The (Polar) Bear Facts,” Checked by Shauna Theel, Media Matters, August 15, 2011
[Editor's Note: This is a related article to a news item reported on this site: Scientist May Be Endangered for Publishing Wrong Polar Bear Facts
In response to the suspension of federal scientist Charles Monnett, author of a 2006 article documenting polar bear deaths, conservative media have tried to dismiss the threat posed to polar bears by global warming. On Sunday, a New York Post editorial claimed Monnett's paper “led directly to the 2008 classification of the bears as a 'threatened' species, whose survival is allegedly at risk due to global warming.” The editorial, titled “The (polar) bear facts,” concluded that there is “no need to weep for 'threatened' polar bears just yet – nor, especially, for the planet.”
In fact, the Fish and Wildlife Service's determination that “the polar bear is threatened throughout its entire range by ongoing and projected changes in sea ice habitat” was based on a comprehensive evaluation of “the best available scientific and commercial information on polar bear habitat and projected effects of various factors (including climate change) on the quantity and distribution of polar bear habitat.”
Kassie Siegel of the Center for Biological Diversity stated in response to Sen. James Inhofe's claim that Monnett's paper provided “the foundation” for the FWS determination: “That paper was one of literally hundreds of scientific articles cited in the listing.”
Indeed, the determination cites many studies documenting how the “observed declines in the extent of Arctic sea ice” has and will affect polar bears, for instance:
Many researchers over the past 40 years have predicted an array of impacts to polar bears from climatic change that include adverse effects on denning, food chain disruption, and prey availability (Budyko 1966, p. 20; Lentfer 1972, p. 169; Tynan and DeMaster 1997, p. 315; Stirling and Derocher 1993, pp. 241-244).
Stirling and Derocher (1993, p. 240) first noted changes, such as declining body condition, lowered reproductive rates, and reduced cub survival, in polar bears in western Hudson Bay; they attributed these changes to a changing ice environment. Subsequently, Stirling et al. (1999, p. 303) established a statistically significant link between climate change in western Hudson Bay, reduced ice presence, and observed declines in polar bear physical and reproductive parameters, including body condition (weight) and natality. More recently Stirling and Parkinson (2006, p. 266) established a statistically significant decline in weights of lone and suspected pregnant adult female polar bears in western Hudson Bay between 1988 and 2004. Reduced body weights of adult females during fall have been correlated with subsequent declines in cub survival (Atkinson and Ramsay 1995, p. 559; Derocher and Stirling 1996, p. 1,250; Derocher and Wiig 2002, p. 347).
The Post editorial also falsely suggested that a recent study raises doubt about the basic fact that “carbon-dioxide emissions trap heat in the atmosphere” and falsely claimed that “climategate” showed scientists “fudg[ing] the facts.”