Two days ago the mainstream media was lamenting that polar bears should be listed as threatened with extinction because of disappearing sea ice all a consequence of global warming.
Today the media is reporting that a giant ice shelf the size of 11,000 football fields has snapped free from Canada’s Arctic and has formed an ice island. Furthermore, this ice island is likely to end up as sea ice in the very places scientists are complaining there is not enough of the stuff for the big bears…
“Within days, the floating ice shelf had drifted a few kilometres offshore. It travelled west for 50 kilometres until it finally froze into the sea ice in the early northern winter… Prevailing winds could then send the ice island southwards, deep into the Beaufort Sea.”
Well isn’t this good news for polar bears?
It could be, if there was any truth to the story that polar bears are threatened with extinction from a reduced area of sea ice.
But the whole “disappearing sea ice threatens polar bear’s survival” story is in reality a farce.
While the area of sea ice has been declining over the last couple of decades, the number of polar bears has actually been increasing. That’s right increasing!
So it is very wrong for the Australian Broadcasting Corporation to uncritically report that: “The World Wide Fund for Nature says the declining number of polar bears is a major warning on the impact of climate change.”
There were only about 5,000 polar bears in 1970, numbers depressed by hunting. There are now about 25,000 polar bears. The increase a consequence of agreements to restrict hunting under quota systems.
The biggest threat to discrete populations of polar bears continues to be illegal hunting in places like the Chukchi sea and Greenland’s failure to agree to the quota system.
If the extent of sea ice continues to decline in places like Hudson Bay and the Beaufort Sea, these populations of polar bears can move north to where there is more sea ice with ringed seals, or they might simply switch to hunting seals that prefer warmer weather.
As I have previously written, the two polar bears living happily at Sea World, on Queensland’s Gold Coast, enjoying watermelons and museli bars, are evidence of the capacity of this big bear to adapt, including to warm weather.
The mass of ice fell away 16 months ago but scientists have ony just realised because it all happened at a remote locality off the coast of Ellesmere Island which is about 800 kilometres south of the North Pole.
The issue of environmentalists and scientists taking advantage of the popularity of polar bears and drawing rediculous conclusions from the available data all to progress their global warming agenda is reviewed in a piece I wrote for the IPA Review earlier this year entitled ‘Polar Bear Politics: Underestimating the survival capacity of one popular bear’.
There is an old blog post from 25th October 2005 here (Polar Bears on Thin Ice) and another from 3rd May 2006 here ( 16,119 Species Threatened with Extinction?) and I also wrote something on 30th May 2006 here (Polar Bear Politcs: Misrepresenting the Nature of One Smart Bear).