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Ice Shelf Becomes Sea Ice: Perhaps Good News for Polar Bears?

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).

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97 Responses to “Ice Shelf Becomes Sea Ice: Perhaps Good News for Polar Bears?”

Pages: « 1 [2] Show All

  1. Comment from: Luke


    George you animal – have you slipped into a little plastic jumpsuit for New Years perhaps covered in whale oil.

  2. Comment from: ST


    Jennifer, do you have any idea how evolution works? Species are adapted to a specialty. The polar bear being an excellent example, they live on sea ice, no other species of bear does. They can’t compete in other environments, the specialisation they have won’t match what their competitors will have. If they tried to move into forests and live there, the other bears will have too many advantages.

  3. Comment from: rog


    So peskii whats all this blather about lack of evidence?

    “Conclusion
    Using old temperature observations from early observers, the existing Greenland temperature records have been extended back to the year 1784. Gaps remain, mostly during summer and autumn. In the process of creating the long record, a few inhomogeneities were identified and corrected. Most of the homogeneity problems were due to changes in the hours at which temperature observations were carried out.

    Comparison against winter season ice core proxy data showed stable and highly significant correlations throughout the period covered by the extended Greenland temperature series. This marked consistency, r = 0.67/0.60 for the extended/existing data, shows that both the ice core data and the extended temperature series are very robust.

    The warmest year in the extended Greenland temperature record is 1941, while the 1930s and 1940s are the warmest decades. Two distinct cold periods, following the 1809 (‘‘unidentified’’ volcanic eruption and the eruption of Tambora in 1815 make the 1810s the coldest decade on record.”

    http://www.cru.uea.ac.uk/cru/data/greenland/vintheretal2006.pdf

  4. Comment from: George McC


    ST,

    Polar bears also live on land in the arctic ;) and don´t really have any other competitors other than us

    and not to trivialise anything – but those animals that specialise too much will die off with most large environmental changes, be it man made or not… Adapt or die as the theory goes.. what part we have in it is another story / discussion..

    Lukeylook .. C´mon lukey – you know I like my black jumpsuits natural .. leather preferably (or fur at a push baby ) ;)

  5. Comment from: Luke


    Science on where we’re going is pretty dire.

    Arctic System on Trajectory to New, Seasonally Ice-Free State

    Overpeck, Jonathan T.; Sturm, Matthew; Francis, Jennifer A.; Perovich, Donald K.; Serreze, Mark C.; Benner, Ronald; Carmack, Eddy C.; Chapin, Stuart, III; Gerlach, S. Craig; Hamilton, Lawrence C.; Hinzman, Larry D.; Holland, Marika; Huntington, Henry P.; Key, Jeffrey R.; Lloyd, Andrea H.; MacDonald, Glen M.; McFadden, Joe; Noone, David; Prowse, Terry D.; Schlosser, Peter; Vörösmarty, Charles

    The Arctic system is moving toward a new state that falls outside the envelope of glacial-interglacialfluctuations that prevailed during recent Earth history. This future Arctic is likely to have dramatically less permanent ice than exists at present. At the present rate of change, a summer ice-free Arctic Ocean within a century is a real possibility, a state not witnessed for at least a million years. The change appears to be driven largely by feedback-enhanced global climate warming, and there seem to be few, if any, processes or feedbacks within the Arctic system that are capable of altering the trajectory toward this “super interglacial” state. For nearly 30 years, Arctic sea ice extent [e.g., Stroeve et al., 2005] and thickness [ Rothrock et al., 2003] have been falling dramatically (Figure 1). Permafrost temperatures are rising and coverage is decreasing [Osterkamp and Romanovsky, 1999]. Mountain glaciers and the Greenland ice sheet are shrinking [Meier et al., 2003; Box et al., 2004]. Evidence suggests we are witnessing the early stage of an anthropogenically induced global warming superimposed on natural cycles [Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, 2001], reinforced by reductions in Arctic ice.

    http://www.faculty.uaf.edu/fffsc/Chapin%20papers/OverpecketalEOS05.pdf

  6. Comment from: Pinxi


    exactly George, ST was pointing out they don’t have to compete & they’re specialised … because Jennifer has simply suggested they just adapt & move, without considering if that involves competition, different types of food, different patterns of predation/scavenging or whether the polar bears could adapt quickly enough, esp where there are human pressures too. yes George you did trivialise it, you can’t exclude man from the system. They could evolve backwards and then we’d have, errm, more brown bears.

    what is the popular press reporting?

    Five of the Arctic’s 19 polar bear populations are on the decline, the World Conservation Union’s Polar Bear Specialist Group says.

    All of the troubled populations are located in Canada, says the group, which includes Canadian polar bear scientists and international researchers.

    The group says the western Hudson Bay’s polar bear population has dropped by 22 per cent and the southern Beaufort Sea’s by 17 per cent.
    http://www.cbc.ca/canada/north/story/2006/12/18/bear-count.html

    this link is essential reading
    http://www.timesonline.co.uk/article/0,,2087-1938132,00.html
    SCIENTISTS have for the first time found evidence that polar bears are drowning because climate change is melting the Arctic ice shelf.

    The researchers were startled to find bears having to swim up to 60 miles across open sea to find food. They are being forced into the long voyages because the ice floes from which they feed are melting, becoming smaller and drifting farther apart.

    Although polar bears are strong swimmers, they are adapted for swimming close to the shore. Their sea journeys leave them them vulnerable to exhaustion, hypothermia or being swamped by waves.

    DIRK KEMPTHORNE: When the Fish and Wildlife Service went through the process of the Endangered Species Act, they’re required to look at five different factors. And there was only one factor, and that was the habitat, that is being diminished, and that is because of melting sea ice.

    They specifically looked at a variety of other things — for example, the harvest of the polar bear by native Alaskans. That was not a threat. They looked at oil and gas, energy development in the North Slope in Alaska. That was not a threat. It is one single issue, and that is melting ice, acknowledging that that trend is now taking place.

    DIRK KEMPTHORNE: It is. There is a — what they have done — in a region which they call the western Hudson Bay in Canada, they’ve seen a decline of that particular population. One of the precursors to that decline was the actual weight loss and reduction of the size of the adult polar bears, and then the survival rate of the cubs, where we’re not having successful survival. That same precursor is being seen now in one of the populations in Alaska. But the Alaska population currently is stable, so that’s noted. But that’s all of this that has to be included into this modeling that has to take place.
    http://www.pbs.org/newshour/bb/environment/july-dec06/bear_12-27.html

  7. Comment from: Pinxi


    exactly George, ST was pointing out they don’t have to compete & they’re specialised … because Jennifer has simply suggested they just adapt & move, without considering if that involves competition, different types of food, different patterns of predation/scavenging or whether the polar bears could adapt quickly enough, esp where there are human pressures too. yes George you did trivialise it, you can’t exclude man from the system. They could evolve backwards and then we’d have, errm, more brown bears.

    what is the popular press reporting?

    Five of the Arctic’s 19 polar bear populations are on the decline, the World Conservation Union’s Polar Bear Specialist Group says.

    All of the troubled populations are located in Canada, says the group, which includes Canadian polar bear scientists and international researchers.

    The group says the western Hudson Bay’s polar bear population has dropped by 22 per cent and the southern Beaufort Sea’s by 17 per cent.
    http://www.cbc.ca/canada/north/story/2006/12/18/bear-count.html

  8. Comment from: Pinxi


    this link is essential reading
    http://www.timesonline.co.uk/article/0,,2087-1938132,00.html
    SCIENTISTS have for the first time found evidence that polar bears are drowning because climate change is melting the Arctic ice shelf.

    The researchers were startled to find bears having to swim up to 60 miles across open sea to find food. They are being forced into the long voyages because the ice floes from which they feed are melting, becoming smaller and drifting farther apart.

    Although polar bears are strong swimmers, they are adapted for swimming close to the shore. Their sea journeys leave them them vulnerable to exhaustion, hypothermia or being swamped by waves.

    DIRK KEMPTHORNE: When the Fish and Wildlife Service went through the process of the Endangered Species Act, they’re required to look at five different factors. And there was only one factor, and that was the habitat, that is being diminished, and that is because of melting sea ice.

    They specifically looked at a variety of other things — for example, the harvest of the polar bear by native Alaskans. That was not a threat. They looked at oil and gas, energy development in the North Slope in Alaska. That was not a threat. It is one single issue, and that is melting ice, acknowledging that that trend is now taking place.

    DIRK KEMPTHORNE: It is. There is a — what they have done — in a region which they call the western Hudson Bay in Canada, they’ve seen a decline of that particular population. One of the precursors to that decline was the actual weight loss and reduction of the size of the adult polar bears, and then the survival rate of the cubs, where we’re not having successful survival. That same precursor is being seen now in one of the populations in Alaska. But the Alaska population currently is stable, so that’s noted. But that’s all of this that has to be included into this modeling that has to take place.
    http://www.pbs.org/newshour/bb/environment/july-dec06/bear_12-27.html

  9. Comment from: George McC


    Capt´n Puggy,

    “yes George you did trivialise it, you can’t exclude man from the system. They could evolve backwards and then we’d have, errm, more brown bears. ”

    Oooh … but if we can´t exclude man from the system then we´re just another competitor in the animal kingdom or?

    Lemme trivialise it a wee bit more ..

    adapt or die – one size fits all ..

    RE yer post above Puggy – how does the eastern population data ( Barents sea and spitsbergen / Franz josef land etc a serious chunk of the total world pop ) fit into the theory? ( seriously )

    Any choice links for the readership? found a few but nothing of substance – too busy oiling up my wee black number for lukey

  10. Comment from: IceClass


    A few comments from a resident of Polar Bear country, If I may:

    First of all, this case has NOTHING to do with AGW.
    This is about restricting the import of Polar Bear hides into the US by American trophy hunters who make up the bulk of trophy hunters taking bears in Canada.
    If the bears get listed, the hides are inadmissable and then the hunters go elsewhere.

    The animal protest industry always has Inuit economic use of animal resources in its sights and who can resist hopping on board a wagon to “save the Polar Bears”?

    Note how the Bush administration after their settlement with the plaintives, has said that they do NOT recognise that the bears are threatened by AGW but simply by GW and a consequently melting arctic.

    The press keep reporting the Greenpeace and co. mantra that listing will mean that all the stops will have to be pulled out to stop any activities that might threaten the bears – conveniently, this doesn’t include mere trifles suchas oil drilling in the region.

    Greenpeace and co keep harping on about two populations that have shown a small and recent decline. These populations were over exploited between population counts. The decline was noticed and a moratorium on harvesting from those populations was put in place.
    The world class management systems in place for the bears worked and continue to work.
    Most other populations are stable or on the increase.
    There are more bears now than even a mere ten years ago.
    One population near to where I live has gone from 900 to 1500 bears during this period.
    Polar Bears regularly swim huge distances in open water. A year ago, I saw a chart plotting the routes of radio-tagged bears between here (Baffin Island) and Greenland. There is not an inch of the Davis Straits these bears don’t swim!
    The reports of bears drowning seems far-fetched to me. This is very much a case of suposition being reported as fact.
    Skinny bears, canibalism, bears closer to communities etc are all also known to be signs of overpopulation which jibes with what a number of Inuit elders have been saying for years.

    If this listing goes ahead (which it almost certainly will and for all the wrong reasons) this will mean a loss of $3-4 million dollars to the Nunavut economy. Most of which goes directly to the Inuit hunters & guides and their families in some of the remotest communities in the Arctic. These guides are some of the poorest people in the north and are still reeeling from the MMPA and EU restrictions on sealskins (another entirely sustainable harvest that didn’t require extra “protections”) which decimated the traditional economy, led to heaps of suicides and made it harder for hunters to afford the costs of hunting and providing their families and communities with high value nutritious fare like seals, caribou, fish, whales, ducks, geese, clams, berries, seaweed etc.
    When families can’t get highly nutritious “country foods” they are forced to resort to industrial processed fare.
    The ramifications, predictably, are increased rates of diabetes, heart disease etc all of which we are now seeing.
    Polar Bear sports hunts directly underwrite the Inuit food economy and I really don’t know where we might make up the shortfall.
    As always, conservation is a fight between powerful parties and based on western middle class aesthetic prejudices.
    The people who actually live among the species in question are the last to be heard.

  11. Comment from: Libby


    IceClass wrote:
    “When families can’t get highly nutritious “country foods” they are forced to resort to industrial processed fare. The ramifications, predictably, are increased rates of diabetes, heart disease etc all of which we are now seeing.”

    George wrote:
    “adapt or die – one size fits all ..”

    Jennifer wrote:
    “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.”
    I am assuming the assessment that these bears are happy is yours Jennifer. Or perhaps Sea World has commissioned an “activist with a PhD” to do a study on the bears and come up with this conclusion. The bears are in a climate-controlled environment and do not just eat muesli bars and watermelons (the long-term nutritional value of which- do we know?). These bears are not the same animals that have been in this enclosure since it opened.

    The above piece by Pinxi is in the paper “Observations of mortality associated with extended open-water swimming by polar bears in the Alaskan Beaufort Sea” by Monett and Leason , in Polar Biology 2006.

    Stirling and Parkinson write that the five pops of polar bears in the Canadian Arctic (including 2 shared with Greenland) are likely to significantly decline in numbers if trends continue. From “Possible effects of climate warming on selected populations of polar bears (Ursus maritimus) in the Canadian Arctic (2006) Arctic. I am sure Ian Stirling would love to be called an activist with a PhD.

  12. Comment from: Sid Reynolds


    WWF, Greenpeace and similar NGO’s get their funding from ‘comfy middle classers’, by promoting alarmist stories about such things as ‘global warming’and it’s associated threat to Polar Bears. These campaigns so capture the imagination, that facts don’t matter. The ‘scientific experts’ quickly hop onto the gravy train that these NGO’s provide. The more alarmism the more need for ‘scientific research’, so forget about truth!
    A typical example of the above, was the Crown of Thorns Starfish, (remember) that was going to decimate the GBR within 10 years. Didn’t the NGO’s and their scientist supporters have a field day there.
    Thanks IceClass your posting shows that Jennifers assessment on the bears population was correct.
    Further, you show yet again that these NGO’s have no regard for the welfare of communities such as your own.

  13. Comment from: Ann Novek


    Hello all,
    George ” The polar bear population in Spitzbergen/Svalbard has increased from 1000 to 3000…,go figure”

    Guess one of the reasons is the hunting ban…

    Re contaminants…probably their impact will be shown in the near future

    So what do researchers and people say in Polar Bear country up in Svalbard?

    The world’s most northern paper Svalbardposten makes these statements ( 28.12.2006):

    ” The Bush administration wants to list the polar bear as threatened with extinction. The background to this decision is based upon the Sternreport.

    This report indicates that the Arctic will be free from sea ice in 2040.

    This melting of ice and climate change will make the living conditions hard for the polar bears, which are heavily dependant on ice for survival.

    Norwegian scientist, Jon Aars, polar bear researcher on Norwegian Polar Institution, states ” it is highly possible that the polar bear population will have a heavy decline , since the ice cover will decrease.”

    The ice conditions will make it very difficult for the polar bear to carry out hunting, it will simply die from starvation.

    Another article from Svalbardposten ( 8.12.2006)

    ( This is a most scary one).

    ” The poor sea ice conditions will probably have the consequences that no polar bear cubs will be born this season on Hopet ( Svalbard).

  14. Comment from: Ann Novek


    Norwegian link to the articles:

    http://www.svalbardposten.no/nyhet.cfm?nyhetid=522

  15. Comment from: Jim


    Trying to find out what the other 14/19 PB populations are doing???
    And what happened to PB’s during the 1940′s Arctic warming?
    Jennifer?
    Pinxi?

  16. Comment from: Pinxi


    Iceclass are you inuit? Perhaps your people should get to the root of the problem by launching a (NGO-supported?) class action over the effects of climate-change against industrial activities of GHG-releasing countries.

    Meanwhile, shorter-term economic losses ARE considered by the indigenous peoples-pro UN in the IUCN decisions but don’t by themselves change threats to bear populations. Reflect on the collapse of cod stocks in Newfoundland. Scientific warnings were ignored by the govinmint due to economic concerns over lost income until.. cod no more.

    Uncritical believers like Sid will ensure that Jen’s overly simplified denialist arguments will continue to circulate to the detriment of constructive action to mitigate polar bear threats. Jen was invited to suggest constructive action but declined.

  17. Comment from: Luke


    Yes it is all about money and vested interests in the end.

    So it seems that as a result of getting additional income from hunting, the Inuit are consuming more western food from the shops.

    How did the Inuit survive before well-heeled yanks trophy hunting turned up? Maybe they were healthier? Perhaps all this access to western consumer goods is actually ruining their health not improving it?

    Given the money involved it would seem just as easy for government to compensate them for the lost income. And leave them to harvest their own quota for traditional purposes.

    I enjoyed this press clipping. Makes you want to have open season on urologists.

    http://www.nytimes.com/2006/05/27/world/americas/27bears.html?pagewanted=2&ei=5088&en=07809799811ff6cb&ex=1306382400&partner=rssnyt&emc=rss

    I think you could make even more money with wildlife tours. This notion of ultra-rich sepos blowing animals away for mega-bucks is pretty rank IMHO. So if you get rich you’re allowed to compensate for your small dick and meaningless life with Disney thrills gained by blowing interesting fauna away in exotic locations. Wow – great values !

  18. Comment from: Luke


    We also need a metric for separating “evidence based” from scum-bag “activists with PhDs on NGO gravy trains”.

  19. Comment from: Pinxi


    “Hunters say few experiences can compare with the sensation of sighting a bear, then watching the Inuit guides release their huskies to surround and confuse the prey long enough for the hunters to shoot it.”

    “This is my Disney World,”

    “It’s tickling to think I could be the last American hunter who brings in a polar bear trophy,” he said.”

    I doubt its a satisfying way to earn a living, to put up with fat wankers like that shooting their way around your traditional motherland while you hold the bear still for them so they can shoot it.

    Some compromises:

    replace shooting with hand-to-hand combat.

    Or give the septic hunters virtual reality goggles so they can pretend shoot the bears. The game could have scalable special effects setting for your preferred level of violence, hollywood explosive effects etc. The take-home trophy would be a made in china stuffed bear.

  20. Comment from: Pinxi


    sorry, hand-to-paw

  21. Comment from: Pinxi


    Before ditching expert scientific assessments in favour of personal, isolated observations, it’s worth considering the following (as one eg of possible misinterpretation):

    “Marine scientist George Rose is concerned to hear European fishermen challenging the warnings of scientists because they can still find plenty of cod.

    This echoes the claims of trawlermen on the Grand Banks in the late 1980s, but it turned out that they were observing a phenomenon he calls “hyper-aggregation”, in which fish cluster in ever-greater densities when their environment is under pressure.

    “If you look at the data on the catches-per-unit of the trawler fleet, the highest ever recorded in this fishery were in 1992, when the stocks were on the verge of collapse,” said Professor Rose.

    “So if fishermen are still saying they can find concentrations, that’s good news for now, but it should give no reassurance that you couldn’t take those last bits of fish down and push the whole thing right over the edge.”

    http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/science/nature/2580733.stm

    for the table on those catch trends see here http://www.cbc.ca/news/background/fishing/cod.html

    Is there a moral? heed the scientific warnings?

  22. Comment from: Ann Novek


    This is probably not the right thread to do this but:

    I WISH EVERYONE A HAPPY NEW YEAR!

    And a special thanks to Jen who provides us with this free speech blog.

  23. Comment from: Jim


    Bravo!

  24. Comment from: Pinxi


    yah happy new year to you all and the polar bears and whales too

  25. Comment from: Gavin


    HAPPY NEW YEAR hey! but I’m still busy keeping watch on our shore line.

  26. Comment from: George McC


    Anne

    ” This report indicates that the Arctic will be free from sea ice in 2040.” ( Stern Report )

    Ok, so lets think about a few things – Whats going to happen to the Seals in such a scenario ?
    Will they be wiped out? will they adapt and say pup on land masses instead? What will happen to Polar bears ? will they adapt? Perhaps be preying on such seal populations that adapt by pupping on land masses ?

    you tell me .. Adapt or die in such a scenario or? ..

    2040 – a mere 33 years from now .. that would indicate that even if we stopped all of the polluting / Global warming gases etc etc NOW … it would be unlikely to have enough of an effect to prevent this happening -or would it?

    I´d add that I believe that we will be a bit more concerned with the problems that melting ice caps cause us than the problems they cause Polar bears and seals in 2040 – but I´m a cynic …

    ” ” The poor sea ice conditions will probably have the consequences that no polar bear cubs will be born this season on Hopet ( Svalbard).”

    It´s Hopen BTW ;op … Question is, is this a one season anomality or part of a trend?

    A story about Hopen – I was on a ship that visited Hopen ( actually we were hiding bad weather in the lee of the Island ) and a guy from the station came out in a wee boat to pick up a bunch of us for a visit to the station.. as the boat came into our side, the guy handed me a rope to tie him up and removed the hood of his foul weather gear and said ” Hi George, how´s it going ” – turns out it was a guy I had worked with in Andenes 7-8 years before … and I meet him again on that wind swept hunk of rock in a remote part the arctic … small world indeed

  27. Comment from: Ann Novek


    Hi George,
    Re ringed seals I might believe they eventually can adapt since they have different pupping and molting patterns in different parts of the world(?).

    Well, the isbjornarna will probably walk down to Longyearbyen if they starve…LOL! I

    If they are lucky they will just have a tranquilizer dart , otherwise a old Maser rifle from WWII can be their destiny….

    Re Hopen…. but the polar bears lost Hopet( the hope) in Hopen…

    George , interesting story…

    Need some time to think about your other questions!

  28. Comment from: Pinxi


    Dear Jennifer,

    Considering the scientific evidence presented to you above that contrasts with your rosy presentation that no worries mate the polar bears will be fine cos they haven’t gorn extinct yet, will you consider the following?

    3. Acknowledge the deficiencies in your position – pretending your argument is self evidently correct and beyond doubt when it clearly isn’t is dishonest and arrogant.

  29. Comment from: Ann Novek


    George:” ” This report indicates that the Arctic will be free from sea ice in 2040.” ( Stern Report )

    Ok, so lets think about a few things – Whats going to happen to the Seals in such a scenario ?
    Will they be wiped out? will they adapt and say pup on land masses instead? What will happen to Polar bears ? will they adapt? Perhaps be preying on such seal populations that adapt by pupping on land masses ?

    you tell me .. Adapt or die in such a scenario or? ..”

    As I have computer problems, I must divide my comment in three posts….

    IMO you should look first what happens to the whole eco-system in the ice free Arctic scenario.
    And start from the bottom of food chain up to top predators…

    Water temperature will be changed, amounts of crustaceans, krill and zooplankton will be changed. This affects the fish stocks that the seals are dependent on. Decreased fish stocks affect seal population, reproduction and finally the polar bears. Maybe they will all starve…

    As you maybe read, the Norwegian Polar Institute has given highest priority to the issue , what happens to the polar bears that didn’t give birth to polar bear cubs this season due to poor sea ice conditions….

  30. Comment from: Ann Novek


    “What will happen to Polar bears ? ”

    Jennifer stated that the polar bears in Canada just had to move northwards in case of starvation… they are so smart.

    Some studies have indicated that polar bears might rather starve to death than migrate…

    And some other field studied have shown us that polar bears like brown bears have a tendency to move near human settlements if there is a scarcity of food ( Canada). Not very good, polar bears are extremely dangerous…

  31. Comment from: Ann Novek


    George:” 2040 – a mere 33 years from now .. that would indicate that even if we stopped all of the polluting / Global warming gases etc etc NOW … it would be unlikely to have enough of an effect to prevent this happening -or would it?

    I´d add that I believe that we will be a bit more concerned with the problems that melting ice caps cause us than the problems they cause Polar bears and seals in 2040 – but I´m a cynic …”

    Hi George,
    I see that you finally have moved into Lukeland… a territory that me too is unwilling to walk into….

    Guess in the highly unlikely scenario that all greenhouse emissions today would be stopped , the temperature will increase despite this with about 2 or 3 degrees. Maybe Lukey can give you a correct reply???

    Maybe many people are tired of the melting ice cap stories and simply adding some icon animals to the climate issue will make it more interesting???

  32. Comment from: George McC


    Morn´anne

    “Water temperature will be changed, amounts of crustaceans, krill and zooplankton will be changed. This affects the fish stocks that the seals are dependent on. Decreased fish stocks affect seal population, reproduction and finally the polar bears. Maybe they will all starve…”

    Will warmer water Effect the fish stocks, krill and zooplankton negatively? If yes, How much of a temperature rise? for how long?

    If no, food supply is not a problem or?

    As I mentioned above, I doubt if seals and polar bears will be our main concern in such a dooom and gloom scenario..

  33. Comment from: Ann Novek


    Morning George!
    Dunno, as far as I know there are winners and losers in this warming ocean’s trend. Some commercial fish is supposed to increase others not…

  34. Comment from: Pinxi


    Taking Jennifer’s preferred Polar Bear habitat, Sea World, as a source of information on polar bear populations:
    “Due to governmental regulations on hunting, the population has increased from an estimated 10,000 polar bears in 1968 (Stirling, 1988). ”

    No mention of ice extent as causing that increase, just restrictions on hunting.

  35. Comment from: Ann Novek


    George:” If no, food supply is not a problem or?”

    Firstly, the eco-system in the Arctic is extremely sensitive to slight changes in temperature.

    In Svalbard, the marine mammals: polar bears , walross and harbour seal are all on the Red list, classified as vulnerable.

    The polar bear population is threatened by poor ice conditions and the walross and harbour seal populations are threatened by low reproduction.

    Personally, I’m not sure why the reproduction numbers are low. Possible reasons: habitat loss/contamination???

  36. Comment from: Pinxi


    It seems that PCBs & DDT compromises immune system & then reproduction in the harbour seals.

  37. Comment from: Pinxi


    Polar Bears in a Warming Climate

    Lots of important reading here, eg:

    Only rarely has a bear been reported to capture a ringed seal in open water (Furnell and Oolooyuk, 1980Go) so it is unlikely that hunting in ice-free water will compensate for loss of ice to provide access to ringed seals. Bearded seals, walrus, and occasionally harbour seals (Phoca vitulina) are captured by polar bears when hauled out on land but such opportunities tend to be quite local and learned by a limited number of individuals. It is unlikely that predation on these other species would completely compensate for loss of opportunities to hunt ringed seals in most areas. In some areas, such as southern Davis Strait and the Barents Sea, it appears that harp seals are an important component of the diet so it is likely that polar bears would continue to prey on them as long as there was ice in areas occupied by these seals.

    Throughout their range, the distribution of polar bears is centred on areas of good hunting habitat so an initial response to a reduction in sea ice could be an increase in bear densities resulting in more competition for the available prey. Reduction in sea ice area may allow increased hunting efficiency by polar bears if seals are restricted to smaller areas of suitable habitat. Concentration of seals in fjords or areas with freshwater influx that may continue to freeze over for longer periods could create a concentrated food resource for polar bears. However, there is an increased likelihood of competition for prey with subordinate animals likely suffering more than dominant bears that can confiscate or monopolize prey. Because polar bears are not territorial, loss of habitat may not result in an immediate loss hunting opportunity through loss of individual home ranges as it would for terrestrial ursids. Regardless, it seems logical overall to predict that a major loss of sea ice habitat will result in a decline in polar bear abundance over time.

    Polar bears preferentially feed on the blubber of their prey and adult bears in particular often leave much of the protein behind (Stirling and McEwan, 1975Go) and do not typically remain with prey (Stirling, 1974Go; Stirling and Archibald, 1977Go). Immature bears are not as efficient at catching seals (Stirling and Latour, 1978Go) and the remains of kills made by other bears may be important for this age class. It is possible that if polar bears experience decreased kill rates, greater use of kills may occur and result in relatively less food for younger bears to scavenge. Scavenging dynamics and competition for prey suggest age-related differences in response to climate warming.

    Integrative and Comparative Biology 2004 44(2):163-176; doi:10.1093/icb/44.2.163
    © 2004 by The Society for Integrative and Comparative Biology

    Polar Bears in a Warming Climate
    Andrew E. Derocher2,1, Nicholas J. Lunn2 and Ian Stirling2

    http://icb.oxfordjournals.org/cgi/content/full/44/2/163

  38. Comment from: Libby


    “Due to governmental regulations on hunting, the population has increased from an estimated 10,000 polar bears in 1968 (Stirling, 1988). ”

    Note that this Ian Stirling is the same mentioned in your last post Pinxi, and the same who wrote this year warning of declines in polar bear numbers. Either he can’t make up his mind, he has changed ‘teams’ or he has noticed changes in bear numbers over his lengthy career studying them.

    Thanks for the link to the Derocher et al article Pinxi. I am with you. There is mounting evidence that these animals are going to be in serious trouble if the environment they live in continues to be disrupted by climatic factors. This evidence is coming from well-respected, long-time researchers.

    If the researchers were wrong, and the bears are fine, then everyone should be happy. If it goes the other way (like Pinxi’s cod), then we should all hang our heads in shame and another lesson wont have been learnt.

    Zoo keepers will tell you that the most dangerous of all animals to work with in captivity are polar bears. They are cunning and serious predators, always watching the keeper’s routine to see when a door opens, how a latch is moved and so on. They are always looking for an escape. I question whether they agree with being locked up in a concrete Arctic World.

  39. Comment from: Pinxi


    Not sure if some of the Stirling quotes have been taken out of context. Decline in what exactly would be the question I’d explore with more time. I saw some mentions of declines in specific populations but not sure how accurate.

    The Derocher et al article is informative reading.

    Thanks for the extra info as usual Libby.

  40. Comment from: Ann Novek


    So are the polar bears used by the greenhouse industry and the AGW folks to forward their message?

    The Norwegian Polar Institute can hardly be blamed for ” NGO”-policy , neither Ian Stirling.

    And what about Busho???

  41. Comment from: Pinxi


    Ann: US legal obligations under the Endangered Species Act (sued by GP etc to add PBs to list). They’re getting around the potential extension of that obligation to include a need to address climate change by declaring it extraneous to endangered species issue.

    http://www.nytimes.com/2006/12/28/science/28polar.html?ex=1324962000&en=50b37e5bde8ccc37&ei=5090&partner=rssuserland&emc=rss

    http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2006/12/26/AR2006122601034.html

  42. Comment from: Pinxi


    I think it’s safe enough to (blog rule) assume good faith by the polar bear institutes & scientists appearing in the various extracts above.

  43. Comment from: Ann Novek


    Washington Post states:” …The bears have resorted to open-water swimming and even cannibalism in an effort to stay alive…”

    It must however be pointed out that our cute bears( polar bears, grizzlys and brown bears) have always had a tendency to cannibalism…

    The males have a habit of trying to kill the male cubs….and to eat or bury the cadaver…

    Don’t know if the researchers now have detected an increased tendency to cannibalism???

  44. Comment from: Luke


    Save the baaaaars !

  45. Comment from: Mark A. York


    I’ve detected increasing instances of wingnut deniers eating their weasel words and out of context quoting. Amstrup is the go to guy on this species. Or you could declare them not a real species like these morons have at GM’s Corner? Denial is a sad thing. Truely sorry in every way.

  46. Comment from: Mark A. York


    Increasing? Not quite.

    “We analyzed capture-recapture data collected from 1984-2004 by the Canadian Wildlife Service, and handling data for polar bears captured in and around the community of Churchill by the Manitoba Department of Conservation. We used Cormack-Jolly-Seber to estimate survival, population size, and population growth rate. We concluded that the total size of the WH polar bear population declined by approximately 22%, from 1194 (95% CI = 1020, 1368) in 1987 to 935 (95% CI = 794, 1076) in 2004. The correlation between earlier sea ice breakup and decreased survival provides quantitative evidence for a link between climatic warming and polar bear population dynamics. It may also help explain why Churchill, like other communities along the western coast of Hudson Bay, has experienced an increase in the number of bears that come into town prior to freeze-up each fall. The progressively earlier breakup of sea ice shortens the time that polar bears can hunt seals during the critical spring foraging season, thereby reducing their ability to accumulate the fat reserves they rely upon while stranded on land. The WH population is forced ashore earlier, in poorer nutritional condition, and remains food-deprived for a longer time. As polar bears exhaust their fat reserves toward the end of the ice-free period, they are more likely to encroach upon human settlements in search of alternative food sources to sustain themselves until freeze-up. Thus, the increase in polar bear-human interactions in western Hudson Bay probably* reflects an increase in nutritionally-stressed polar bears searching for food, not an increase in population size. Models developed and tested on the WHB project are currently being used for a new population estimation for polar bears of the Southern Beaufort Sea.” (Amstrup USGS 2006)
    * This is unlikely to mean nothing of the sort is happening and the bears are just coming to town looking for lawn chairs and Coca Cola. Scientists never leap very far ahead to leaps of faith-based absolutism found in conservative polemics.

  47. Comment from: Ann Novek


    Luke: ” Save the baaaaars !”

    Yeah Luke, let’s save the beers!!!!

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