Paying For The Science They Want: Alaska State Legislators Go Denier-Shopping

Fri, 2008-05-09 16:16Page van der Linden
Page van der Linden's picture

Paying For The Science They Want: Alaska State Legislators Go Denier-Shopping

Whether you're a conservationist or a climate change denier, undoubtedly you've been following the ongoing efforts to officially declare Ursus maritimus (also known as the polar bear) listed as an endangered species, under the US Endangered Species Act.

In 2005, the Center for Biological Diversity petitioned for the polar bear's protection, based on research done by climate and wildlife experts worldwide (pdf). Indeed, there is international scientific agreement that the polar bear is heading toward extinction unless it is protected (details here). At last, in 2006, the US Fish and Wildlife Service responded to the Center's petition, and proposed that the polar bear be listed as endangered.

Predictably, those interested more in the welfare of the fossil fuel industry than in the survival of the polar bears have been doing their best to prevent the bears from being protected.

To make a long story short, there was an initial Senate hearing in which Senator James Inhofe and a carefully chosen “expert” did their best to confuse the issue; there was a follow-up hearing investigating the Bush administration's foot-dragging (to which a senior official didn't even bother to show up ). Finally, a federal judge put her foot down and ordered the Department of the Interior to make a final decision by May 15, 2008.

Which leads us to the latest attempt by lawmakers to keep the bears off the endangered list. If the science shows something you don't like, why, you pay scientists to come up with conclusions that match your business interests.

The Alaska State Legislature has decided to go “scientist” shopping:

A $2 million program funded with little debate by the Legislature last month calls for using state money to fund an “academic based” conference that highlights contrarian scientific research on global warming. Legislators hope to undermine the public perception of a widespread consensus among polar bear researchers that warming global temperatures and melting Arctic ice threaten the polar bears' survival.

Republican legislative leaders say a federal decision to declare the polar bears “threatened” by climate change would have troubling effects on Arctic oil development and the state's economic future.

 […]

Legislative leaders said they are frustrated that researchers skeptical of the doomsday scenario get marginalized as crackpots or industry shills by the media and scientific agencies. “We want to have the money to hire scientists to answer the Interior (Department) scientists,” House Speaker John Harris, R-Valdez, said last week.

In other words, they want a few good climate change deniers to present “proof” that the Interior Department scientists are wrong.

Both House Speaker Harris and Senate President Lyda Green are behind the request for the $2 million. Notably, Green was a co-sponsor of a 2007 Senate Resolution to oppose listing the polar bear as threatened.

At least Harris is honest about their motives, and what he thinks of scientists:

But the point is not to seek some non-biased measure of scientific truth. The point, said Harris, is to provide a forum for scientists whose views back Alaska's interests.

“You know as well as I do that scientists are like lawyers,” Harris said.

Rick Steiner is a conservation scientist at the University of Alaska. For months, he has been attempting to get Alaska state officials to make public any scientific reasons they have for preventing the protection of polar bears:

[He said] “This truly is the conference to nowhere,” […]

On Friday [May 2, 2008], Steiner released a long chain of e-mail correspondence, saying the state first promised to send internal documents and then refused. The state Department of Law is now reviewing the internal memos from scientists to see if they can be released under the state's open records laws.

“It is stunningly hypocritical that the state will spend $2 million to convene a scientific conference on this issue, but they will not release their own scientific analysis,” Steiner said.

At the end of the Anchorage Daily News article, there is a summary of a conference call (with Harris and Green). Note the part I've highlighted in bold:

The project will include research methodologies such as computer modeling and perceived consensus. Research shall be non-biased to specific groups' opinion and shall present scientifically fact based outcomes.

Non-biased? Since when were climate change skeptics “non-biased”? By definition, this conference is being paid for and convened to dispute extensive research that proves polar bears are endangered, to provide a platform for those tired old denier talking points with which we are so familiar.

Stay tuned. I'm sure we'll see soon enough that the “experts” they'll call aren't exactly “non-biased”.

Comments

La plus ça change …

Fern Mackenzie

And of course, the pure apostles of Hansen are “non-biased”. Bwwaaaaaaaa!

Zog, does NASA do funding on the following basis?
“But the point is not to seek some non-biased measure of scientific truth. The point, said Harris, is to provide a forum for scientists whose views back [the government’s] interests.”

Do you think there would be an uproar anywhere on the internet if a university or the Alberta government, for example, decided to spend $2 million on funding:
“an ‘academic based’ conference that highlights contrarian scientific research on _______”? (Fill in the blank there with AIDS or accounting or paleontology or the holocaust … whatever you like.)

This statement says it all: “You know as well as I do that scientists are like lawyers,” – talk about a war on science.

Attempts to justify the destruction of the environment are typical of ruling elites. Just as the “leaders” of Easter Island must have told the populace there was no harm in cutting down all the coconut trees. Until the last one was felled. Capt. Cook saw the results first hand when he landed there in the 1770’s. Once a verdant forest of crops and trees, it was a moonscaped gulag, with the remnants of a once proud culture living naked in some caves. Humanity’s penchant of being dominated by loud, irrational voices has caused the end of many cultures. Now, our global culture is at stake. And we see the obvious fiddling by the elites while they crash the system. It is a real conundrum: how can a society see its own destruction, yet remain powerless to stop it. And at the rate we’re going, a question that may never be answered.

Great article and website. Keep up the important work.

” … there is international scientific agreement that the polar bear is heading toward extinction unless it is protected … “

Uh, no there isn’t. The status of the polar bear merits concern, but nowhere is there any scientific consensus that extinction is in the offing.

Repeat: There is no “international scientific agreement” the polar bear is headed toward extinction. This is a fabrication not supported by scientific evidence. Sorry to pop your bubble.

Paul S/G said: “Uh, no there isn’t. The status of the polar bear merits concern, but nowhere is there any scientific consensus that extinction is in the offing”.

Paul S/G you are wrong, wrong, wrong. Do you ever do any research before you post your ridiculous comments? (By the way, denier web sites do not count as “science sources”).

Have you heard about or read the report “Arctic Climate Impact Assessment, Impacts of warming Arctic”? You should, you may learn something.

It shows that the scientists who actually study and have expert knowledge of the Arctic eco-systems, are in agreement that the polar bear is in danger if global warming continues. These are real scientists who actually study these things. They go out onto the ice and observe and measure the populations and health of the polar bears. What they are seeing is not good.

Of course your pseudo-science buddies (we can all name a few of those despicable people) sit in their cozy offices, tell outlandish lies while wondering how to spend the money they receive from the oil companies and others who are trying to give the impression that everything is all right and that global warming is just a big hoax.

You should feel utterly ashamed of yourself for believing in such nonsense.

I will repeat once more (in the forlorn hope that some of it might just get into your thick skulled brain and cause a few neurons to fire) the polar bear is in great danger unless global warming can be slowed or halted. And this is supported by the majority of scientists studying them.

Ian Forrester

“Have you heard about or read the report “Arctic Climate Impact Assessment, Impacts of warming Arctic”? You should, you may learn something.”

Have you read it, Ian? It sounds like you are claiming you have read it.

If so, then please show us where in this report it says anything about polar bear being on the verge of extinction, or even that their population is in decline?

The reason I ask, is that I searched through the document you mention, and nowhere could I find any reference to your claim of “doomed” polar bears.

Since you would have us believe you’ve read the document, this shouldn’t be very difficult for you. Surely, your dog-eared copy is filled with notes in the margins and highlighted sections. Certainly, you wouldn’t cite that document if you weren’t thoroughly familiar with it’s contents and were sure that it would support your argument, would you?

Eagerly awaiting your reply, Rob

Rob, you should be aware that Knuckledragger doesn’t read. He occasionally shuffles out of his Calgary cave, scratches, grunts, snorts and then wanders off.

I’ll take the word of Nunuvut government biologist Mitchell Taylor who, unlike Australian “expert” Tim Flannery and the writers of the cited report, actually lives and does surveys where the bears are. He says that the only polar bear population not thriving is the one on the southwest coast of Hudsons Bay. Even there, there’s been no precipitate decline. Worldwide, polar bear numbers have more than doubled in the past 30 years. Not bad for a critter on the verge of extinction.

Mitch Taylor is using his position as a scientist to try and justify increasing the allowable kill of polar bears by hunters in Nunavut.

He does not understand, or is unwilling to be objective, when it comes to looking at the future of the total polar bear populations.

You do realize that the reason the polar bear population has increased over the past thirty years is that hunting has been largely curtailed in most of their range? However, approximately half of the polar bear populations are in decline or are showing that they will be declining soon (lower birth rates, less fat etc.)

Ian Forrester

” He (Mitch Taylor) does not understand, or is unwilling to be objective, when it comes to looking at the future of the total polar bear populations. ” - Ian Forrester

Yes, Ian would know. Ian has a gut feeling he is right. After all, what would that nobody Mitch Taylor know? So he’s studied actual living breathing polar bears his whole adult life? So what! Ian knows better.

Since you seem to have problems finding quality information here is a link to another review study on Polar Bears:

http://cmeps.org/publications/canada/PolarBearReport2005.pdf

If you read it, and are able to understand what it is saying, you will discover that Mitch Taylor is in a minority of ONE when it comes to polar bear populations.

He does not use the scientific methods of researchers like Stirling and Derocher but relies on anecdotal evidence. For one who is always claiming that climate scientists do not follow the scientific method you are one stupid hypocrite.

However, you are not interested in understanding facts, only with adding confusion, misunderstanding and obfuscation to the discussion.

You are one pitiful person, I feel sorry for anyone who has to deal with your stupidity on a daily basis.

Ian Forrester

CMEPS is a charity, not a publisher of peer-reviewd science. That is a brochure not a scientific report.

No peer-reviewed science saying polar bears could go extinct there either. Lots of pretty pictures though. No good Ian.

Where oh where is this peer-reviewd science supported by scientific concensus demonstrating, with data, that polar bears could go extinct?

Why is this data impossible to find? Anyone?

As any scientist knows, when reading a review, as opposed to a research paper, it is the references which are important, not who published the review.

Get back to me once you have read the references, I’m sure you will find the information you are looking for in them.

Of course, you have to take your head out of the sand and open your eyes to be able to read research reports.

Ian Forrester

It’s a brochure Ian, not a review, nor a research paper, with lots of pretty pictures, please try and get that part right.

And out of the 52 references in this brochure, not one provides evidence supporting the conclusion that polar bears are in danger of going extinct.

You can not provide a link to peer-reviewed, scientifically valid papers with supporting data that polar bears could go extinct because it does not exist.

I won’t even comment on your ridiculous mutterings concerning the report I cited. It just goes to show that your brain (assuming you have one) has dropped by about 3 feet to a place where it is more at home with your rude comments.

Here is just one reference, there are any more but why should I waste my time on a stupid, ignorant denier like you?

“Polar Bears in a Warming Climate. Integrative and Comparative Biology 2004 44(2):163-176. Andrew E. Derocher, Nicholas J. Lunn and Ian Stirling.

Abstract

Polar bears (Ursus maritimus) live throughout the ice-covered waters of the circumpolar Arctic, particularly in near shore annual ice over the continental shelf where biological productivity is highest. However, to a large degree under scenarios predicted by climate change models, these preferred sea ice habitats will be substantially altered. Spatial and temporal sea ice changes will lead to shifts in trophic interactions involving polar bears through reduced availability and abundance of their main prey: seals. In the short term, climatic warming may improve bear and seal habitats in higher latitudes over continental shelves if currently thick multiyear ice is replaced by annual ice with more leads, making it more suitable for seals. A cascade of impacts beginning with reduced sea ice will be manifested in reduced adipose stores leading to lowered reproductive rates because females will have less fat to invest in cubs during the winter fast. Non-pregnant bears may have to fast on land or offshore on the remaining multiyear ice through progressively longer periods of open water while they await freeze-up and a return to hunting seals. As sea ice thins, and becomes more fractured and labile, it is likely to move more in response to winds and currents so that polar bears will need to walk or swim more and thus use greater amounts of energy to maintain contact with the remaining preferred habitats. The effects of climate change are likely to show large geographic, temporal and even individual differences and be highly variable, making it difficult to develop adequate monitoring and research programs. All ursids show behavioural plasticity but given the rapid pace of ecological change in the Arctic, the long generation time, and the highly specialised nature of polar bears, it is unlikely that polar bears will survive as a species if the sea ice disappears completely as has been predicted by some”.

Seems to me that that is saying the same as the various reviews I have cited, do you think maybe it was in papers like that that they found the information that they were discussing?

You get more and more pathetic with every post. Keep it up, you are a good example of how stupid the deniers are.

Ian Forrester

Finally, a link to a real report. Thank you Ian.

Remember, this is one report only. And remember, one can not cherry pick the worst-case report to make a point. That said, I appreciate your providing the actual report.

The report does say a few other things. For example, the authors state:

= It is not possible to confidently predict whether a reduction in sea ice area would necessarily result in a corresponding reduction in the size of polar bear populations. =

and:

= Only a few polar bear populations currently have sufficient long-term data with which a more in-depth assessment into the possible effects of climate change can be made. =

and finally:

= Overall, many of the predictions we have made in this paper are subject to a high degree of uncertainty. =

To conclude, the data is not strong for many of the author’s conclusions, which they are honest enough to acknowledge. So basing all your alarmism on one report is not warranted.

You are failing miserably in trying to convince people that you know what you are talking about.

The real scientists know that:

1. polar bears live on seals

2. the seals they eat occupy a niche where they live around the ice flow edges

3. the polar bears also frequent the ice flow edges to get their food

4. global warming is forecast to completely remove summer Arctic ice in a few short years

5. it takes thousands of years for evolutionary changes to take effect

6. with no ice there will be no seals

7. with no seals there will be no polar bears

You don’t need computer models to predict what will happen if GHG’s are allowed to increase. Habitat loss is the biggest contributer to species loss there is. No habitat no bears. Can you get that through your thick skull?

Ian Forrester

No, he can’t.

But your efforts are appreciated.
Fern Mackenzie

Repeating the words of the scientists from the exact study you referenced:

= … many of the predictions we have made in this paper are subject to a high degree of uncertainty. =

And:

= It is not possible to confidently predict whether a reduction in sea ice area would necessarily result in a corresponding reduction in the size of polar bear populations. =

The polar bear scientists in the only study you provide can’t even support their claims with much confidence.

You Ian, go on to say:

= 4. global warming is forecast to completely remove summer Arctic ice in a few short years =

No it isn’t. The IPCC does not predict this. The concensus of which you are so beloved does not predict this.

Distorting science to support your overly alarmist agenda isn’t working Ian. We Canadians won’t let your kind run the show. Sorry. :(

There is no point in having a scientific discussion with someone who is anti-science and is completely ignorant of how science operates. Go back under the rock you call home.

Ian Forrester

Score: Paul 1, Ian 0

The only goal you are able to score is an “own goal” when you continually repeat your utter nonsense which is shown to be wrong time and time again.

Grow up and get a life.

Ian Forrester

Check out the comment: Anybody hear of Nick Lunn? at the top story and follow the links to comments from an actual scientist.

Fern Mackenzie

The report can be found here:

http://amap.no/acia/

Download “Finding 4” and you will be able to read (you can read?) about the future of the polar bears.

This document is locked so I can not quote large parts of it but here is a critical sentence:

“Polar bears are unlikely to survive as a species if there is an almost complete loss of summer sea ice cover, which is projected to occur before the end of the century by some climate models”.

This forecast for loss of summer sea ice is now predicted to occur much sooner than the end of the 21st century.

Why are you, Paul S/G, TROLL and ZOG such complete idiots when it comes to reading and understanding science. Note that somewhere else ZOG was claiming to be a scientist, what a joke, he had better not let on where he got his degree since people will then avoid that institution like the plague. If he is an example of what they graduate they must be third or fourth rate at best.

Ian Forrester

“Polar bears are unlikely to survive as a species if there is an almost complete loss of summer sea ice cover, which is projected to occur before the end of the century by some climate models”.

Ian, reread the question. What you quoted above (and I presume you quoted it because that’s the best you could find) does not support your claim that polar bears are in decline, or about to go extinct.

Once again, Ian, where in that document does it make any claim that polar bear populations are on the decrease or about to go extinct – as you originally asserted?

“This forecast for loss of summer sea ice is now predicted to occur much sooner than the end of the 21st century.”

No, Ian. That wasn’t the question, either, but I think you know that. Where in your document does it assert polar bears are presently in decline, or on the verge of extinction?

Or did you even read the report yourself?

“Why are you, Paul S/G, TROLL and ZOG such complete idiots when it comes to reading and understanding science.”

Well, Ian, it’s not so much that we’re idiots – it just seems that way to you, because you are so much smarter than the rest of us peasants.

“Note that somewhere else ZOG was claiming to be a scientist, what a joke, he had better not let on where he got his degree since people will then avoid that institution like the plague.”

Hmm, coming from a failed chemist, we can assume you speak with some authority on that subject, Ian.

”..using his position as a scientist…”

The usual warmist crap. Smear all scientists who don’t conform to your preconceived notion that the world is coming to an end and we’re all, (including the polar bears) going to diiieeeeee.

This just out: Mitchell Taylor is being paid off by BIG OIL[tm] and BIG TOBACCO. To the gallows with him!

How does your “illustrious” career in biotech qualify you to take pot shots at a man of Taylor’s calibre?

Ian,
Try opening such documents with PDF X-Change Viewer Version 1, available free on the web.

Here is the section about Polar Bears from “Finding 4”. Unedited, except to get rid of embedded returns, unless I made a blooper!

Polar Bears
Polar bears are dependent on sea ice, where they hunt ice-living seals and use ice corridors to move from one area to another. Pregnant females build their winter dens in areas with thick snow cover on land or on sea ice. When the females emerge from their dens with their cubs in spring, the mothers have not eaten for five to seven months. Their seal hunting success, which depends upon good spring ice conditions, is essential for the family’s survival. Changes in ice extent and stability are thus of critical importance, and observed and projected declines in sea ice are very likely to have devastating consequences for the polar bear.

The earliest impacts of warming would be expected to occur at the southern limits of the bears’ distribution, such as James and Hudson Bays in Canada, and such impacts have already been documented in recent years. The condition of adult polar bears has declined during the last two decades in the Hudson Bay area, as have the number of live births and the proportion of first-year cubs in the population. Polar bears in that region suffered 15% declines in both average weight and number of cubs born between 1981 and 1998. Later formation of sea ice in autumn and earlier break-up in spring means a longer period of annual fasting for female polar bears, and their reproductive success is tightly linked to their fat stores. Females in poor condition have smaller litters and smaller cubs that are less likely to survive. Climate change is also likely to
increase bear deaths directly. For example, increased frequency and intensity of spring rains is already causing some dens to collapse, resulting in the death of females and cubs. Earlier spring break-up of ice could separate traditional den sites from spring feeding areas, and young cubs cannot swim long distances from dens to feeding areas.

Polar bears are unlikely to survive as a species if there is an almost complete loss of summer sea-ice cover, which is projected to occur before the end of this century by some climate models. The only foreseeable option that polar bears would have is to adapt to a land-based summer lifestyle, but competition, risk of hybridization with brown and grizzly bears, and increased human interactions would then present additional threats to their survival as a species. The loss of polar bears is likely to have significant and rapid consequences for the ecosystems that they currently occupy.
———————————————————–
Like others here, I use Firefox and the capcha feature doesn’t work well with Firefox. Five attempts before I got lucky.

” Polar bears are unlikely to survive as a species if there is an almost complete loss of summer sea-ice cover, which is projected to occur before the end of this century by some climate models.”

That’s not a study. That’s an opinion piece. Some climate models? Which ones? Not the majority of course and certainly these opinions are not the concensus of the IPCC.

Sure it’s an opinion – based on stacks and stacks of research carried out in the arctic by climate scientists, laid out in a 140-page report written by the scientists who did the research. If you want specifics on which specific models GO READ THE WHOLE REPORT.

Fern Mackenzie

Uh, actually the claim about the possible extinction of polar bears is not supported by the science in the study. It is based on an unproven model that is not supported by most polar bear experts.

It is a minority opinion, little more. That is why you can never actually reference the specific, peer-reviewed scientific studies that support this conclusion. Because there aren’t any.

Paul S/G once again shows his stupidity and anti-science attitude.

If you have data to support your (wrong) conclusions re. polar bears, then cite them and let everyone see where you get your fictitious information.

Ian Forrester

The aforementioned Tim Flannery wrote, “Skepticism is an indispensable element in scientific inquiry, but when the intention is to mislead rather than clarify, we have not skepticism but deceit.”

Really, don’t you guys have anything better to do than to perpetuate the argument that global warming isn’t real, through the only forum left where you can spew your nonsense, blog comments?

…that global warming isn’t real…

I know of no reputable scientist who doubts that global warming is real. The climate warms, the climate cools - all perfectly normal as any earth scientist will tell you. Right now, we seem to be in the early stages of a cooling cycle. Time will tell.

Our quarrel (and thanks to the vociferous, anti-intellectual yapping of the warmists, it really is a “quarrel”) is with the promoters of the idea that the nasty human race is causing inclement weather and has the power to produce a hypothetical “ideal” climate by changing its energy consumption habits.

Flooded cities, prolonged droughts, devastating heat waves, and extinction of up to half the world’s species. That will be the ideal climate in a couple hundred years, according to *scientists*, unless we change course.

In paraphrase of Oliver Cromwell, I beseech you, think it possible that you may be mistaken.

Sounds good to me - especially if “extinction of half the world’s species” includes chattering warmist, better class of people with their silly deaaaaath scenarios.

Oh, wait, the projected disaster will also please the “humanity stinks” faction of the greenies who, like their guru Paul Ehrlich, think that there are “too many of those others” who need to be weeded out for the sake of Mama Earth.

Baa, humbug.

Yes, they don’t have anything better to do because disinformation, slander, and the spreading of inanity is their purpose. Really, there is no point in even acknowledging their existence. It simply encourages them even more. Much better to carry on an enlightening discussion with those who actually have an interest in developing a greater understanding of the issues.

Trivia quiz: Which will melt faster -

a) The Alaskan permafrost
b) The Arctic ice cap in summer
c) The credibility of predetermined conference findings funded by corporate-serving Alaskan legislators

[x]

Problems caused by climate change are likely already dangerous and global warming may be irreversible, according to a draft science report by a United Nations committee.

The Intergovernmental Panel of Climate Change (IPCC) report, leaked earlier this week to a number of major media organizations, said continued greenhouse gas emissions caused primarily by burning oil, coal and natural gas will probably increase the likelihood of  “severe, pervasive and irreversible impacts for people and ecosystems.”

The New York Times...

read more