American Elephants


Arctic Problems and Arctic Politics by The Elephant's Child

Five years ago, Charles Monnett was one of the scientists whose observation that several polar bears had drowned in the Arctic Ocean was quickly latched onto by the global warming movement. Now the wildlife biologist is on administrative leave and facing questions about scientific integrity issues.

The 2006 article about the bear spawned more controversy about melting Arctic ice, and the effects of global warming.

Myron Ebell, of the Competitive Enterprise Institute, says the case reinforces the group’s position that people should be more skeptical about the work of climate change scientists.  Even if every scientist is objective, “what we’re being asked to do is turn our economy around and spend trillions and trillions of dollars on the basis of” claims about climate change.

In 2004, Monnett and researcher Jeffrey Gleason were conducting an aerial survey of bowhead whales, and saw four dead polar bears floating in the water after a storm. Low-resolution photos show floating white blobs.

The two detailed their observations in an article published in the journal Polar Biology.  In the peer-reviewed article, they said they were reporting, to the best of their knowledge, the first observations of bears floating dead and presumed drowned while swimming long distances. They said their observation suggested the bears drowned in rough seas and high winds.  They added that the findings “suggest that drowning-related deaths of polar bears may increase in the future if the observed trend of regression of pack ice and/or longer open water periods continues.”

The article drew national attention,and green groups seized on the polar bear as a symbol of the “disastrous effect of warming” on the Arctic. In 2008, the bear was classified as a “threatened species”, even though their numbers had been increasing sharply.

Polar bears can swim long distances.  I’ve seen numbers as high as 60 miles. The Arctic ice melts in the summer and expands in the winter. Some years it melts more, others less. The alarmists want to point to any open water as a sign of doom for the world. And more particularly, they want to use the polar bear to keep oil companies from drilling in Alaska or off the Alaskan coast. They probably care more about the latter than the former.

There are a lot of suppositions and politics in those assumptions. Clearly, the polar bear is not threatened or endangered.  Their numbers have increased too much. Satellite surveys of Arctic ice indicate that the Arctic has not melted.  The new paper from UAH’s Spencer and Braswell has blown a fair sized hole in global warming theory. It is a good thing to step back and check the science and the assumptions derived from the science. The federal government has taken a good many actions based on flawed science that have cost jobs, livelihoods and the public’s pocketbook.  Insisting on truth and accuracy is good politics.




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