Tuesday, January 02, 2007

False Claims of Hysteria

I understand that people who do not live in the north generally have difficulty grasping the concept of too many polar bears in an area. People who live here have a pretty good grasp of what that is like to have too many polar bears around.

This complexity is why so many people find the truth less entertaining than a good story. It is entirely appropriate to be concerned about climate change, but it is just silly to predict the demise of polar bears in 25 years based on media-assisted hysteria.

Dr. Mitchell Taylor Canadian polar bear biologist

He's right about the complexity, but hiding behind cries of hysteria is a hollow strategy. This quote refers to something Tim Flannery claimed in his book, The Weather Makers: The History & Future Impact of Climate Change, ISBN 1-920885-84-6, but it's the first I've heard of it. Charges of "instant demise" claims made against me, Al Gore, or anyone else writng about Climate Change is nothing more than ad hominem. No one is saying next week, next month or anything of the sort. Claiming we are is the last desperate refuge of scoundrels. Polar bears can be abundant in town if there's no place to go that's frozen. Then they'll be shot. Somebody would have to explain how a growing population of "dump" bears is the salvation of a species because I don't get it. Must be all that scientific training getting in the way of the Ultimate Truth?

Again Dr. Amstrup on the gist of the issue. He's not bitching about hysteria here.
We analyzed capture-recapture data collected from 1984-2004 by the Canadian Wildlife Service, and handling data for polar bears captured in and around the community of Churchill by the Manitoba Department of Conservation. We used Cormack-Jolly-Seber to estimate survival, population size, and population growth rate. We concluded that the total size of the WH polar bear population declined by approximately 22%, from 1194 (95% CI = 1020, 1368) in 1987 to 935 (95% CI = 794, 1076) in 2004. The correlation between earlier sea ice breakup and decreased survival provides quantitative evidence for a link between climatic warming and polar bear population dynamics. It may also help explain why Churchill, like other communities along the western coast of Hudson Bay, has experienced an increase in the number of bears that come into town prior to freeze-up each fall. The progressively earlier breakup of sea ice shortens the time that polar bears can hunt seals during the critical spring foraging season, thereby reducing their ability to accumulate the fat reserves they rely upon while stranded on land. The WH population is forced ashore earlier, in poorer nutritional condition, and remains food-deprived for a longer time. As polar bears exhaust their fat reserves toward the end of the ice-free period, they are more likely to encroach upon human settlements in search of alternative food sources to sustain themselves until freeze-up. Thus, the increase in polar bear-human interactions in western Hudson Bay probably* reflects an increase in nutritionally-stressed polar bears searching for food, not an increase in population size. Models developed and tested on the WHB project are currently being used for a new population estimation for polar bears of the Southern Beaufort Sea.
* This is unlikely to mean nothing of the sort is happening and the bears are just coming to town looking for lawn chairs and CocaCola. Scientists never leap very far ahead to leaps of faith-based absolutism found in conservative polemics.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi Mark,

Thank god for sensible and rational people such as yourself for writing this blog post.

Unfortunately your blog entry seems to be incomplete as it is missing the link to Dr. Mitchell Taylor's site.



4:55 AM  
Blogger Mark said...

Thanks. Correction made.

5:54 AM  

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