Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Polar Bear Facts

One of the "facts" reported in the soon to be released movie Climate Hustle is that the polar bear population has increased from 5,000 in 1960 to 25,000 in recent counts.  This certainly came as a surprise to hear this comment.  It is certainly not the message that we have been hearing and seeing on the popular media.  Since we have tried to be careful not to swallow so-called facts from either side of the Climate Change debate, we decided to do a little quick research.  Our first stop was Polar Bear International.  What did they say?
One of the most frequent myths we hear about polar bears is that their numbers are increasing and have, in fact, more than doubled over the past thirty years. Tales about how many polar bears there used to be (with claims as low as 5,000 in the 1960s) are undocumented, but cited over and over again. Yet no one I know can come up with a legitimate source for these numbers.*
Nevertheless, the organization concedes no matter how poor the early counts were, polar bear populations have been increasing.  But, they plead to ignore this evidence and follow the unsubstantiated opinion.
But the most important point is that whatever happened in the past is really irrelevant. Polar bear habitat is disappearing due to global warming. Even the most careful on-the-ground management doesn't matter if polar bears don't have the required habitat.  
Next we decided to check the Canadian Geographic Organization
Consider Mitch Taylor’s story. He spent more than two decades as a polar bear researcher and manager for the Nunavut government and has published around 50 peer-reviewed papers. That should garner widespread respect. But Taylor has been highly vocal about his belief that polar bears are mostly doing fine, that cub mortality varies from year to year and that the much ballyhooed predictions of extinction by 2050 are “a joke.” He also alleges that a lot of the “exaggerated decline” is just a way to keep certain scientists well funded and to transfer control of the polar bear issue from territorial to federal hands. In response, Taylor’s critics disinvited him from meetings of polar bear specialists that he’d been attending since 1978. They also like to point out that he’s a signatory of the Manhattan Declaration, which questions the very existence of climate change. But amidst all the heated charges and countercharges, it’s hard to argue the fact that few people know polar bears the way Taylor does. And while it might be inconvenient for current political posturing, there’s no denying that certain subpopulations of polar bears are managing to survive, even thrive. 

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