I am no expert on polar bears. In fact I have never been to the Arctic. But I do have an interest in animal conservation, that scientific findings are reported honestly and accurately, and that the general public is not mislead on environmental issues.
Over the Christmas holidays Australians were repeatedly told through news broadcasts that polar bears are already a species in serious decline, in particular that they are seriously threated by global warming.
Earlier in 2006 I spent some time reading technical reports about the relationship between the decline in the extent of sea ice in the Arctic and polar bear ecology. I was surprised to discover as part of this research that polar bear numbers have actually increased over the last 30 years.
The more I read the more it became apparent that polar bear researchers were down playing this good news and promoting any finding that could be interpreted as a “decline” in any population of polar bears. It was also clear that global warming campaigners were keen to sieze on this information, extrapolate and exaggerate a bit more, and then parade it as evidence for a claimed overall decline in polar bear numbers.
Just last week I posted a piece at this blog stating that despite claims in the popular press and scientific literature to the contrary, polar bear numbers are actually increasing. I wrote that numbers have increased from about 5,000 to 25,000 over the last 30 years.
The piece has generated much discussion at this blog, and I have received many ‘hate emails’. I have been accused of all sorts of things, including showing a complete disregard for the hard work of experts in the field. But interestingly no-one has disputed my principle claim: that polar bear numbers have more than doubled over the last 30 years.
A key criticism appears to be that I have not acknowledged that polar bear numbers have been predicted by experts to decline dramatically in the future.
The reasoning from the most shrill of the self-proclaimed experts has been that because there is a likelihood the situation might deteriorate into the future, we can’t acknowledge the good news now.
I completely reject the notion that any scientist, researcher, campaigner, or self-proclaimed expert has a right to withhold good news on an environmental issue of intense public interest because of what may or may not happen in the future.
In the next installment/next blog post on this subject (Part 2) I will explain why I am skeptical of the claims that polar bear numbers will decline dramatically over the next 50-100 years.
I am happy to publish guest posts that put an alternative perspective, for example, that provide information supporting the contension that polar bears are a truly threatened species, email to firstname.lastname@example.org .