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May 15, 2008

Contentious fact in Polar debate bears scrutiny

Posted: 01:36 PM ET

"What nonsense! Does anybody realize that the polar bear population has increased from 5,000 in 1972 to 25,000 today! To be put on a threatened or endangered list, shouldn’t the numbers be declining???"

This, from blog reader Vince, was a recurring theme among the hundreds of responses to yesterday's decision to list the polar bear as a threatened species under the U.S. Endangered Species Act.

I'd seen this number cited before, but I'd never seen any attribution as to its source. After some web research, conversations with polar bear researchers, and some help from a longtime journalist who specializes in animal/wildlife stories, here's what we could find.

The number has some basis in fact, but is misleading: If polar bears have built in numbers since the 1970's, it probably had a lot more to do with hunting bans than any aspect of global warming.

Polar Bear habitat covers five nations: The U.S. (Alaska), Russia, Canada, Denmark (Greenland), and Norway (the Spitsbergen and Jan Mayen Islands). Those five nations, along with the International Union for the Conservation of Nature, took a stab at guesstimating worldwide polar bear populations in the early 1970's. For example, based on observer reports from Arctic villages, ships, and other sources, U.S. researchers came up with an estimate of 18,000 polar bears throughout the Arctic. The Canadian Wildlife Service set the number at 20,000. The Soviet Union submitted the low bid, estimating a worldwide population of 5,000 animals. In late 1973, the five polar bear nations signed the International Agreement on the Conservation of Polar Bears, and agreed to go with the lower Soviet estimates in order to wrap up a wildlife agreement that was unheard-of during the Cold War years.

Whichever of these estimates may have been closer to the real number is still unclear. It's generally believed that polar bear populations did grow after the treaty was signed - but it had nothing to do with the Arctic climate: The Treaty also set restrictions on trophy hunting for the big bears - outlawing the then-common, controversial practice of hunting polar bears by helicopter. The U.S. had already banned all but some native subsistence hunting the previous year, through the US Marine Mammal Protection Act.

But there's another revealing number from that year: Merritt Clifton, the editor of Animal People , dug through online newspaper archives and discovered this tidbit: Canada was the last Arctic nation to curtail large-scale hunting of polar bears. According to a 1973 United Press International story, Canada's Northwest Territories allowed a quota of 422 bears to be killed that year.

So let's do the math: If the 5,000 number were correct, they authorized the killing of nearly 10% of the world's polar bear population - In just one part of Canada's polar bear habitat, and in just one year. It's very difficult to accept that a global population of only 5,000 could have sustained that rate of loss.

More recent polar bear research suggests that any growth in worldwide population has likely stopped, and that the bears themselves are generally thinner and give birth to fewer young. Here's the key USGS paper on the bears' status in the U.S. part of their habitat. The current estimates for global polar bear population is between 22,000 and 25,000 - numbers too big to risk any immediate extinction. But the overwhelming amount of research on polar bear health and future prospects says they're in for a rough ride in the next fifty years.

One credentialed, dissenting scientist is Dr. Mitchell Taylor, a researcher who did much of his work on behalf of Canada's Nunavut Territory. Taylor has acknowledged that climate change is impacting polar bears, but he does not see a great risk of collapse of the species. The recently-retired Taylor has researched bear populations in the Davis Strait, between Canada and Greenland. Taylor is due to publish his results later in the year, and in newspaper interviews, he has said that bears in the region are healthy in both size and number. Critics point out that Nunavut, Dr. Taylor's longtime employers, have a huge stake in what remains of the legal polar bear trophy-hunting business, estimated to be a $2 million business for impoverished Nunavut communities. Yesterday's US decision to declare the bears as "threatened" will dry up a longstanding loophole: U.S. trophy hunters were barred from killing bears in the U.S. (Alaska), but prior to the ruling, could still obtain permits to hunt polar bears in Canada and import the trophies.

-Peter Dykstra, Executive Producer, CNN Science Tech & Weather

Filed under: Animals • climate change • environment • Polar Bears

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Gene   May 15th, 2008 1:54 pm ET

Peter, this entire subject doesn't belong in the "Science" blog. It belongs in the "Political" blog. It's increasingly obvious that nobody gives a rats patootie about the science, but only about the political mileage to be gained or lost. Same as always.

Brad   May 15th, 2008 2:33 pm ET

Mr. Dykstra I hope in the future you stick to Producing as your defense of junk science is just foolish.

The usual suspects are at it again... Yes, th polar bear population has INCREASED over the last 20 years regardless of hunting bans and "global warming".

People who believe that global warming is dooming the polar bears and our planet need to understand something:

This planet has been around for a LONG time and has gone through MANY climate changes and it will NEVER stay the same.

Humanity needs to adapt and stop doing STUPID things to "save us" from global warming such as protecting thriving species and things like diverting massive amounts of corn crops to make Ethanol which causes food riots in third world nations, is inefficient to produce, and more costly than gasoline (which we defray thanks to RIDICULOUS government subsidies.)

Lets get our collective heads out of our rear ends and THINK about things instead of FEAR MONGERING.

Nunya   May 15th, 2008 2:52 pm ET

One thing that should be obvious to anyone paying attention is that given the Bush administrations bias against taking action of this sort, that the real data and dangers involved must be really severe if it was enough that even they couldn't ignore.

gdog   May 15th, 2008 2:58 pm ET

I love how global warming enthusiasts never note the growing Antarctic ice sheet...or how the Arctic ice sheet has not shrunk in several years. Whatever gets more money in the hands of government, eh?

mikemac1   May 15th, 2008 3:28 pm ET

Why Do We Care If Polar Bears Become Extinct?
This is not any sort of revelation: Polar bears declared a threatened species , but it does raise the question: Why do we care? By some estimates, 90% of all species that once existed are now extinct and new species are always taking their place. For the species that’s going to become extinct, for whatever reason, extinction is the end of it. However, for the species that remain, is the extinction of another species good or bad? When Europeans first colonized North America, there was an estimated five (5) billion Passenger Pigeons alive and well in North America. In 1914, they were extinct. Passenger Pigeons didn’t live in little groups, but huge flocks that required extraordinary quantities of hardwood forests for them to feed, breed and survive. Deforestation to build homes, create farmland and over hunting for cheap food decimated their population. The westward drive to grow the United States in the 1800s and early 1900s was incompatible with the needs of the Passenger Pigeon and they literally could not survive in the new North America being carved out by the U.S. economy. The interesting thing about the Passenger Pigeon was the impact its extinction had on another species—man. That impact was essentially none. Man continued to find ways to feed himself through agriculture and other technologies and the United States and its citizens continued to prosper from the early 20th century till today. Whether or not Polar Bears become extinct because of Global Climate Change or other reasons, we need to address the larger question of: Do we care and why? One of the ways a nation, its citizens and the global community can answer that question is addressed by John A. Warden III in Thinking Strategically About Global Climate Change. He asks some interesting biodiversity questions in his post to include How Many Species Is the Right Number and Which Ones?

Sam   May 15th, 2008 3:36 pm ET

Gene, hate to break it to you but this is indeed science, not politics. Try turning off the rightwing radio and use your head.
Da Captain, 25000 bears over the entire arctic region is hardly reason enough to mean competition over food resources- assuming enough sea ice for them to roam. However, those same 25000 bears clustered in small areas because there is not enough sea ice left for them to migrate IS a problem.

TSXminer   May 15th, 2008 5:07 pm ET

The arctic was once temperate, complete with large deciduous trees. The polar bears managed to survive that quite well. In any event, Solar Cycle 25, which is responsible for the full degree drop in 2007 global temperature (the largest annual change in either direction ever recorded) will ensure that the ice cap will not disappear for the next 60,000 years.

We'll be lucky if a new "Little Ice Age" doesn't wipe out Canadian grain production in the next 50 years. Then we'll sure be regretting the money our leaders committed to "climate change".

Da Captain   May 15th, 2008 6:21 pm ET

I'm not in a position to decide whether or not the entire arctic region is sufficiant to support 25K bears ... don't know if that data is there.

What I can say is the population is as high or higher than ever recorded... at the same time they've appeard to lose some weight and have less offspring... which could indeed be due to less ice... or maybe as I suggested...

Ed   May 15th, 2008 6:22 pm ET

Could you site a source for this claim: "So let’s do the math: If the 5,000 number were correct, they authorized the killing of nearly 10% of the world’s polar bear population — In just one part of Canada’s polar bear habitat, and in just one year. It’s very difficult to accept that a global population of only 5,000 could have sustained that rate of loss."

The resources I could find suggest a reproduction rate as high as nearly 1,500 per year. (2500 females breeding once every 3 years and producing 1.7 offspring each).

ecoliterate   May 15th, 2008 7:10 pm ET

Mikemac: Before the passenger pigeon went extinct, there was a booming and thriving economy based on pigeon pies and pigeon meat. Not only do ecosystems gift man with life itself, ecosystems fuel the "goods" of the financial eco -nomy.

Though ecologically literate and conscious that we are alive because of ecosystems, I have always believed that the extinction of an entire race of living thing is an issue of ethicality. I once wrote a speech for a Clinton cabinet member and used the word, Holy Creation. What gave man the inherent right to destroy what he cannot create?

"Above all we should, in the century since Darwin, have come to know that man, while now captain of the adventuring ship, is hardly the sole object of its quest, and that his prior assumptions to this effect arose from the simple necessity of whistling in the dark...The gadgets of industry bring us more comforts than the pigeons did, but do they add as much to ghe glory of the spring?" The father of ecology

It is all about heart, soul and glory. I would have adored the right to see the "feathered lightning" that sounded like thunder in the heavens as they approached. Never in history were there seven billion birds and they went out like a candle blowing in the wind. Passenger pigeons were as American as hickory trees and eagles and stars and sunsets. All of Europe wanted to see the spectacular event of passenger pigeons crossing America, and I and all the ages will never see the thundering clouds of these birds ever again. "Are all parts of one divine, stupendous whole. Nature is the body, and God is the soul."

Paul   May 15th, 2008 7:35 pm ET

The decision to list polar bears as threatened will not reduce the number of hunting permits issued to the Nunavut. The Canadian government will still allocate the same number of permits. The difference is U.S. hunters will no longer be allowed to bring back a LEGALLY TAKEN bear (under Canadian law) to the U.S. Without American hunters (who make up the vast majority of foreign hunters) the Nunavut will not be able to sell nearly as many hunts and this will in fact deprive them of much needed $. However, the Nunavut will still be allowed to hunt the bears themselves and will do so. Unlike foreign hunters who almost always take large mature males (thus having no impact on reproductive rates) the indigenous hunters are much less selective about the sex of the bears they hunt.

It should also be noted that a good portion of the fees that U.S. hunters paid to hunt polar bears went directly back into supporting polar bear research (e.g. effects of global warming on polar bears) – this source of funds is now gone.

Dan   May 16th, 2008 12:15 am ET

you ask "What gave man the inherent right to destroy what he cannot create?"

well, since you ask, what gives us that "right" (if you want to call it that) is something we share with the whole animal kingdom, which is – "the strong do what they will, the weak do what they must"

It's natural selection, baby, and – except for the rights we humans negotiate between each other – it's the only rule in the book.

We can save polar bears if we need to, (assuming it helps human being to do so – we can't be expected to halt every instance of natural selection, can we?) , but there ought to at least be evidence that they will likely face extinction and not just face a "rough ride in the next fifty years."

As an aside: I think way, way too many people allow themselves get sentimental about cute, furry animals. Its must be because of how animals are portrayed as noble or kindhearted on tv and in movies combined with a life far removed from the brutal realities of the wilderness that makes some folks overly sentimental and irrational.

Tony Castaneda   May 16th, 2008 12:35 am ET

What's important about this phony report is that BOTH sides want to take action without ANY numbers to bear their arguments.

The left says the numbers are phony, and more recent, non-specific studies they don't post, say those numbers are wrong. What a crock.

The right posts numbers that have a history of political manipulation, then says the rise in population denies an endangered setting, which is true. Endangerment actually means endangerment NOW, not in the future, maybe, could be, sure looks like it.

The OLD environment laws set by richard nixon prove their worth.

YOU MUST PROVE the endangerment, not say it's possible, maybe.

YOU MUST DEMONSTRATE that it's man's fault, and not part of normal change, and that there is an EFFECTIVE way to remediate things. Not just a proposed way, a PROVEN method of remediation.

The LEFT doesn't want to wait for proof, the RIGHT doesn't want the endangerment listing to take affect without proof there is an EFFECT.

In my mind, the RIGHT wins. I don't propose fixing what isn't broken.

Prove it's broken. Prove polar bear populations are shrinking. OR, just plain shutup. Please, shutup. Good numbers are everything.

Joe   May 16th, 2008 1:49 am ET

Just a simple point of logic, but if the sea ice were really melting and causing a problem, shouldn't we be seeing muted growth in the population. IOW, the hunting bans let the PB population grow, but the melting sea ice over this same time frame should have killed off the polar bears that aren't being killed by hunters. That's the point of declaring them threatened. Why aren't we seeing an effect on the population from lost sea ice. Also, let's see more than one year out of 25 being used to project that sea ice will disapper in the next 50 years.

donjuan   May 16th, 2008 3:35 am ET

This article is about getting the facts behind a claim. The issue is the claim was incorrect, or rather a typical non sequitur the uneducated masses espouse.

Anyway, those who doubt climate change, know this: The AAAS (American Association for the Advancement of Science) and NAS (National Academy of Sciences) have reviewed all the data, most of which are well beyond us to comprehend, and have come to the opinion that Global Warming (which is really Climate Change) is

– Human caused
– Will be bad
– Has to be mitigated or bad things happen (in effect, mass famine)

These are scientific groups whose reputations decide their level of funding. In other words, they make no money when they are wrong. They know climate science better than any of us here. They also understand the scientific process, whereas almost all of the general populace only thinks they understand it but really don't.

Sure the climate has changed before. Sure mass extinctions have happened before. They were usually triggered by something – volcanic activity, meteors, possibly even a nearby supernova. Climate change has always led to extinctions. This time, all the evidence suggests that humans are the cause. I don't know about you, but I'd rather not experience an extinction event, so I've changed my lifestyle somewhat. It didn't take much, but I can feel it in my wallet. Even more so now with gas being expensive. So much the better I'm easier on the earth now too.

Corwin   May 16th, 2008 8:01 am ET

The point is that you put animals on the 'Threatened' or other lists when they are losing ground (population or habitat-wise). This is not true with the Polar Bear. To place it on the list is wrong.
This article isn't science, it's politics. It's sad that real journalism has been nearly completely taken over by agendas – instead of dealing with facts.

rick   May 16th, 2008 8:05 am ET

Hmm...the Nunavut have the most to lose if the bears are gone. I'm going to listen to their scientists.

And the passenger pigeons are exactly the reason why I can believe that 10% of a species would be allowed to be hunted every year.

Thankfully, we can trust the scientists that the Arctic has never changed temperatures, ever.

lance degnan   May 16th, 2008 9:03 am ET

That's just wonderful that Polar bears are now protected. Now just watch every eco wacko file suit to stop oil drilling in Alaska to "protect the cuddly little bears" . Lets leave Alask to the people that live there.

Charles   May 16th, 2008 9:03 am ET

How many self-centered, living-in-denial morons can you fit on the polar ice cap before it melts? All of them I hope, that way the Polar bears will have something to eat while there numbers continue to dwindle!

Not so Globally Warm   May 16th, 2008 9:20 am ET

I love the way this Polar Bear article is written. It truly makes me laugh and completely depicts the liberal mindset of 'we'll just make this up as we go'. Polar bear population has increased 5-fold, so the liberals need to explain this away because everything that has been talked about global warming wise for the past 10 years will be in question. That would be devistation to the democratic machine.

So here is the spin, Polar Bear population has increased 5-fold due to the ban on hunting but there would likely be more than that if our climate wasn't such a mess due to all the republicans driving their big fancy cars. Oh yeah, and they would be fatter too!

You really have to be kidding me on this one. Where do you people get your information? Nothing the liberals say is based on fact, its all based on emotion and wild guesses that attempt to strike there fear in people. Unless you vote for them of course. Everything will be fine then. Cheap gas, more polar bears, and bright sunny days without global warming.

TO   May 16th, 2008 10:41 am ET

I am confused! Maybe I am just naive in the want for a cleaner more beautiful earth. I do not understand how anyone can question the fact that we are poisoning the planet. We dump sewage and trash into our oceans and all kinds of poisonous emissions into the air.

If "Global Warming" is just a natural cycle or not, do we really need to accelerate the process? I would like to hear any comments disputing this fact.

Like I said, maybe I am missing something and someone can help explain. What is wrong with taking pre-emptive steps to protect the beauty and natural wonder of the planet? Instead of drilling for more oil why don't we look for cleaner more sustainable alternatives (don't get me started on ethanol).

If we can protect a species by not killing them off ourselves, why not? I am completely baffled by this debate. Maybe it is because I do not believe that the earth and its resources are here for our use with out discursion. All of the areas and most of the species we are trying to protect were here long before us – what gives us the right to single-handedly destroy them?

I look forward to your responses and education on this.

Chris   May 16th, 2008 10:59 am ET

Is it really difficult to come to grips with the idea that the polar bears have been listed as threatened because of future projections? Polar bears, for the most part, need polar sea ice in order to hunt. If there is no ice they can't hunt. If they can't hunt then they end up dying out. All projections indicate that polar sea ice is going the way of the Dodo. These projections are being taken *very* seriously by people with a *lot* of money – oil companies, shipping companies, governments, mining companies and more – all of whom are looking to exploit the resources shrinking sea ice will make possible. These are not organizations headed by fuzzy headed liberal do-gooders but head headed business people most interested in maximizing their profits. These people, these pragmatic people, are investing millions of dollars in preparing for the end of polar sea ice.

So, these business people, these bastions of clear headed pragmatic cost-benefit analysis thinking, are betting that polar sea ice is going away. Why? Who cares? However, we know that polar bears require polar sea ice. We know that polar sea ice, as far as some really smart people can figure, is going away. Ergo, its a safe bet that polar bear numbers are going to take a tumble.

Brad   May 16th, 2008 11:22 am ET

"Guesstimating" should not have been used in this article. This word should never be used, and it makes me skeptical of any facts contained within this piece.

marc   May 16th, 2008 11:43 am ET

The real purpose for this action is to prevent oil companies from expanding any drilling and exploration activities in Alaska.

Nunya   May 16th, 2008 1:05 pm ET

Someone taking at face value and defending vehemently a Soviet estimate about polar bears, when that same liberal-hater no doubt in the early 70s would have been screaming at the top of their lungs about how the Soviets couldn't be trusted to tell the truth about anything. (assuming they are that old, of course)

Corwin   May 16th, 2008 1:39 pm ET

Charles, obvoiusly you can't read – Polar Bear numbers are on the increase, not dwindling.

It's one thing to care about the environment and try to do things to help protect it. It's another to make up false stories, false data, and use them to hype an agenda. These tactics take focus away from the real problems.
We have REAL problems – pollution, need for more energy, rising costs for food, rising health care costs. We should focus on real problems that people can agree on rather than make up fake ones that only cause debate and rancor.

Andy   May 16th, 2008 1:59 pm ET

Why be reactionary and only wait for bad things to happen before addressing them. Just because something is a prediction, and therefore HASN'T happened, doesn't mean we shouldn't prepare for it and take steps to ease the effect of it. Our current administration has used the pre-emptive idea (and some truth bending) to get us into a war and on the verge of another, why not with global warming and the environment? Cause there is not as much money in it....that's why.

Mark   May 16th, 2008 2:08 pm ET

First ignoring the 5,000 Soviet estimate, based on the math I learned in 1st grade, 25,000 today is greater than 18,000 to 20,000 in 1972.

That is a 25% to 39% increase.

So although the whole article seems designed first to discredit a statement the author seems to prove the point.

TO   May 16th, 2008 2:30 pm ET

I'll say it again – who cares if global warming is real or not. The fact is we are killing the planet. If the steps we take to stop the death march also keep the planet cooler, then great. I live in South Florida and if the anti-Global Wrming folks are wrong but we do nothing, I am swimming. Try and buy homeowners insurance down here now

Also, what is the benefit to the "goreacle" and all the scientists who claim GM is real. Funding is not a sufficient answer because if they knew they were wrong, why would they want funding to pursue something they do not believe in?

Colin   May 16th, 2008 2:41 pm ET

I misspoke, I meant "threatened" not endangered.

Corwin   May 16th, 2008 3:07 pm ET

TO – Here's my point: People want to spend money, resources, time on REAL issues. You mentioned some real issues, dumping garbage in our oceans, posionsous emmisions, etc.

These are real. Global Warming is an unknown at best.

The reason I care "if global warming is real or not" is because the obvious backlash you are seeing right here. So many people are turned off by this Global Warming "maybe/maybe not" that we've taken our eyes off the real problems and aren't addressing them. People see the whole environmental movement as a kookie idea run by idiots.

We (and I include myself as someone who really cares about our planet) must provide real data – real problems – and real solutions. We don't need half-baked possibilities like Global Warming to get more people to join in – it only provides fodder for those who don't want to protect the environment.

I hope that makes sense.

Stephen Kaufman   May 16th, 2008 3:31 pm ET

I am concerned about gloabal warming but would like to see some serious discussion of earlier periods of natural global warming which occurred during the Pleistocene. These interglacials and interstadials disrupted eco-systems but the assumption is that many/most animal species survived including the polar bear.

The most recent warming following the last glacial episode led to massive waves of extinction the reasons for which are hotly debated. One of the often cited contributory reasons was human impact which raises important questions about current events. Nonetheless, I believe that some comparative approach might yield a more productive discussion.

Nunya   May 16th, 2008 3:46 pm ET

Trust me, the people who latch onto global warming debates as being proof that environmentalists are kooks simply are using that as their justification. They already believe it and look for the factlets on the anti side in order to justify their previously existing bias. And as with anything, if you are willing to look only for corroborating evidence and ignore the full breadth of data available, you can convince yourself of support for just about any kooky viewpoint you care to imagine – whether it is that global warming is bogus or evolution is bogus or the earth is flat or the moon missions were filmed in a studio in southern California...

You can't let the idiots view of you dictate your behavior. You have to provide solid research.

As far as global warming, there is solid data indicating that it is happening and what some effects of it are. Whether it is caused entirely, partially, or not at all by human activity or not is beside the point – the effects will happen. As was pointed out above, it is not just starry-eyed liberals who believe it is happening, it is businessmen spending many millions of dollars to take advantage of the fact that it is happening.

Whether those effects have caused a current decrease in polar bear populations also is beside the point. The reduction in sea ice that is anticipated will cause a decrease in the foreseeable future. It is a hallmark of intelligent people that they take actions to avoid future consequences, not just react to current consequences.

Ian Orwin   May 16th, 2008 4:07 pm ET

What an incredible article. You dismiss what you don't like, which is the available historical information and extoll what you do like, which is questionable computer predictions for 50 years hence. If you are so certain of these arguable predictions please tell me what the weather will be like on June 23rd 2009.

Erwin   May 16th, 2008 4:18 pm ET

Polar bears – around 25,000 (holding steady, declining, increasing, whatever); humans – over 6 billion (with a bullet). Who's going to win? I don't care if you double or halve the polar bear population estimate, the answer is the same. 6 billion people need a lot of food, oil, minerals, whatever, and the north is under used.

When do we reach the bottom of the necessary biological diversity to allow life on earth to continue? OK, so polar bears aren't going to push us off the cliff, so have at 'em.

Consequences if we are overreacting – some people or companies lose some money.

Consequences if we aren't doing enough – everybody dies. Maybe not us, or even our kids, but maybe their grandchildren. I want to leave my daughter with a little more hope than that.

I'm for a little cautiousness here...

Hank Beck   May 16th, 2008 4:22 pm ET

Not just the polar bears, but all animals will eventually be on the threatened list due to irresponsible humans.
I've said it before and will say it again. "The worst thing that ever happened to planet earth was the inception of the human race."
Hank Beck

Nunya   May 16th, 2008 5:13 pm ET

For anyone inclined to disparage environmentalists as caring more about the planet than about people, I think a friend of mine put it best:

"It's not a question of whether the planet is going to survive. It will survive just fine. The question is whether we're going to survive with it."

San Diego Tony   May 16th, 2008 6:49 pm ET

Has anyone ever thought that maybe Al Gore's hot air is really accelarating the melting of the polar ice caps?

drewwater   May 16th, 2008 6:54 pm ET

AMERICANS NEED TO WAKE UP...Because now that congress & enviromentalists have driven gas prices up with ethanol mandates and banning the building of new refineries now they are going after energy companies to make sure that the cost of electric power goes up in the same fashion. THIS 'CRISIS' BROUGHT TO YOU BY CONGRESS.

THINK ABOUT IT...Now when energy companies want to build a power plant or refinery the enviromentalists will sue to stop it under the guise of destroying polar bear habitat! At some point WE are going have to shrink the government back down otherwise America won't be free much longer...

Gene   May 16th, 2008 7:14 pm ET

Hey, Hank Beck. Feel free to remove yourself from the planet.

manacker   May 16th, 2008 7:34 pm ET

“Our current administration has used the pre-emptive idea (and some truth bending) to get us into a war and on the verge of another, why not with global warming and the environment? Cause there is not as much money in it….that’s why.”

Not as much money? The billions of dollars being spent annually to promote the AGW scare are indeed “peanuts” compared to the trillion-dollar cost of the war in Iraq.

But the current AGW spending is just the ante, to get the “big bucks” justified; wait until the trillion dollar carbon taxes and cap and trade schemes kick in.

And BTW, fear in the conjured specter of a “mushroom cloud smoking gun” was used by the politicians to frighten the US public into supporting an unpleasant and costly political agenda (the Iraq war), just as fear in the conjured specter of “6-meter waves swallowing New York City” is being used by another set of politicians to justify another unpleasant and costly political agenda (draconian carbon taxes or cap and trade schemes that will make a few wealthy people richer at the expense of everyone, particularly those at the bottom of the pyramid).

The early 20th Century writer and journalist, H.L. Mencken once observed, “The whole aim of practical politics is to keep the populace alarmed (and hence clamorous to be led to safety) by menacing it with an endless series of hobgoblins, all of them imaginary.”

His observation fits equally well for both of the cited examples.


RealityDude   May 16th, 2008 9:30 pm ET

Huh. So the scientists who study the issue know more about it than a bunch of dung-for-brains right-wing slacker bloggers. Go figure.

DAH   May 17th, 2008 4:03 am ET

I'd be interested to see how the population data was collected in 1972 compared to the technology used now, including accuracy and efficiency differences.

Rick   May 17th, 2008 11:47 am ET

The article stated-

"The number has some basis in fact, but is misleading: If polar bears have built in numbers since the 1970’s, it probably had a lot more to do with hunting bans than any aspect of global warming".

This is the worst kind of journalism, totally devoid of logic. The premise is that global warming is reducing the number of polar bears. If the population of bears is increasing, the logical assumption is NOT that they are increasing because of global warming, which is the 'theory' that this article is trying to refute.

Politics pure and simple.

cj   May 17th, 2008 1:20 pm ET

Dan, are you serious? Natural selection? What is natrual about shooting an animal from a helicopter? What is natural about hunting an animal for sport? Natural Selection, to ME, would be me out on the ice trying to kill this thing because my very existense depended on it, not because I thought his hide looked good on my floor or his head on my wall.

By your train of thought, I guess we, as Americans, should feel no need to help the less fortunate in other countries either, we being the stronger nation and all. Don't get me wrong, I'm no tree hugger nor am I a bleeding heart case. But at some point, I think you have to be concerned about more than just yourself or the things important to you. If everyone shared your mindset, at least the mindset you convey here, we'd eventually exhaust all resourses. What do we do then, turn to cannibalism? Extreme, I know and the sarcasim is intended. But you do get my point, don't you?

Dippy Do   May 17th, 2008 6:31 pm ET

" dung-for-brains right-wing slacker bloggers. Go figure."

Add unoriginal-armchair-self-proclaimed-geniuses and you get it right. Out there defending oil companies and trashing the planet from their basements. Of course, most of these miscreants can't find someone to reproduce with, so they don't have kids to worry about. Not that they would worry IF they managed to spawn. Super NRA Jesus will save them from their own bad habits.

pbview   May 17th, 2008 6:42 pm ET

The lie – co2 drives temperature therefore we can control energy by this lie. Go ask any physics teacher to discuss this issue and you will be amazed at the answer. If you accept the premise you also agree that lung cancer causes smoking. Choosing to be an idiot is one thing, being born one is a different subject.

Joe Lalumia   May 17th, 2008 7:04 pm ET

A population of 25,000 is NOT threatened! -- the "threatened" part is pure political speculation..... and has more to do with stopping new power generation, or any other carbon producing piece of equipment, than saving the polar bears.

Neil Johnson   May 17th, 2008 9:53 pm ET

Polar bears are hardly endangered by climate change.
Otherwise, how do you account for the fact that, as a species,
polar bears have survived past warmer eras when there
was NO polar ice at all?
To a geologist, the definition of an "ice age" is that there are permanent ice caps at the poles.
This means: 1. we are still in the last "ice age" and 2. for 90%
of earth's history there was no "ice age", as the poles were ice free.

Bob   May 18th, 2008 12:14 am ET

Global Warming due to C02 .... If This gas is such a good insulator, why not re-package it and stick it in my walls and ceiling !?

Polar Bears are magnificent animals and hardley threatened any more that any other creature (including humans) on this plant due to climate change.

The Earth rotaes and wobbles on its axis, the sun probably also moves in irregular patterns and runs through activity cycles that cause changes in its energy output.. What does this mean ? Sometimes different parts of our planet receive more or less sun concentrations than others during different times depending upon solar activity and the two stelar bodies positions in relation to each other.

John From North Carolina   May 18th, 2008 1:04 am ET

I think it is rediculous to list a species in no apparent danger based upon speculation regarding a questionable theory of climate warming that has yet to be proved and is in fact opposed by many significant climate scientists.
It is a transparent attempt by envorinmental radicals to continue to limit access to natural resources necessary to the growth and well-being of the US and will have no impact on other nation's actions.
I certainly have nothing against Polar Bears and wish them no ill will, but this is utterly asinine.

Connee   May 18th, 2008 5:25 am ET

It never ceases to amaze me the extent that human beings will go through to remain in denial. Anyone that has any concerns can study this and find that for the first time in the history of the Earth, one species, homo sapien, is driving the planet to the brink of extinction, not for this one species, but for half of the mammals, half of the reptiles, one third of the amphibians, much of the fauna are stressed or dying from pollution, overhunting, etc. I have seen the changes on this earth with my own eyes, changes that are devastating, and, if they come back from this brink, will take at least a hundred years. We as a species are way overpopulated and we are violating the laws of ecology. There is a finite point to our resources and we have run through much of the planet's resources in short order. The polar bear numbers that are estimated by Canadians can be halved and that may be an accurate picture. Canada managed the cod to collapse, they are now slaughtering the harp seals to collapse, they are terrible at "managing" or "estimating "anything.This is an important and very necessary listing, not just for the polar bears, but for all of the wildlife in the Alaskan region. How many animals should there be left for us to say that they are in danger? There needs to be larger populations to keep genetic diversity of any species. All of the numbers that are used to say whether or not an animal is in jeopardy only go back to about 30 years ago......go back 300 and you will learn that these populations have decreased some as much as 90%. Leakey says we are in the Sixth Extinction,and, that is caused by human activities....I am going to trust his expertise and experience and that of the majority of my colleagues that are not being paid by some special interest group. This is a doomsday prediction and, as we are seeing in the world change, even as I write, they are not far off those predictions. Look back to 2004 National Geographic predicted Katrina with stunning accuracy. We have to change now our habits of consumption and even more, our atitudes towards all of life. The United States, the biggest offender of consumption, the number one country for extinction, can begin with the polar bear.

Catskiller   May 18th, 2008 5:54 am ET

Glad I got my Bear imported when I did. Looks good next to the Fox

Gene   May 18th, 2008 8:54 am ET

And of course the real cause of Global Warming ( and therefore the Great Polar Bear die-off ) is all you lard-butts out there eating too much and causing cars, planes, buses, etc. to use more gas to haul your fat rears around –

Somehow I doubt that this will encourage Al Gore to go on a diet.

Gene   May 18th, 2008 9:04 am ET

And yet another scientific study to drive you even crazier – Now we need to worry about "Reactive Nitrogen": .

James   May 18th, 2008 1:13 pm ET

One thing that I always like about these articles is the knee jerk reaction that seems to be taking place. See ice is dissappearing, so that must mean polar bears are dying so lets do something about it. By the way has anyone seen the last two seasons of deadliest catch? If I am not mistaken wasn't the sea ice worse than they had ever seen it?

One thing people don't understand is that Global Warming has never caused a catastrophe in our history. If you look at the historical records in relationship with known warming periods, you only see prosperity in human's life. It is when the climate shifts in the opposite direction when there is a catastrophe. If you look at all major historical human die offs it always relates directly to the cooling of the planet.

One final thought, there are a number of postings where people seem to be defering to the smart people on this issue. I noticed a post where the person inferred that we will never understand the science because it is too complicated. This is absolute CRAP. As Albert Einstein once said, "If the solution doesn't support the facts, change the facts", and it seems like a lot of fact changing has been going on lately.

Janice   May 18th, 2008 1:58 pm ET

In looking at all of these blogs, I get a sense that most people are living by the old saying "Ignorance is Bliss". How can one look at all the weather changes and announcements of large ice shelves falling off the glaciers and the shrinking of the Artic ice, and not realize that they, in their own small way, have a contribution to this. If we become desensitized to the loss of animals, and we take an "I don't care attitude", I think that just shows how undeserving we are of having charge over the planet Earth. Mother nature may just decide she wants to change the management. I personally don't want to see that happen. I do what I can, I recycle, bike when I can, watch my electricity consumption, and cheer when positive actions, such as puting the Polar Bears on the endagered species list occurs!

biodog   May 18th, 2008 6:07 pm ET

mikemac1, using your perverse logic one could also ask the question "why should we care if the Blue whale goes extinct." I am sure that I am casting pearls before swine to try to explain the dangers of the loss of biodiversity and the tragedy that the extinction of creatures such as the Polar bear and Blue whale would be. Bottom line, it should not be all about the selfish, excessive, greedy and self centered pursuits of man and keeping your fat ass fat and in a big SUV.

Be straight, you don't really believe that hack science political agenda driven link you provided, do you?

Aussie Jane   May 18th, 2008 7:33 pm ET

Why don't we try to save the polar bears instead of arguing about global warming? Nothing the U.S. can do about global warming as long as Americans are so small minded and care only about themselves. It's time to look for real solutions to save the polar bear. A list is not going to fix the problem. Finding them a food source or new home is.

lr   May 19th, 2008 2:15 am ET

All you global warming people (yes it is warming, but not because of mankind) are going to feel SO foolish in a few years when all your theories are proven to be false. Heck there are enough "experts" now that are screaming "that's not true" but this global warming hysteria seems to not be stopped just yet. Well, when you see the ultimate goal, that of making MONEY and eugenics then maybe you will wake up.

Ted   May 19th, 2008 4:24 am ET

George Carlin has it figured out best. He has one of his rants on Youtube. Check it out. The earth looks after itself. We're the ones that are in trouble with our obsession with money, power, and ourselves.

Franko   May 19th, 2008 6:01 am ET

"I love how global warming enthusiasts never note the growing Antarctic ice sheet"

If more heat is radiated from the North, there is less heat left for the South.
Mother Nature is telling the drowning Polar Bears to swim South.
It is a long swim, and they will need help.

Who are we to argue with Mother Earth ?

Gene   May 19th, 2008 8:33 am ET

For all you folks who buy into the "Anthropogenic Global Warming, people are the problem" agenda, I invite you to read this list of 31,000 degreed scientists who think otherwise. Please take the time to read [i]All[/i] of the information on this site before you go ballistic and claim they are all liars, etc. or paid off by "Big Oil". .

Then rethink what your hero Al Gore and the NPCC have said about the "science being settled".

TommyO   May 19th, 2008 9:16 am ET

Ah yes, global warming still. Al Gore is sooooo right. Why just this morning in West Michigan and we shook the frost off the plants I was thinking about how much hotter it is now. Oh wait, we had a record snowfall and cold season that is still hanging around to Memorial day. Well, at least he won a peace prize for .... what did he do to foster world peace????????

Randy Avera   May 19th, 2008 3:02 pm ET

Peter. Perhaps the Polar Bear were camouflaged with the snow, or perhaps under water at the time of the Bear Count.:-)

Robert   May 20th, 2008 12:38 am ET

Tommy0 and this I know is an interesting one and something many people fail to understand and rightly so. The Odd thing to many about Global warming is the effects like the cooler than normal weather that you are not alone in seeing are indeed a side effect. Without going into a great deal of detail it has to do with the effects the higher temperatures over all have on weather around the world. In this case namely the airflow being disrupted. Now to anyone who doubts man is to blame heres something to try. build a sealed booth with a sun lamp at the top. Pipe in the emissions from you cars exhaust. (Note make sure you have an oxygen supply if you do this) Now spend a few hours inside this sealed box make sure your in a climate controlled space so the outside air stays about the same temp. Before long guess what your going to get hotter and hotter.

Now the earth is more or less a sealed booth but its huge so you might think so what the planet is bigger than that little booth. But then you have to think theres billions of cars on this planet alone not counting other sources. And the planet which has been having shifts of its own from natural sources has a limited ability to cope with increasing levels of co2 our additions have been slowly overwhelming those natural co2 scrubbers. Now they are reaching the limits of what they can handle so its only going to get worse.

There are many things we can do we can reduce emissions at the same time we now have the technology to create man made carbon sinks we need to do that and reduce our footprint.

As for natural selection get over it. Theres not a damn thing natural about an internal combustion engine.

Slats   May 20th, 2008 11:50 am ET

How about this little tidbit Peter. "Polar bears are among the few large carnivores that are still found in roughly their original habitat and range, and in some places in roughly their natural numbers. The general status of polar bears is currently stable, though there are differences between the populations. Some are stable, some seem to be increasing, and some are decreasing due to various pressures". Source: World Wildlilfe Federation- Species Factsheet.

Before the first bear has officially been declared dead due to global warming, climate change, loss of sea ice, etc, etc, we now declare them “threatened”. When a legitimate source is cited that disagrees with you i.e. Dr. Mitchell Taylor, you don’t refute in any logical way you attack the messenger to sully his motives. Critics point out that this certainly must be a leftover from your days as the Greenpeace media coordinator. Notice how I just made your argument look specious in the last sentence, kind of like you did to the Dr. Nice try. I agree with Gene, move it to the political blog.

Franko   May 20th, 2008 12:38 pm ET

Robert: Your climate laboratory does not predict reality.
All the cars and coal plants in China did not raise global temperature
The opposite happened ! Look at ocean levels and temperatures. .

Forest fires. Internal or external combustion, Steam or Diesel locomotives.
Not to worry, Just a part of the Natural Carbon Cycle.

Chris from Alaska   May 20th, 2008 1:47 pm ET

What I find odd about this entire debate is how scientists have ignored the damage they themselves are causing to the Arctic ice pack north of Siberia and Alaska. Do any of you readers know that 2007 was a record summer for exploration of the Arctic Ocean?
Between icebreaker working for Russia's oil and gas industry, Canadian, and work performed by the USGS on the icebreaker USS Healy, a record number of nautical miles of the Arctic Ice pack were smashed. The polar bear's major enemy is not natural ice melt but the work of exploration crews smashing the ice and opening huge channels behind the ships. The scientists are causing this disaster due to their incessant need to sail back and for studying the ocean floor, atmosphere, and seas ice. If you want to save the polar bear and the ice back, ban the use of ice breakers throughout the Arctic for a couple of years and then once the pack ice thick again, tightly regulate the amount of ice broken up by the scientific ice breakers.
If you want some proof, take a look at the 2007 logs of the ice breakers supporting Russian, US, and Canada scientists and the photos of the breakup of the ice pack. You will notice incredible relationships that can no longer be ignored.
It’s not global warming destroying the Arctic, just scientists displaying the Heisenberg uncertainty principle on a global scale.

Brent   May 20th, 2008 2:00 pm ET

Peter, I have to applaud you for being the first person to ever write a science related article that actually addressed sources of information. Hopefully you will wrangle in all the other writers at CNN and set an example for the science writing/journalism sector and do this in the future. But please be consistent and do this for the global warming advocates and dissidents alike. There are plenty of hysterical statements that argue for immediate action on global warming, although well intentioned, that do not have citations.

DrToxic   May 20th, 2008 7:04 pm ET

To all you right wingers that would rather think with your wallet or your rifle rather than with the 3 pounds of neurons and glia that God gave you, Al Gore did not invent global warming as you like to always imply.
Rather, global warming is a consequence of the greenhouse phenomenon which is dictated by physics (which Al Gore did not invent either). So the real question is not if global warming is real, because it is. The real question is if we as a species are contributing to global warming. The best science we as humans can produce says yes we are contributing to it (read the IPCC's report). If you can read that report (the entire report and not just the Fox News, or Heartland Institute or American Enterprise Institute for Policy Research spin...ooops I mean summaries) and then come back and in good conscience and with good scientific evidence to refute the report, then we should continue this discussion. But in the meantime, the best science says we should do something about it. So lets do something and stop sitting around and politicizing this issue.

Robert   May 20th, 2008 10:52 pm ET

Well Franko considering overall world temperature is on the rise and ocean levels growing ever so slowly but the growth is both there and accelerating. Take a look at the rise in storm activity in and around gulf cost states for example and guess what fuels those storms.

Augustas   May 21st, 2008 12:23 am ET

We are getting off the beaten path. Are polar bears in danger? NO!
I read a story today about the usual crew now demanding action be taken on global warming because the polar bear is labeled as endangered!
This is a scam for a group of people to get money. It was transparent when they were lobbying and suing to get the polar bears listed and now its even more so as they try to get that money now that they are listed.
Gene at the top of this posting is right, this should be in the political blogs or the fleecing of america show. This has nothing to do with science or protecting animals.
Kosif I do not need to be face to face with a polar bear to know some scammer is ripping the american people off.

Franko   May 21st, 2008 2:48 am ET

"DNA that could be useful a few decades down the road for our grandkids."

Al Goracle has this already figured out:
Google for the ManBearPig

"ocean levels growing ever so slowly but the growth is both there and accelerating"
A few weeks ago I looked at this chart on ocean levels. It showed 5 months down, now it is revised up. It is seasonally adjusted (so the actual numbers, you would have to download, and chart it)
The red line is the Lancosz ideal low pass filter.

Another source says oceans cooling.
Slight cooling only. The oceans are like a flywheel, a phase lagging low pass filter, with a memory.

"guess what fuels those storms."
Convection and radiation are proportional to fourth power of temperature. So a localized hotspot could have exaggerated effect, and not the globally averaged ?

Da Captian   May 21st, 2008 11:29 am ET

We have had no where near the stoms that beat the gulf coasts in the 20's and 30's.... easy enough to look up on almost any hurricane website.

If I had to guess what the end of humans might be it would be a "12 Monkeys" type thing as opposed to a "Day after Tomorrow" outcome.

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