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Published On: Fri, Oct 26th, 2018

Polar bears defying scientists and thriving amid global warming

A decade ago polar bears were classified as an endangered species as the global warming predictors pointed to the recession of Arctic sea ice and the animals were thought to be limited in their ability for hunting seals – they would starve and become extinct.

The media was quick to jump on the agenda item, publishing this famous photo.

photo/Agrant141 per wikimedia commons

The Inuit, who have observed these bears catch seals in open water for generations, disagree with the science and now we see the evidence.

“There is no evidence that the fast reduction of sea-ice habitat in the area has yet led to a reduction in population size.” (Aars et al., 2017 )

Inuit observations: “… back in early 80s, and mid 90s, there were hardly any bears … there’s too many polar bears now.  Bears can catch seals even—even if the—if the ice is really thin … they’re great hunters those bears … they’re really smart … they know how to survive.” (Wong et al., 2017)

Inuit observations: “No, because polar bears can go and follow the seals further [if sea ice retreats], so they won’t have trouble hunting. Also the snow covers the [seals’] breathing holes but polar bears can still hunt, it’s just for people. There is more rough ice, more thin ice. But it won’t affect polar bears’ hunting.” (Dowsley, 2007)

“Reduction in the heavy multiyear ice and increased productivity from a longer open water season may even enhance polar bear habitat in some areas. … It seems unlikely that polar bears (as a species) are at risk from anthropogenic global warming.” (York et al., 2016)

Climate scientists, on the other hand, too often discard the data that conflict with their modeled assumptions and proceed to call those who question their models and assumptions names (i.e., “deniers”).

“The view of polar bears as effective open-water hunters is not consistent with the Western scientific understanding that bears rely on the sea ice platform for catching prey.  … [Participants] indicated that polar bear body condition is stable; they cited the fact that polar bears are capable of hunting seals in open water as a factor contributing to the stable body condition of the bears.” (Laforest et al., 2018).

In the 3 new papers referenced here extensive observational evidence suggests that polar bear populations are currently healthier than in the past, and their numbers have been stable or growing in recent decades.

photo courtesy of Fathom Events

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