Sarah Palin puts polar bears on thin ice

Tue, 2008-09-30 21:53Page van der Linden
Page van der Linden's picture

Sarah Palin puts polar bears on thin ice

The United States is drawing closer and closer to one of the most important presidential elections in many years.

In particular, the scientific community is anxiously anticipating the outcome on November 4. One of the reasons can be summed up by a December 12, 2007 House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform Report.

In summary:

This report presents the findings of the Committee’s investigation. The evidence before the Committee leads to one inescapable conclusion: the Bush Administration has engaged in a systematic effort to manipulate climate change science and mislead policymakers and the public about the dangers of global warming.

As their habitats are threatened by climate change, polar bears have become a primary symbol of the impending effects climate change will have on the entire planet. Predictably, the global warming deniers are attempting to muddle the science proving that polar bears are in peril. Guess which side Sarah Palin is on.

In the context of the proposed federal listing of the polar bear as threatened, late last year, a story came out regarding Exxon-funded polar bear “research”:

While recognizing the possible impact of climate change on the polar bear, the authors concluded “it is simply not prudent to overstate the certainty” that climate change, or any other single factor, is responsible for “observed patterns in polar bear population ecology.” The article, which was labeled a “Viewpoint” essay because it contained no new research, was published in the September issue of the Journal of Ecological Complexity.

In their conclusion, the article's authors thanked ExxonMobil and the American Petroleum Institute for their financial backing. They noted that the paper's views were “independent of sources providing support.”

Many of the articles referenced by the paper were by the same authors and other global warming deniers, all of whom have been prominent mouthpieces for a variety of Exxon-funded think tanks.

Fast forward to May 2008. 

It turns out that Sarah Palin has played a starring role in the science fiction drama about how “the polar bears are really quite happy”. The UK Guardian tells us about their findings:

The Republican Sarah Palin and her officials in the Alaskan state government drew on the work of at least six scientists known to be sceptical about the dangers and causes of global warming, to back efforts to stop polar bears being protected as an endangered species, the Guardian can disclose. Some of the scientists were funded by the oil industry.

In official submissions to the US government's consultation on the status of the polar bear, Palin and her team referred to at least six scientists who have questioned either the existence of warming as a largely man-made phenomenon or its severity. One paper was partly funded by the US oil company ExxonMobil.


[Palin's] own Alaskan review of the science drew on a joint paper by seven authors, four of whom were well-known climate- change contrarians. Her paper argued that it was “certainly premature, if not impossible” to link temperature rise in Alaska with human CO2 emissions.

The “joint paper” to which the article refers is the “Viewpoint” essay mentioned above. The Guardian article quotes Walt Meier, who is an international authority on sea ice, saying that the “Viewpoint” essay “doesn't measure up scientifically”.

More from the Guardian:

The citation by Palin and her officials prompted complaints from Congress. One member, Brad Miller, dubbed the polar bear study phony science.

Palin told Miller: “Attempts to discredit scientists…simply because their analyses do not agree with your views, would be a disservice to this country.” Miller now says that Palin's use of the paper shows she differs greatly from John McCain, the Republican presidential contender, who has pressed for scientific integrity. “Turning to the cottage industry of scientists who are funded because they spread doubt about global warming is not integrity,” Miller said.

According to the article, the global warming deniers and/or skeptics cited by Palin's paper included:

  • Willie Soon: Soon is one of the most prominent climate science skeptics. The Guardian article sums him up as:
    … a former senior scientist with the George C Marshall Institute, which acts as an incubator for climate-change scepticism. The institute has received $715,000 in funding from ExxonMobil since 1998.

    (More on Soon here.)

  • Sallie Baliunas: The Guardian notes that:
    [In] 2003 she and Soon were criticised when it was revealed that a joint paper had been partially funded by the American Petroleum Institute. Thirteen scientists whom they cited issued a rebuttal and several editors of the journal Climate Research resigned because of the “flawed peer review”. A third co-author of the polar bear study, David Legates, a professor at Delaware University, is also associated with the Marshall Institute.

    (More on Baliunas here; read about Legates here. The Marshall Institute is described here.)

  • Timothy Ball: From the Guardian article:
    Timothy Ball, a retired professor from Winnipeg, is cited for his climate and polar bear research. He has called human-made global warming “the greatest deception in the history of science”. He has worked with both Friends of Science, and the Natural Resources Stewardship Project, which each had funding from energy firms.

    (More on Ball here.)

  • J. Scott Armstrong: Armstrong, as quoted by the Guardian has called global warming “public hysteria”. He's a forecasting expert and marketing professor, and was one of the global warming deniers contacted by the state of Alaska as an “expert” to help prove that the polar bears aren't endangered.
  • Syun-Ichi Akasofu: Akasofu's view regarding climate change can be summed up with:
    Akasofu said there is no data showing that “most” of the present warming is due to the man-made greenhouse effect, as the members of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change wrote in February.

The Guardian's findings show without a doubt where Sarah Palin stands on global warming, regardless of what she has said in recent interviews.

It also presents a disturbing view of what a potential McCain-Palin administration would look like. It would simply be a continuation of the Bush administration's science policies.

The only difference is that Bush admits global warming is real.

Previous Comments

So far I’m not worked up about the Bears.

There are a bunch of small populations under 500 bears that are declining and in trouble.

There are also several large populations of 1000 - 2500 bears each - populations that are stable or growing.

don’t bother signing me up for the save the bears rally just yet


related point - several years ago I went camping on the west side of Vancouver Island. The guy at the campground says a “Bear owns it” - so he can walk through the camp anytime he wants - What kind of a world is it where Bears own property and I don’t?

World Wildlife Fund:

“There are estimated to be at least 22,000 polar bears worldwide living in 20 discreet populations.
The general status of polar bears is currently stable, though there are differences between the populations. Some are stable, some seem to be increasing, and some are decreasing due to various pressures. The status of some populations is not well documented.

Though much traditional hunting by local communities is sustainable, the IUCN Polar Bear Specialist Group (PBSG) documents that, both historically and currently, the main threat to polar bears remains over-hunting.

Polar Bear Population Forecasts: A Public-Policy Forecasting Audit
Calls to list polar bears as a threatened species under the U.S. Endangered Species Act are based
on forecasts of substantial long-term declines in their population. Nine government reports were
to inform the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service decision on whether or not to list polar bears as
threatened under the Endangered Species Act. We assessed these reports in light of evidencebased
(scientific) forecasting principles. None of the reports referred to works on scientific
forecasting methodology. Of the nine, Amstrup, Marcot and Douglas (2007) and Hunter et al.
(2007) were the most relevant to the listing decision. Their forecasts were products of complex
sets of assumptions. The first in both cases was the erroneous assumption that General
Circulation Models provide valid forecasts of summer sea ice in the regions inhabited by polar
bears. We nevertheless audited their conditional forecasts of what would happen to the polar bear
population assuming, as the authors did, that the extent of summer sea ice would decrease
substantially over the coming decades. We found that Amstrup et al. properly applied only 15%
of relevant forecasting principles and Hunter et al. only 10%, while 46% were clearly
contravened and 23% were apparently contravened. As a consequence their forecasts are
unscientific and of no consequence to decision makers. We recommend that all relevant
principles be properly applied when important public policy decisions depend on accurate


Polar bear not threatened, Canadian panel finds

OTTAWA – The polar bear is in trouble in Canada because of overhunting and global warming, but it is not endangered or threatened with extinction, an independent committee advising the Canadian government said Friday.”

There are estimated to be at least 22,000 polar bears worldwide…
but it is not endangered or threatened with extinction.

That would be the same sized population as a mid sized town wouldn’t it?

so you want to see a world with a million polar bears?

these things are monsters - they’d eat you in a second if you crossed their path.

Polar Bears need to be in limited numbers and far away. 20000 is just fine.

It’s not like they are facing the near extermination that happened with the wolves and now even the wolves are going to be fine. Hey - they’ll probably make a good comeback and eat somebodies kid.

(Why wont this bloody system allow me to post links?)

“A federal judge on Monday overturned a decision that removed the grey wolf from the endangered species list in Wisconsin, Michigan and Minnesota.” - The Guardian 30/09/2008

Finally, I’m in my field. Sort of.

The carrying capacity of northern environments for polar bears is probably reasonably close to what the bears’ population currently is. There’s a more sophisticated way of saying this that introduces related concepts of population dynamics, prey cycling, and environmental forcing, but those details are not fully understood for polar bears anyway.

As a top carnivore, polar bears are simply never going to be massively abundant, so 22,000 is a reasonable population size for them. It certainly precludes them from suffering any species-wide genetic problems (related to genetic drift or inbreeding). They are also unlikely to go extinct because of environmental stochasticity.

Richard is right, however. The polar bear is now a special concern species (so designated by COSEWIC) in Canada because dispassionate evaluation of its subpopulations in Canada suggests real prospects for trouble. We simply don’t know if that trouble will truly materialize and there are good reasons to hope the bear is a bit more durable than the simplest forecasts. But, the Canadian populations are legitimately of special concern. Remember also that the northwestern Arctic has warmed up an awful lot in the past century, much more than southern Canada and the US. This is causing the Alaskan polar bears more trouble and sensible forecasts of their immediate future legitimately support the US status as “threatened”.

What is very important about the COSEWIC work is that “special concern” status EXCLUDES ANY projection for future climate effects on the species. It is based exclusively on current condition, where some subpopulations are experiencing population declines and body condition of the bears is also declining. No climate model is likely to yield a positive forecast for the polar bear unless we ask an economist to construct it.


Typing brings up a .pdf file of a Reprint from ENERGY & ENVIRONMENT
Kesten C. Green and J. Scott Armstrong

Isn’t this that pseudoscience - of course it is, it’s published by Energy and Environment - the ‘Journal’ that publishes the so-called ‘science’ that any self respecting scientific journal wouldn’t touch with a barge pole. Didn’t hey publish Benny Peiser’s self-confessed deeply flawed ‘counterblast’ to Naomi Oreskes. Anyhow it’s garbage.

Well Mr Wakefield, your denialist trash spammed all over the place isn’t worth a light. Nobody takes you seriously.

It just goes to show that McCain & Palin would be a disaster. Just ignore the science and get a failed scientist to cherrypick the data and distort the truth, just like you Mr. Wakefield!

It is your OPINION to not accept that publication. But how do you explain the WWF?

The issue is this. Even if GW has a potential cause to harm the population (and there is zero evidence of this since the population has at least doubled in 50 years), why is the other critical issue, over-hunting, not included? Clearly, if hunting is stopped completely the population would be out of danger from AGW since they survived other warm spells for thousands of years.

Why doe the environmentalists not include the over-hunting as one of the major threats to polar bears?

because they don’t want to actually solve the “problem” - they want it to get worse so they can have a better mascot for the movement.

Aardvark: “Nobody takes you seriously”

Well, you obviously do. I love to hear the bleat of a warmist feeling threatened.

“McCain & Palin would be a disaster”

True. McCain is a warmist idiot, and he’s at the top of the ticket.


The Guardian:

“…Timothy Ball, a retired professor from Winnipeg, is cited for his climate and polar bear research.”

That is an interesting set of research topics. I think it is fair to say that he has had as much actual research experience in one area as the other.

In this case, it is easy to locate, but in general, if you do not have library search access, you can use In the case of this 2007 “Viewpoint” paper (which, oddly enough, is based on fitted lines to weather data ending in 2002), search:

Viewpoint. Polar bears of western Hudson Bay and climate change: Are warming spring air temperatures the ‘‘ultimate’’ survival control factor?
M.G. Dyck, W. Soon, et al.

Full text here

…partially supported by grants from the Charles G.
Koch Charitable Foundation, American Petroleum Institute,
and Exxon-Mobil Corporation.

And literature cited.

Today’s polar bear population and their threat level are a lot like weather and climate, 2 very different things. 22,000 sounds like a lot but we are pretty sure that the earths climate is going to continue to warm for the next 50 years or so, all but eliminating their habitat (Arctic Ice) for longer and longer stretches of time. How long until all the polar region’s bear populations are affected?

living will work just fine for polar bears.

If the planet has warmed since 1950’s how come the population doubled? No, we are not sure at all the planet will “continue to warm” over the next 50 years. That is a prediction, not fact. It hasn’t the past 10 years. It’s actually dropped. More ice this year in the Arctic than last year’s large drop. Now there is some question on the validity of the satilite measurements in that some of the flows with open water on them is bing counted as open sea when it wasn’t.

Fact is polar bears survived many other climate changes in the past. That does not mean they will this time, as humans are inflicting a much larger selection pressure against them than climate – over hunting. If you are so concerned with polar bear survival then lead a ban on all hunting first.

Until all hunting stops completely there is no way of knowing if changing climate has any effect.

Hunting has been well managed for the last 50 years - in Canada at any rate, and most of the bears are Canucks. The Inuit and Canadian biologists who actually live and work in the Arctic (i.e. NOT in Edmonton) say that Nanook is doing very well, thank you very much. Until the Yanks brought in their stipid “threatened” classification providing tourists with bear hunts was a major source of Inuit income. Don’t believe everything you hear.

That’s not my point. The issue is we hear only that polar bears are going to go extinct due to AGW. No mention of hunting is included. If polar bears are that threatened then THEIR message should include a ban on hunting. But they, the warmists, completely ignore that as the only focus message, ignoring everything else, is the AGW scare.

Only true believers of the dogma are “pretty sure that the earths climate is going to continue to warm for the next 50 years”
Realists that are pay ing attention to RECENT research are seeing a lot of convincing evidence of a cood trend begining early this year and extending many years into the future.

Stop reading the Out of Date IPCC propaganda.

The fundamentals of the polar bear population are strong.

It’s true. I heard it from Willie Soon.


Even if all of climate science theory was turned around and somehow we entered into a little ice age, rest assured, Frank would continue on message. He’s unstoppable.

But you wouldn’t.

Supposing we did drop into an ice age, the obvious facts would almost instantly convince the scientific community. We are interested in reality.

The deniers deny it. Perhaps you would then switch sides and argue that the world was NOT cooling down because… you name it… Mars had a warming year, or there was a place on Earth that wasn’t warming as quickly, or because the stratosphere was warming, or because summers were still warmer than winters, or because thermometre measurements from the 18th century british navy are badly calibrated, or because of a reverse urban heat island effect that was dragging down temperatures (who knows, maybe we cranked up the AC, vented the hot exhaust underground, and opened all the windows?), or….

I’m obviously taking a bit of a dig at you on this one, but systematic denial defies scientific opinion. It’s interesting (and fun) to imagine what a denier would argue if reality did the opposite.


I can’t speak for deniers of AGW. But as a skeptic of the theory, I would accept what ever the planet actually does, not fret over what some people THINK it might do. If there is one thing we can count on it’s that once the future unfolds it’s not what anyone predicted.


Pretty big assumption that I, CAM, am some kind of dogmatic true believer. I simply read, and read, and then sometimes I read a little bit more. There does seem to be a bit of a credibility issue with your side IMO. The truth is that the smart money is on a warming trend with a slight chance of some sort of poorly understood, catastrophic climate swing in the next 0-200 years. Perhaps hotter, perhaps cooler. Not a very scientific explanation I know but when our intelligence, spy, agriculture and environmental agencies all list climate change as the most pressing issue facing HUMANITY, maybe we should look at keeping things status quo. Worst thing that happens is we develop some good habits, pollute a little less and learn a little more about our affect on the planet. Times are changing GARY, RICK etc…there is no data, science coming to save your positions, CO2 may not be the worst pollutant but is a by- product of heavily destructive practices if you haven’t noticed.

WAKE UP (I love to capitalize)

thats funny cuz i am a banker!

This is the same smart money that went into subprime right?

Fact is, we cannot predict the future past a few years let alone 200. What is the state of our civilizatoin in 200 years? Star Trekian? Hardley.

We are facing far more serious issues than CO2 and climate change. Resource depetion is the number #1 issue, caused by over population. We have less than 25 years of oil left (will start to terminal decline within 5 years), we have less than 50 years of coal left. Less than 50 years of uranium left, and we will be lucky to have 20 years of harvestable seas left. Soil depletion is rampant in the bread baskets of the world, and the prime resource for fertilizar – natural gas – is in terminal decline in North America.

If humanity suffers the same fate as all organisms who over shoot their carrying capacity in 200 years there will be less than 500 million people on the planet and they will be trying to recover from an resource collapse. There, an alternative 200 year prediction. Who’s going to be right? We won’t know until we get there, well, someone will be around to know, maybe…

I did not intend to presume your views. I was commenting in general terms.
“agencies all list climate change as the most pressing issue facing HUMANITY
I agree with this statement, but not with the implied reasons for it.
I think they all list if because it is the single most effective cause to cite if you need funding, grants or Tax hikes. It is the most incredible opportunity or money grabbing in centuries.
“Times are changing GARY, RICK
Indeed. But let them change at a natural pace based on the truth and not propaganda.
Nobody disagrees with clean power or lower energy costs. Just don’t lie to me to force me to accept your idea of how we should live.
Finally; CO2 is not a pollutant. Try to get over it.

To expand your view look at the sun. Look at the recent data showing decreased solar activity.
Contrary to the IPCC the sun is not a constant.

Maybe politicians should consider alternative views to prepare alternative scenarios? What if it is cooling and we will have food and energy shortages? What have they done to prepare? Nothing.

They know about resource depletion. Harper knows, Dion knows, and May at the dabate showed she knows. But instead of realising the real threat, they pussy-foot around climate change as THE big threat. Maybe they are worried what the public would do if they acknowledge that we are facing a resource collapse within the next 10-20 years.

The doctor has very clearly declared that Global Cooling is coming:


With some analysts predicting the global price of oil to see another drop, many oil majors have deployed their parachutes and jumped from the hydraulic fracturing (“fracking”) projects rapidly nose-diving across the world.

As The Wall Street Journal recently reported, the unconvetional shale oil and gas boom is still predominantly U.S.-centric, likely to remain so for years to come.

“Chevron Corp., Exxon Mobil Corp. and...

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