In May this year, Palin, as Governor of Alaska, said she would sue the federal Government for labelling polar bears as officially threatened. She argued that giving special protection to polar bear habitats would cripple oil and gas development off Alaska’s northern and northwestern coasts. She also said there was not enough evidence to support the listing of polar bears.
That’s what she said, but she appears to have been lying. The Anchorage Daily News reported:
The state’s marine mammal scientists agreed last year with federal researchers who concluded polar bears are threatened with extinction because of a shrinking ice cap.
A newly released e-mail from last fall shows that the state’s own biologists were at odds with the Palin administration, which has consistently opposed any new federal protections for polar bears under the Endangered Species Act.
The state’s in-house dispute seems to refute later statements by Gov. Sarah Palin that a “comprehensive review” of the federal science by state wildlife officials found no reason to support an endangered-species listing for the northern bears. The governor invoked the state’s own scientific work both in a cover letter to the state’s official polar bear comments, and in an opinion piece published in the New York Times.
Since Alaska’s own biologists agrred with the federal researchers, Palin instead cited a paper whose authors included Willie Soon, Sally Baliunas, David Legates and Tim Ball. Ed Pilkington has more details on that paper.
But lets look at how O’Neill and the Australian misrepresent the science. Polar bears live on the Arctic ice and global warming is melting that ice. Even the Bush administration’s EPA was forced to conclude that this meant that polar bears were endangered:
We find, based
upon the best available scientific and
commercial information, that polar bear
habitat — principally sea ice — is
declining throughout the species’ range,
that this decline is expected to continue
for the foreseeable future, and that this
loss threatens the species throughout all
of its range. Therefore, we find that the
polar bear is likely to become an
endangered species within the
foreseeable future throughout all of its
As we’ve come to expect from Brendan O’Neill and the Australian, these facts are deliberately kept out of his piece. Instead we get some carefully cherry-picked evidence:
In 2001, the World Conservation Union found that of 20 polar bear populations, one or possibly two were in decline, while more than half were stable and two sub-populations were increasing. Its more recent study in 2006 found a somewhat less rosy picture, but it wasn’t that bad: of 19 polar bear populations, five were declining, five were stable and two were increasing (there wasn’t enough data to judge the fortunes of the remaining seven populations). The global population has increased from about 5000 in the 1960s to 25,000 today.
If you look at EPA report, you can see what O’Neill left out in order to hide the trends in bear populations
two polar bear populations are
designated as increasing (Viscount
Melville Sound and M’Clintock
Channel-both were severely reduced in
the past and are recovering under
conservative harvest limits);
And taking a swipe at Gore is almost compulsory in these pieces:
Today’s widespread polar bear concern is shot through with myth and misinformation. One of the nine scientific errors found in Al Gore’s horror film An Inconvenient Truth, following a case brought in the British High Court last year, concerned his claims about polar bears. Gore claimed a scientific study had discovered that polar bears were drowning because they had to swim long distances to find ice. Yet the only scientific study Gore’s team could provide as evidence was one showing that four polar bears had recently been found drowned because of a storm. According to Bjorn Lomborg, the sceptical environmentalist, the international tale about polar bears suffering at the hands of ruthless mankind springs from this single sighting of four dead bears the day after an abrupt windstorm.
The EPA report shows that far from being an error, Gore got it right:
Open water is considered to present a
potential hazard to polar bears because
it can result in long distances that must
be crossed to access sea ice or land
habitat. In September 2004, four polar
bears drowned in open water while
attempting to swim in an area between
shore and distant ice (Monnett and
Gleason 2006, p. 5). Seas during this
period were rough, and extensive areas
of open water persisted between pack
ice and land. Because the survey area
covered 11 percent of the study area, an
extrapolation of the survey data to the
entire study area suggests that a larger
number of bears may have drowned
during this event. Mortalities due to
offshore swimming during years when
sea ice formation nearshore is delayed
(or mild) may also be an important and
unaccounted source of natural mortality
given energetic demands placed on
individual bears engaged in long distance
swimming (Monnett and
Gleason 2006, p. 6). This suggests that
drowning related deaths of polar bears
may increase in the future if the
observed trend of recession of pack ice
with longer open-water periods
Despite offshore surveys extending back
to 1987, similar observations had not
previously been recorded (Monnett and
Gleason 2006, p. 3).
Yes, they drowned in a storm. But they wouldn’t have drowned if they hadn’t been in the water at the time. And they wouldn’t have been in the water if the ice hadn’t melted.