar bears into extinction within 25 years, according to Flannery. That is a startling conclusion and certainly is a surprising revelation to the polar bear researchers who work here and to the people who live here. We really had no idea.

The evidence for climate change effects on polar bears described by Flannery is incorrect. He says polar bears typically gave birth to triplets, but now they usually have just one cub. That is wrong.

All research and traditional knowledge shows that triplets, though they do occur, are very infrequent and are by no means typical. Polar bears generally have two cubs — sometimes three and sometimes one. He says the bears' weaning time has risen to 18 months from 12. That is wrong. The weaning period has not changed. Polar bears worldwide have a three-year reproduction cycle, except for one part of Hudson Bay for a period in the mid-1980s when the cycle was shorter.

One polar bear population (western Hudson Bay ) has declined since the 1980s and the reproductive success of females in that area seems to have decreased. We are not certain why, but it appears that ecological conditions in the mid-1980s were exceptionally good.

Climate change is having an effect on the west Hudson population of polar bears, but really, there is no need to panic. Of the 13 populations of polar bears in Canada , 11 are stable or increasing in number. They are not going extinct, or even appear to be affected at present.

It is noteworthy that the neighbouring population of southern Hudson Bay does not appear to have declined, and another southern population ( Davis Strait ) may actually be over-abundant.

I understand that people who do not live in the north generally have difficulty grasping the concept of too many polar bears in an area. People who live here have a pretty good grasp of what that is like to have too many polar bears around.

This complexity is why so many people find the truth less entertaining than a good story. It is entirely appropriate to be concerned about climate change, but it is just silly to predict the demise of polar bears in 25 years based on media-assisted hysteria.

Dr. Mitchell Taylor

Posted by GM Roper at January 1, 2007 12:00 AM | TrackBack

An excellent and well sourced and researched article GM.

I just read about the polar bears and was confused- because I recall hearing on the news not too long ago about how well the species is doing IN SPITE of global warming.

I question a lot of the "science" that is being reported on these days, sadly. It used to be - the scientific method of research was unquestionable. Now, it is not. It's gotten too political to be an honest and unbiased source.

Posted by Raven at January 1, 2007 09:45 AM

Well, then you can tell the UFWS that during the comment priod if you have the guts, which I don't think you do. Do you know where to go to do it? If not I'll show you. The listing is on growing trends and future predictions and fully says the animals haven't declined as a whole yet. Only indications in that direction. Ice is key. They live on ice and in the last few years have moved their dens from the ice onto land in Alaska. source: USGS Amstrup 2005. I haven't read your piece, but I suspect the same logical flaws I see here regularly. You're blind.

Posted by GW at January 1, 2007 10:00 AM

GW: "I haven't read your piece, but I suspect the same logical flaws I see here regularly. You're blind."

I haven't read your piece? WTH (What the Heck for those of you who don't know that I seldom cuss) Logical flaws? You mean like your prejudices, blindness to facts etc.?

Posted by GM Roper at January 1, 2007 10:09 AM

Global warming will help polar bears? Tee hee! Some expert. They hunt seals on iceflows. No ice no hunt, so it's all year at the Kaktovik dump I guess. I suspect another biased source who doesn't work for the Canadian government and for a good reason: he couldn't pass the job interview and doesn't have a wildlife degree. Gee neither do you. I see a trend. As scientists we go where the facts lead. Others can't see the path through the denial and obsfucation. Laymen really are dumb if this is the evidence.

Show me where the polar bears are all congregating on the summit of Greenland and we'll talk. Until then it's just another propagnada dispatch from wingerville.

Posted by GW at January 1, 2007 10:14 AM

"According to the Arctic Assessment the threat to polar bears is threefold: changes in rainfall or snowfall amounts or patterns could affect the ability of bears primary prey species (seals) to successfully reproduce; decreased sea ice could result in greater number of polar bears drowning or living more on land, negatively affecting their diet by forcing them to use their fat stores prior to hibernation; and unusual warm spells could cause the collapse of winter dens or force more bears into less desirable den areas."

From the same "opinion" piece. Not a scientific opinion either but Pete du Pont's Dallas winger thinktank. They're behind all of these naysayer op-ed's. Why don't the Bush federal agencies agree? This is propaganda by business propagandists.

Posted by GW at January 1, 2007 10:23 AM

Care for the most recent Polar Bear report?

Amstrup 2006

"When Hudson Bay is ice-free, polar bears remain on land where they make little use of terrestrial food sources. In the past 30 years rising temperatures have increased the duration of the ice-free period and the polar bear's seasonal fast by more than two weeks. Although the resulting nutritional stress has been correlated with downward trends in body condition and recruitment, this study was the first to provide evidence of a population-level effect of climatic warming on polar bearsWhen Hudson Bay is ice-free, polar bears remain on land where they make little use of terrestrial food sources. In the past 30 years rising temperatures have increased the duration of the ice-free period and the polar bear's seasonal fast by more than two weeks. Although the resulting nutritional stress has been correlated with downward trends in body condition and recruitment, this study was the first to provide evidence of a population-level effect of climatic warming on polar bears."

That doesn't sound like the conclusion you claim to debunk with your "opinion" sources.

Posted by GW at January 1, 2007 11:25 AM

GW (AKA Yorkie) you call yourself a scientist, which is of course stretching the truth considerably, what you are is a technician, and not likely a very good one. Amstrup said also:

The WH population is forced ashore earlier, in poorer nutritional condition, and remains food-deprived for a longer time. As polar bears exhaust their fat reserves toward the end of the ice-free period, they are more likely to encroach upon human settlements in search of alternative food sources to sustain themselves until freeze-up. Thus, the increase in polar bear-human interactions in western Hudson Bay probably reflects an increase in nutritionally-stressed polar bears searching for food," [emphasis added]
so your Amstrup quote "where they make little use of terrestrial food sources" is contradicted within the same report. Too, the Amstrup 2006 report (if you would be so good as to read it carefully - something you have shown little inclination to do, you will find that the stresses Amstrup is talking about is occuring in the Western Hudson Bay, only one population out of roughly twenty such. Too, did you not read of an increase in ice in Baffin Bay, Bering Strait and the Chukchi Sea? Note that Amstrup used the word "probably" which I underscored above, that means that he isn't sure, that he doesn't "know" as yet. He may be right, he may not be.

You know Yorkie, trying to pass yourself off as a scientist is really funny. You have an undergrad degree in biology (lately obtained) along with a degree in journalism, you post on your own blog as "the Wisdom and Punditry of Mark A. York" when you obviously don't have a plug nickle's worth of original thinking in you. Your narcissism is reflected in your comment to Peter on another thread on your blog "The book has the same plot as Crichton's only my characters find the right conclusion. I admit the letter failed as they often seem to." Of course they do Yorkie, you thinking is muddled, incoherent and rambling. You depend on others for your ideas, your science and your editorial opinions. For that is all they are Yorkie... now, grow up, post under your own name if you have the guts to be less than snarky (note please dear Yorkie, I don't demand this of others, because they are generally "reasonable" even when they disagree with me, as many do, a lot).

If you refuse, then I'll have no desire to, but will, ban you once again.

Posted by GM Roper at January 1, 2007 01:04 PM

Yorkie, AKA Marky: You prove to me how people of the liberal mindset fall for every cry of every notable article about global warming. Lock, stock and barrel- you believe everything and don't question. This is exactly what a true scientist doesn't do. It's called critical thinking. Scientists ask questions. They look at data. They look at numbers and they remain skeptical...it's these traits of this community that made it so trustworthy. People knew the research had been done and correctly.

Now, people like YOU, who misrepresent the true and ethical scientists- ruin that trust. Now it's difficult to find a non-politically grounded report. Thanks Marky.

Posted by Raven at January 1, 2007 03:46 PM

"upholding his claims of a major catastrophe two weeks from when ever he says it will happen."

I'ved never said this and neither has Al Gore. No one claimed 25 years either. Nor will one find this in the new listing. They claimed future decline and last year we have documented declined linked to warming as I posted in the last link if its's still there. I'll give you credit for this much though, you all parrot the the same fallacy: We said it would happen next week. Never said it pardner, but this lie serves you well. It's a lie nonetheless.

Posted by GW at January 1, 2007 07:28 PM

Amazing how the facts just keep marching in my direction and away from yours. Nah not really.

Posted by GW at January 1, 2007 07:39 PM

Yorkie, when you learn to recognize sarcasm, you might be on the road to wisdom. Though seeing your writing, watching your posts here as York, as Publius, and as GW, let alone any other aliases, I suspect you will never get past the first milestone.

Oh, and yorkie, I suspect that Dr. Taylor would disagree with you. Why don't you write him and call him a wingnut etc?

Posted by GM Roper at January 1, 2007 07:59 PM

The claim of "hysteria" is common yet no one is saying these things. No one said 25 years and they're done. You say in humor but you really think it. Falsely so. Taylor refers to the nuisanse bear problem. Well this will only get worse with less ice. You have them with Your problem is political bias. You beleive anything that remotely confirms any part of it. As I said straight from the opinion talking points pages. He's right about the complexity, and taking this into account says your fallacous either/or gotcha BS is exactly that.

I suspect this one is in the William Gray camp: unable to accept the consensus for possibly political reasons of his own, but then he really isn't saying "No" to the latest listing proposal either is he? In fact I will ask him. I've been known to do actual interviews before I pop off at the mouth unlike some. You see what you want and will never be published beyond this blog.

Posted by GW at January 2, 2007 07:19 AM

Yikes! Did this article really state that one way to stave off extinction would be cross breeding with black bears???

Posted by jim hitchcock at January 2, 2007 06:57 PM

Whoops. Make that brown bears...

Posted by jim hitchcock at January 2, 2007 07:09 PM

Jim, you read correctly, and that is because the Polar Bear is a subspecies of the Brown. In nature, the PB and Brown (of which the Grizzly or Ursus Arctos is one) have interbred... Kissing cousins as it were.

Posted by GM Roper at January 2, 2007 07:37 PM

Joe, liberals only want to spend other people's money, so I presume that either you're not honest about paying off the bet or that you get your money from a relative. That's like using the money from industry and taxpayers to pay for your unproven claim and cause that mankind is primarily responsible for warming.

I left your comment to show the degree of derangement that comes from the Left and how everything ultimately refers to Iraq, which is a cause for the Left that has no concern for the lives of soldiers but only as a political tool. Please refer to the post above titled "Is Everything About Iraq?," for which your comment is a good example.

Posted by Woody at January 7, 2007 10:04 AM

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