Susan Crockford

Susan Crockford

Credentials

Background

Susan Crockford runs the website “Polar Bear Science” where she describes herself as a “zoologist with more than 35 years experience, including published work on the Holocene history of Arctic animals.” She also runs the private consulting company, Pacific Identifications Inc[2]

“Polar bear evolution is one of my professional interests,” Crockford writes at Polar Bear Science. While she does not study them in the field, she claims she is a “different kind of polar bear expert” and that “having a different background means I know things they do not and this makes my contribution valuable and valid.” [2]

Crockford, who has also said that “‘polar bear expert’ describes me just as well as ‘dog evolution expert,’” has not published in any peer reviewed journals on polar bears. Crockford consistently claims that her work shows polar bears are not being endangered by global warming. A search of Google Scholar returns a number of articles related to early dog domestication. However, Crockford has prolifically posted polar bear articles on her own blog and in regular reports at the Global Warming Policy Foundation (GWPF), which are often echoed by an extensive network of climate change denial blogs, conservative news sources like Breitbart, and climate change denial think tanks and organizations. [3], [4]

Crockford has claimed her GWPF reports are peer reviewed. However, an undercover Greenpeace investigation cast doubt on the validity of the GWPF's internal review process, noting that only the group's internal advisory council generally reviewed documents, rather than the genuine, rigourous and often anonymised peer review of a traditional scientific journal. [10]

In 2012, a confidential document leak, dubbed Denialgate, revealed that Crockford had also been receiving payments of $750 per month from the notorious climate change denial think tank, the Heartland Institute, to work on their NIPCC (Nongovernmental International Panel on Climate Change) project. Crockford has also spoken at the Heartland Institute's International Conference on Climate Change (ICCC). Crockford refused to discuss the payments when contacted by a University of Victoria student newspaper. [5], [35]

Crockford regularly produces studies for the Global Warming Policy Foundation (GWPF), a think tank based in the UK run by Nigel Lawson with the purpose of combating what the foundation describes as “extremely damaging and harmful policies” designed to mitigate climate change. [6]

In November 2017, a study in the journal BioScience of discussions about polar bears on climate science denial blogs found that Crockfrod's website was cited in about 80 per cent of all the posts analysed.

“Zero Authority” on Polar Bear Science

Ian Stirling, who has spent more than four decades studying polar bears and publishing over 150 papers and five books on the topic, says Crockford has “zero” authority on the subject. [2], [7]

If you tell a lie big enough, often enough, people will begin to believe it,” said Ian Stirling. “The denier websites have been using her and building her up as an expert.” [7]

Sterling co-authored a 2017 paper in the journal BioScience looking at a tactic used by climate change denial blogs to attack the symbols of climate change, rather than the science behind it. Motherboard reported that the study also found that, by examining 45 blogs that deny or question climate science, 80 percent of those blogs referenced a single site with reference to polar bears: that of Susan Crockford. [8]

Because this evidence is so overwhelming, it would be virtually impossible to debunk; the main strategy of denier blogs is therefore to focus on topics that are showy and in which it is therefore easy to generate public interest,” the authors wrote. [8]

Proponents of creationism and intelligent design use the same strategy: Instead of providing scientific evidence in favor of their opinions, they instead focus selectively on certain lines of evidence for evolution and attempt to cast doubt on them.” [8]

Crockford responded by sending a letter to the editors of Bioscience “requesting retraction of the shoddy and malicious paper by Harvey et al.” [9]

GWPF “Peer Review” Process

While Crockford has claimed to have published “peer-reviewed” studies at GWPF, the group's unofficial peer review process differs from that of major academic journals. As revealed by an undercover Greenpeace investigation, articles would be submitted inside the GWPF's Advisory Council and other selected scientists reviewing the work, rather than presenting it to an academic journal. [10], [11], [12]

Sense About Science, a UK charitable trust, describes the danger of such a review process (despite having Matt Ridley, a member of GWPF's Advisory Council, on its own board):

 ”[S]ometimes organisations or individuals claim to have put their studies through peer review when, on inspection, they have only shown it to some colleagues. Such claims are usually made in the context of a campaign directed at the public or policy makers, as a way of trying to give scientific credibility to certain claims in the hope that a non-scientific audience will not know the difference.”

Stance on Climate Change

March 13, 2013

In a GWPF paper titled “Ten Good Reasons Not to Worry About Polar Bears,” Crockford makes assertions about polar bear populations and global warming. [13]

“Global temperatures have not risen in a statistically-significant way in the last 16 years […] which suggests that the record sea ice lows of the last few years are probably not primarily due to CO2 -caused increases in global temperatures,” Crockford wrote, citing a non-scientific GWPF paper and numbers provided by climate change denier Roy Spencer as evidence.

Key Quotes

March 2017

Beginning her speech at the Heartland Institute's Twelfth International Conference on Climate Change (ICCC12), Crockford declared: [19]

“I am here today to give you an example of the failed science that is used to convince uninformed people that burning fossil fuels has had and will continue to have harmful effects on the planet.”

February 2015

Crockford was quoted by multiple news sources, including climate change denier James Delingpole at Breitbart, and climate change denial blogs Climate Depot and Bishop HillPrincipia Scientific International, Watts Up With That, for a paper she had written in 2015 for the Global Warming Policy Foundation titled “Twenty good reasons not to worry about polar bears”: [14], [15], [16], [17], [18]

“On almost every measure, things are looking good for polar bears,” Crockford claimed.

Key Deeds

February 4, 2018

In January 2018, more than 200 scientists endorsed an open letter calling on the American Museum of Natural History (AMNH) to remove climate change denier Rebekah Mercer from its board and to “end ties to anti-science propagandists and funders of climate science misinformation.” The New York Times reported that those among the AMNH letter calling for Mercer to step down were Michael E. Mann, director of the Earth System Science Center at Pennsylvania State University, and Katharine Hayhoe, director of the Climate Science Center at Texas Tech University. [36]

Crockford was among a group of climate change deniers who responded with their own open letter, calling for the AMNH “not to cave in to this pressure.” The letter was signed by numerous individuals with ties to groups funded by the Mercer Family Foundation such as Will Happer of the CO2 CoalitionRichard Lindzen, a fellow at the Cato Institute; and Craig Idso, the chairman of the Center for the Study of Carbon Dioxide and Global Change. There are a number of signatories affiliated with the Heartland Institute, which has received over $5.78 million from the Mercer Family Foundation since 2008. [37]

The letter reads: [38]

The Earth has supported abundant life many times in the geological past when there were much higher levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. It is quite likely that future generations will benefit from the enrichment of Earth’s atmosphere with more carbon dioxide.

Make no mistake, the agitators are not defending science from quackery — quite the contrary!”

November 2017

In the journal BioScience, a group of scientists published analysis of the climate science denial blogosphere, arguing that the supposed doubts over the vulnerability of polar bears to climate chnage had become a proxy for climate science deniers to push back against other scientific findings related to the vulnerability of ecosystems and species. 

In the paper, the researchers found that Susan Crockford's Polar Bear Science blog had been cited by about 80 per cent of the climate denial blog posts as the primary source for either information or discussion on the threats to polar bears. 

Crockford wrote to the journal's editor to demand the paper be retracted, claiming later it was “academic rape”. On her blog under the headline “Bioscience article is academic rape: an assertion of power and intimidation”, Crockford wrote:  “Characterizing a professional, respected scientist as an unqualified vengeful opinion writer is the same kind of power attack as rape.”

March 23 – 24, 2017

Crockford was a speaker at the Heartland Institute's Twelfth International Conference on Climate Change (ICCC12). She spoke on Panel #A, “Fossil Fuels & the Environment.” Her speech was titled “Polar Bears: The Global Warming Icon That Refused to Die.” [19]

View the video below, as well as the archived PowerPoint presentation.

In conclusion, Crockford notes that she has two new books on polar bears, one “for adults and high school students and the other suitable for children seven and up.” [19]

February 27, 2017

Crockford was featured on a GWPF video titled “Polar Bear Scare Unmasked: The Saga of a Toppled Global Warming Icon”: [20]

November 6, 2017

Crockford released an updated set of “reasons not to worry about polar bears,” set to coincide with Polar Bear Week. [21]

“I hope you find it a useful resource for refuting the pessimism and prophecies of catastrophe about the future of polar bears,” Crockford wrote of her new GWPF paper, titled “Twenty Good Reasons Not to worry about polar bears: an update.” [22]

Crockford listed the following conclusions in the GWPF Briefing:

  • Polar bears are thriving: they are not currently threatened with extinction.
  • Tens of thousands of polar bears did not die as a result of more than a decade of low summer sea ice, as was predicted.
  • Polar bears don’t need sea ice in late summer/early fall as long as they are well-fed in the spring.

June 2015

Crockford wrote a GWPF “briefing” titled “The Arctic Fallacy: Sea ice stability and the polar bear” where she claims that “the assumption that Arctic sea ice is a naturally stable habitat over short time frames is a biological fallacy.” [23]

“Given what we now know about the animals and their naturally changing habitat, it is time to concede that data do not support predictions that polar bears, walrus, and Arctic seals are threatened with extinction due to habitat instability,” Crockford wrote. [23]

January 15, 2015

In a Financial Post opinion piece titled “Faux polar bear figures,” Crockford alleged that researchers were selectively presenting data because “prominent PBSG [Polar Bear Specialist Group] biologists seem determined to keep polar bears listed as 'vulnerable' to extinction ([International Union for Conservation of Nature] IUCN-equivalent of 'threatened') at all costs.” [24]

“Polar bears are currently doing well – data shenanigans to keep them classified as 'threatened' undermine the whole point of doing science,” Crockford concluded. [24]

October 20, 2014

Crockford wrote a paper for the Global Warming Policy Foundation (GWPF) suggesting Arctic walruses are not in danger or facing stresses due to global warming. [25], [26]

“The constant rush by government biologists and the WWF to blame global warming for any changes they see in walruses and polar bears – always seeing signs of pending catastrophe – fails to account for natural changes in sea ice (both up and down), natural fluctuations in population size, and most importantly, the resilience of both species to profound sea ice changes they have survived repeatedly before now,” Crockford concluded. [25]

She also appeared on GWPF TV to discuss her claims: [27]

June 11, 2014

Crockford gave a lecture at the House of Lords in London, arranged by the Global Warming Policy Foundation, titled “Healthy polar bears, less than healthy science.” She published a GWPF “note” of the same name in August 2014. [28]

A PDF of her original presentation is also available at the GWPF website. [29]

GWPF Director Benny Peiser also interviewed Crockford about her “research” on polar bears, describing her work as a “parallel interest to dog evolution”: [30]

September 2013

Crockford is listed as a contributing author/reviewer for the second report released by the Heartland Institute's Nongovernmental International Panel on Climate Change (NIPCC) titled “Climate Change Reconsidered II.” The report is a joint project of the Heartland Institute and the Science and Environmental Policy Project (SEPP) with the primary goal of discrediting the report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). The full text of the report is available here. [31]

March 13, 2013

In a GWPF paper titled “Ten Good Reasons Not to Worry About Polar Bears,” Crockford provides what she describes as “a useful resource for tuning out the cries of doom and gloom about the future of polar bears and celebrating their current success.” [13]

Climate change denier and GWPF adviser Matt Ridley wrote the foreword to the paper. Citing Crockford's work, Ridley asserts that “the claim that polar bear populations are declining at all, let alone due to climate change, is a manufactured myth.” [13]

Crockford asserts, citing a paper by the GWPF and analysis by Roy Spencer, a 16-year “standstill not predicted by climate models.” [13]

“Such changes in Arctic sea ice appear to be normal habitat variations that polar bears have survived before (see point 9, below) and are likely due to natural processes we do not yet fully understand,” Crockford concluded. [13]

April 2012

Denialgate documents revealed that Crockford had been receiving payments of $750 per month from the notorious climate change denial think tank, the Heartland Institute, to work on their NIPCC project. Crockford refused to discuss the payments when contacted by a University of Victoria student newspaper. [5]

One of Crockford's colleagues at the University of Victoria commented on her work with the Heartland Institute:

It is regrettable that anyone affiliated with the University of Victoria participated in the activities of an organization like the Heartland Institute,” says Dr. Thomas F. Pederson, Executive Director of the Pacific Institute for Climate Solutions (PICS) at UVic. “The University prides itself on being an institution of higher learning that deals with facts and that is nowhere more true than in the field of science. Those who deny that the planet is warming as a direct result of human activity are denying facts.” [5]

Affiliations

Social Media

Publications

Crockford does not appear to have published any articles in peer reviewed journals on polar bears or climate change. Her primary source of published articles appears to be early dog domestication and prehistoric dogs. [4]

According to a summary in the opinion section of Arctic Journal, and also at her blog, Crockford claims that one of her GWPF “briefing” papers is a “a peer-reviewed, fully referenced essay.” A 2015 Greenpeace investigation revealed details on just what “peer review” means in the context of the Global Warming Policy Foundation. [10], [33]

Some publications—like in Forbes, where the Heartland Institute's James Taylor wrote praising Crockford—declare that Crockford “has been published many times in the peer-reviewed scientific literature.” While this is true in reference to her focus on “the Holocene history of Arctic animals,” on topics like dog evolution, the claim is often made alongside her claims on polar bears. [34]

An interchange between William Happer, who sits on the Academic Advisory Council of GWPF, and an undercover Greenpeace reporter revealed that GWPF's “peer review” process was to submit papers solely to members of its Advisory Council. Happer noted that a more mainstream journal would be much more difficult to get published in because of “the complications of delay, possibly quixotic editors and reviewers.” View the full email chain here, with comments from Greenpeace. [11], [12]

Resources

  1. About Pacific ID,” Pacific IDentifications Inc. Archived December 26, 2017. Archive.is URL: https://archive.is/cBlTE

  2. About,” Polar Bear Science. Archived December 24, 2017. Archive.is URL: https://archive.is/pRKC5

  3. On being a polar bear expert, among other things,” Polar Bear Science, March 12, 2015. Archived December 24, 2017. Archive.is URL: https://archive.is/2Ctjt

  4. Google Scholar search for “Susan Crockford” performed December 24, 2017.

  5. “2012 Proposed Budget” (PDF), The Heartland Institute. Archived at DeSmog.

  6. Ed Miliband clashes with Lord Lawson on global warming,” BBC News, December 6, 2009. Archived August 17, 2015.

  7. Jimmy Thomson. “Polar Bears Chosen as a Bizarre Symbol to Deny Climate Change, Scientists Say,” DeSmog Canada, November 30, 2017.

  8. Stephen Leahy. “80 Percent of Climate Denier Blogs Reference This One Canadian Zoologist,” Motherboard, December 1, 2017. Archived December 26, 2017. Archive.is URL: https://archive.is/9rBot

  9. Susan Crockford Demands Retraction Of 'Shoddy and Malicious Paper',” Not a Lot of People Know That, December 6, 2017. Archived December 26, 2017. Archive.is URL: https://archive.is/oOyXC

  10. Unstable thinking about polar-bear habitat,The Arctic Journal, October 7, 2015. Archived October 12, 2015. Archive.is URL: https://archive.is/jtmeW

  11. Lawrence Carter and Maeve McClenaghan. “Exposed: Academics-for-hire agree not to disclose fossil fuel funding,” Greenpeace, December 9, 2015.

  12. Email-Chain-Happer-O-Keefe-and-Donors-Trust,” contributed to DocumentCloud by Damian Kahya, Greenpeace.

  13. Susan Crockford. “Ten Good Reasons Not to Worry About Polar Bears” (PDF), Global Warming Policy Foundation, March 2013.

  14. John Ingham. “Polar bear population bounces back despite climate change warning,” Sunday Express, February 28, 2015. Archive.is URL: https://archive.is/WzVUn

  15. James Delingpole. “More Bad News for Alarmists: Polar Bears Doing Just Fine,” Breitbart, February 27, 2015. Archived December 24, 2017. Archive.is URL: https://archive.is/1uvTu

  16. International Polar Bear Day,” Bishop Hill, February 27, 2015. Archived December 24, 2017. Archive.is URL: https://archive.is/rRMfb

  17. Twenty Reasons Not To Worry About Polar Bears, The 2017 Update,” Principa Scientific International, November 7, 2017. Archived December 24, 2017. Archive.is URL: https://archive.is/CJBd6

  18. Susan Crockford. “Twenty good reasons not to worry about polar bears” (PDF), The Global Warming Policy Foundation, February 2015.

  19. Susan Crockford, ICCC12 (Panel 3A Fossil Fuels & the Environment),” Climateconferences.heartland.org. Archived December 23, 2017. Archive.is URLhttps://archive.is/MbISB

  20. Polar Bear Scare Unmasked: The Saga of a Toppled Global Warming Icon,” YouTube video by user “GWPF” uploaded by user “GWPF,” February 27, 2017.

  21. Twenty reasons not to worry about polar bears, the 2017 update,” Polar Bear Science, November 6, 2017. Archived December 25, 2017. Archive.is URL: https://archive.is/iXcvw

  22. TWENTY GOOD REASONS Not to worry about polar bears: an update,” GWPF, November 2017.

  23. Susan Crockford. THE ARCTIC FALLACY: Sea ice stability and the polar bear” (PDF), GWPF, June 2015.

  24. Faux polar bear figures,” Financial Post, January 15, 2015. Archived December 25, 2017. Archive.is URL: https://archive.is/MVqen

  25. Susan Crockford. “ON THE BEACH: Walrus haulouts are nothing new,” Global Warming Policy Foundation. 2014.

  26. NEW PAPER REFUTES WALRUS-CLIMATE SCAREGlobal Warming Policy Foundation, October 20, 2014. Archived December 23, 2017. Archive.is URL: https://archive.is/xZT7M

  27. The Walrus Fuss - Walrus haulouts are nothing new,” YouTube video by user “GWPF,” October 23, 2014. Archived .mp4 on file at DeSmog.

  28. Susan Crockford.HEALTHY POLAR BEARS Less Than Healthy Science” (PDF), The Global Warming Policy Foundation, August 2014.

  29. “Healthy Polar Bears, Less than Healthy Science” (PDF), June 11, 2014. retrieved from GWPF.org.

  30. Healthy Polar Bears, Less Than Healthy Science,” YouTube video uploaded by user “GWPF,” June 17, 2014. Archived .mp4 on file at DeSmog.

  31. “Climate Change Reconsidered II: Biological Impacts” (PDF), NIPCC, 2014.

  32. CANADIAN SPEAKERS BUREAU,” International Climate Science Coalition. Archived December 24, 2017. Archive.is URL: https://archive.is/BBZlY

  33. Sea ice is not a stable habitat for polar bears – summarized today in The Arctic Journal,Polar Bear Science, October 7, 2015. Archived December 24, 2017. Archive.is URL: https://archive.is/0oIX6

  34. Good News For Polar Bears Is Bad News for Global Warming Alarmists,” Forbes, August 15, 2012. Archived January 11, 2018. Archive.is URL: https://archive.is/rUrsk

  35. Brendan DeMelle. “Heartland Payments to University of Victoria Professor Susan Crockford Probed,” DeSmog, April 6, 2012.

  36. Robin Pogrebin and Somini Sengupta. “A Science Denier at the Natural History Museum? Scientists Rebel,” The New York Times, January 25, 2018. Archived February 13, 2018. Archive.is URLhttps://archive.is/tAIv4

  37. Graham Readfearn. “Climate Science Deniers Defend New York’s American Museum of Natural History From Calls to Drop Trustee Rebekah Mercer,” DeSmog, February 6, 2018.

  38. mnh18-feb4-petitionletter (PDF - Untitled). Retrieved from Watts Up With That.