More Evidence for Rapid Coral Adaptation

Reblogged from Watts Up With That:

By Jim Steele

Good news continues to accumulate regards corals’ ability to rapidly adjust to changing climates. The view of coral resilience has been dominated by the narrative of a few scientists. In the 1990s they advocated devastating consequences for coral reefs due to global warming, arguing coral cannot adapt quickly enough. Since the Little Ice Age ended, they believed rising ocean temperatures had brought coral closer to a “bleaching threshold”, a more or less fixed upper temperature limit above which corals cannot survive. Their model predicted the speed of recent global warming “spells catastrophe for tropical marine ecosystems everywhere”. Their assertions that “as much as 95% of the world’s coral may be in danger of being lost by mid-century” was guaranteed to capture headlines and instill public fear. However, a growing body of scientific research increasingly casts doubts on such alarming predictions. Unfortunately, that good news gets much less attention.

A recent peer-reviewed paper titled A Global Analysis of Coral Bleaching Over the Past Two Decades (Sully 2019) compared 20 years of ocean temperatures at which coral bleaching was initiated. From 1998 to 2006, the average sea surface temperature that initiated bleaching was 82.6 °F. But that temperature limit proves not to be “fixed” as earlier researchers incorrectly believed. From 2007 to 2017 the average temperature limit that initiated bleaching was higher, 83.7 °F. This indicates coral have been rapidly adapting to warmer regional climates much faster than once believed.

Based on these new observations the scientists concluded, “past bleaching events may have culled the thermally susceptible individuals, resulting in a recent adjustment of the remaining coral populations to higher thresholds of bleaching temperatures.” Furthermore, they suggested, “Localities that commonly experience large daily, weekly, or seasonal SST ranges [Sea Surface Temperature] may harbor corals, and strains of coral symbionts, that are more resistant to SST extremes.”

Other studies also observed similar rapid adaptations. Studies in Indonesian waters determined that two coral species, both highly susceptible to bleaching, had experienced 94% and 87% colony deaths during the 1998 El Nino. Yet those same species were among the least susceptible to bleaching in the 2010 El Nino despite a similar increase in water temperatures with only 5% and 12% colony deaths.

In the context of coral evolution over thousands and millions of years, such rapid adaptation was suspected by many scientists. After all, none of the coral reefs we observe today, that depend on symbiotic algae, existed 18,000 years ago. The last Ice Age Maximum lowered sea level by 400 feet, killing all coral above those depths. As ice sheets melted, oceans warmed, sea levels rose, and coral rapidly adapted to those ever-changing conditions. More recently, estimates of ocean temperatures just 3000 to 5000 years ago range from 1.8°F to 9°F warmer than today. And clearly those warmer temperatures did not result in massive coral extirpations, thus casting further doubt on predictions of massive coral deaths by 2050. Evidence of bleaching thousands of years ago also reveals it is not just a recent phenomenon.

Studies of coral reefs that existed thousands and millions of years ago, find the lowest extinction rates occurred in the warmest tropics. Sully 2019 similarly found “coral bleaching was less common in the equatorial regions.” In contrast to earlier “models that predict minimal coral survival in the tropical oceans within the next 100 years, recent field work shows considerable geographic variability in both temperature stress and coral survival”. Thus, they argue there is an “urgent need to develop better models” to more accurately predict coral bleaching.

Sully 2019 hypothesized “localities that commonly experience large daily, weekly, or seasonal SST ranges may harbor corals, and strains of coral symbionts [symbiotic partners], that are more resistant to SST extremes.” Increased resilience to a variety of bleaching events, whether induced by anomalous warmth or cold, prompted the Adaptive Bleaching Hypothesis first proposed in 1993. That hypothesis suggests that although bleaching events are a response to stress, by ejecting susceptible symbionts, coral create the potential to acquire totally new and different symbiotic partners that are better suited to new stressful conditions.  A broader analysis of the Adaptive Bleaching Hypothesis is discussed in the article “The Coral Bleaching Debate: Is Bleaching the Legacy of a Marvelous Adaptation Mechanism or A Prelude to Extirpation?

Because coral live in nutrient depleted environments, many species require single-celled photosynthesizing symbionts that typically provide ~90% of the coral’s energy needs. Just 40 years ago it was believed all corals were host to just one photosynthesizing symbiont. But thanks to technological advances in genetic sequencing, we now know a coral species can harbor several potential symbionts, each capable of responding optimally to a different set of environmental conditions. As predicted by the adaptive bleaching hypothesis, genetic techniques have now revealed a wondrously diverse community of symbionts with which coral can partner.

The more alarmist researchers had argued coral can only adapt very slowly over thousands of years via genetic mutation and natural selection. They incorrectly believed coral’s upper temperature limit is “fixed” for decades and centuries. But corals are now seen as an “eco-species” that can rapidly evolve and adapt to changing climates by expelling and acquiring new symbionts. Various symbionts enable various temperature tolerances.

To summarize Sully 2019, they found:

1. Coral now require higher ocean temperatures to bleach than the temperatures that caused bleaching a decade ago. This suggests rapid coral adaptation.

2. Coral bleaching was significantly lower in localities with a high variance in temperature anomalies. Localities with high variability likely maintain a wide variety of symbionts and coral genotypes.

3. There has been no universal response to global warming. Despite similar changes in temperature, bleaching was much less likely in equatorial region where coral diversity was highest.

4. Rapid changes in temperature can result in more bleaching, but the causes of rapid temperature change, such as an El Nino, were not analyzed.

Unfortunately, the last sentence in Sully 2019, reveals how some editors and journals are politicizing the science, and downplaying any optimism. Sully 2019’s last sentence read “immediate action globally to reduce carbon emissions is necessary to avoid further declines of coral reefs.” But Sully 2019’s research never tested or analyzed the effects of CO2 on temperature and bleaching. Their research only revealed resilience and rapid adaptation to warming, whether that warming was natural or CO2 induced. Furthermore, their research reported susceptibility to bleaching varied over time and location and did not detect a CO2 fingerprint. Their research did not determine whether rapid changes in regional ocean temperature were caused by changes in El Nino, shifting ocean currents, changes in upwelling, cloud cover or CO2 concentrations. In the past, honest and objective scientific journals restricted comments to conclusions based on the author’s actual research.

Over the years I have had several researchers thank me for posting information in my blogs that their editors had not allowed. They tell me editors have insisted on more catastrophic CO2-biased conclusions in order for them to publish. We also know from published emails that alarmist scientists like Michael Mann and Kevin Trenberth have actively “persuaded” journal editors, via bullying or other means, to obstruct publication of any skeptical scientific research that undermines Mann’s and Trenberth’s dire predictions. Sully’s CO2-alarmist, non-sequitur closing sentence is most certainly the fingerprint of another such enforced distortion that is now being superimposed on otherwise objective science.

Jim Steele is retired director of the Sierra Nevada Field Campus, San Francisco State University

 

Why climate predictions are so difficult

“The difficulties [in climate modeling Bjorn Stevens of the Hamburg Max Planck Institute for Meteorology] and his fellow researchers face can be summed up in one word: clouds. The mountains of water vapor slowly moving across the sky are the bane of all climate researchers.”

Climate Etc.

by Judith Curry

An insightful interview with Bjorn Stevens.

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Global Wildfire Area Has Declined, Contrary To Popular Myth

NOT A LOT OF PEOPLE KNOW THAT

By Paul Homewood

Another thorough assessment of wildfire trends wrecks alarmist claims:

image

ABSTRACT

Wildfire has been an important process affecting the Earth’s surface and atmosphere for over 350 million years and human societies have coexisted with fire since their emergence. Yet many consider wildfire as an accelerating problem, with widely held perceptions both in the media and scientific papers of increasing fire occurrence, severity and resulting losses. However, important exceptions aside, the quantitative evidence available does not support these perceived overall trends. Instead, global area burned appears to have overall declined over past decades, and there is increasing evidence that there is less fire in the global landscape today than centuries ago. Regarding fire severity, limited data are available. For the western USA, they indicate little change overall, and also that area burned at high severity has overall declined compared to pre-European settlement. Direct fatalities from fire and economic losses…

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Dr. Peter Ridd vs. James Cook University – Arguments Completed

Reblogged from Watts Up With That:

Professor Peter Ridd writes:

We finally got home from Brisbane where the court hearing was held about 1200 km to the south, and it has been good to reflect on events. I am very hopeful and Judge Vasta seemed to indicate that he would try to hand down his judgement around Easter. So, until then we should wait and see.

As mentioned, the case delivered by Stuart Wood QC was brilliant. He did not focus on legal technicalities but instead concentrated on the concept of Intellectual Freedom. This was a very deliberate decision – if we are to win, it had to be on this point because in the end this was the root cause of the problem and the reason that there was wide public interest. Academics with controversial ideas on anything, including climate change and whether the damage to the Great Barrier Reef is being exaggerated, should be allowed to speak. In fact, they should be encouraged to speak. In addition, the focus on the wider problem might mean that the final judgement will have broader implications to the way our universities operate.

We contend that I had my Intellectual Freedom taken away under the context of a vague Code of Conduct. Stuart Wood QC argued how this was legally in error. He also demonstrated how this was totally contrary to the way a university should work. One of many highlights was when Wood QC used the JCU barristers’ own words that described my offending comments as “inappropriate” to show how the Code of Conduct could restrict any controversial comment. Who decides if my words are inappropriate – the university. “Inappropriate” sets a very low bar and a sensible academic knows that the best strategy is to either say nothing or make sure it is in agreement with the university administration – i.e. there is no freedom. By the Code of Conduct, a challenge as insignificant as a nasty look or a steely glare could be defined as a breach. And by JCU’s construction, the intellectual freedom clauses in our work contract are no protection.

Wood QC started with a discussion of the centrality of debate and disagreement in the rise of western civilisation and science. He quoted interesting examples of famous debates, which if they had occurred today at JCU and most other universities, would have resulted in both sides of the debate being fired for breaking what boils down to the Code-of-Politeness- Political-Correctness-and-What-the-University-Administration-Decides.
I must get a full transcript of Wood’s address for more detail but he then narrowed down to the specifics of my misdemeanours. These boiled down to 9 main categories and Wood took his time on each one. He gave the background and context, he looked at the detailed evidence (generally email trails from JCU’s search-for-dirt), and then demonstrated how in every case the University had broken its obligation to intellectual Freedom.

Wood QC finally considered the confidentiality directions that JCU used to try to keep everything secret and considered the clause in my work contract that was there to protect me against JCU releasing my information without my consent. This was completely opposite to JCU’s interpretation which was that it ALWAYS gave them the power to ALWAYs keep matters secret. One has to wonder why they are so ashamed that they needed to keep it secret.

The way the legal team worked was remarkable. Wood QC is by general agreement the top Industrial Relations lawyer in Australia and he had two barristers and two solicitors backing him up and feeding him the documents as he talked. He spoke non-stop for 4 hours in the final afternoon and it was like watching the reloading and firing of a 15 inch naval gun at the JCU ship. It was withering, relentless, and merciless. I wish there was a video of it. In my opinion, and let’s hope the Judge agrees, by the time he had finished JCU’s position was a sinking hulk. I felt sorry for their barristers (but maybe they will have the last laugh)

In the final analysis this case will be decided on whether the Code of Conduct trumps Intellectual Freedom or vice-versa. If JCU is correct, then it can no longer be considered to be a proper university and the government will have to do something about the way universities are governed and funded. If we are right, we will have to then look at how similar work contracts are likely being misused in most other Australian universities, and I suspect, around the western world.


John Roskam explains why Dr Peter Ridd deserves to continue his vital work at JCU and what JCU are costing themselves and Australia with their actions. WATCH:

Get a Second Opinion Before Climate Surgery

Science Matters

Myron Ebell writes March 28, 2019 in the Sacramento Bee PRO: Climate Science Needs a Critical Review by Skeptical Experts Excerpts in italics with my bolds.

Is global warming a looming catastrophe? President Donald Trump has often said he doesn’t think so even while his administration continues to release official reports warning that it is.

The president will soon find out who is right by convening a high-level commission to do a critical review of the fourth National Climate Assessment issued last November and other government reports.

Surprisingly, most of the climate science funded by the federal government has never been subjected to the kind of rigorous and exhaustive review that is common practice for other important scientific issues and major engineering projects.

For example, when NASA was putting men on the moon, every piece of equipment and every calculation were scrutinized from every possible angle simply because if anything…

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Satellite Evidence Affirms Solar Activity Drove ‘A Significant Percentage’ Of Recent Warming

Reblogged from the NoTricksZone:

In a new paper, two astrophysicists shred the IPCC-preferred and model-based PMOD solar data set and affirm the ACRIM, which is rooted in observation and shows an increase in total solar irradiance (TSI) during the 1980-2000 period. They suggest a “significant percentage” of recent climate change has been solar-driven.

Scafetta and Willson, 2019

I. The PMOD is based on proxy modeled predictions, “questionable” modifications, and degraded, “misinterpreted” and “erroneously corrected” results 

• “The PMOD rationale for using models to alter the Nimbus7/ERB data was to compensate for the sparsity of the ERBS/ERBE data and conform their gap results more closely to the proxy predictions of solar emission line models of TSI behavior.”
• “PMOD’s modifications of the published ACRIM and ERB TSI records are questionable because they are based on conforming satellite observational data to proxy model predictions.”
• “The PMOD trend during 1986 to 1996 is biased downward by scaling ERB results to the rapidly degrading ERBE results during the ACRIM-Gap using the questionable justification of agreement with some TSI proxy predictions first proposed by Lee III et al.(1995).”
• PMOD misinterpreted and erroneously corrected ERB results for an instrument power down event.”
• “PMOD used overlapping comparisons of ACRIM1 and ACRIM2 with ERBE observations and proxy models to construct their first composite. Other PMOD composites [17, 18] used different models of the ERBE-ACRIM-Gap degradation. The result of these various modifications during the ACRIM-Gap was that PMOD introduced a downward trend in the Nimbus7/ERB TSI data that decreased results by 0.8 to 0.9 W/m2 (cf. [18, 20]).”

II. The PMOD TSI composite “flawed” results were an “unwarranted manipulation” of data intended to support AGW, but are  “contraindicated”

• “The dangers of utilizing ex-post-facto corrections by those who did not participate in the original science teams of satellite experiments are that erroneous interpretations of the data can occur because of a lack of detailed knowledge of the experiment and unwarranted manipulation of the data can be made based on a desire to support a particular solar model or some other nonempirical bias. We contend that the PMOD TSI composite construction is compromised in both these ways.”
 “[O]ur scientific knowledge could be improved by excluding the more flawed record from the composite. This was the logic applied by the ACRIM team. In point of fact PMOD failed to do this, instead selecting the ERBE results that were known to be degraded and sparse, because that made the solar cycle 21–22 trend agrees with TSI proxy models and the CAGW explanation of CO2 as the driver of the global warming trend of the late 20th century.”
• “The use of unverified modified data has fundamentally flawed the PMOD TSI satellite composite construction.”
• “The consistent downward trending of the PMOD TSI composite is negatively correlated with the global mean temperature anomaly during 1980–2000. This has been viewed with favor by those supporting the COanthropogenic global warming (CAGW) hypothesis since it would minimize TSI variation as a competitive climate change driver to CO2, the featured driver of the hypothesis during the period (cf.: [IPCC, 2013, Lockwood and Fröhlich, 2008]).”
• “Our summary conclusion is that the objective evidence produced by all of the independent TSI composites [3,5, 6, 9] agrees better with the cycle-by-cycle trending of the original ACRIM science team’s composite TSI that shows an increasing trend from 1980 to 2000 and a decreasing trend thereafter. The continuously downward trending of the PMOD composite and TSI proxy models is contraindicated.”

III. The ACRIM TSI supports the conclusion that “a significant percentage” of climate change in recent decades was driven by TSI variation

Graph Source: Soon et al., 2015
• ACRIM shows a 0.46 W/m2 increase between 1986 and 1996 followed by a decrease of 0.30 W/m2 between 1996 and 2009. PMOD shows a continuous, increasing downward trend with a 1986 to 1996 decrease of 0.05 W/m2 followed by a decrease of 0.14 W/m2 between 1996 and 2009. The RMIB composite agrees qualitatively with the ACRIM trend by increasing between the 1986 and 1996 minima and decreasing slightly between 1996 and 2009.”
• “ACRIM composite trending is well correlated with the record of global mean temperature anomaly over the entire range of satellite observations (1980–2018) [Scafetta. 2009]. The climate warming hiatus observed since 2000 is inconsistent with CO2 anthropogenic global warming (CAGW) climate models [Scafetta, 2013, Scafetta, 2017]. This points to a significant percentage of the observed 1980–2000 warming being driven by TSI variation [Scafetta, 2009, Willson, 2014, Scafetta. 2009]. A number of other studies have pointed out that climate change and TSI variability are strongly correlated throughout the Holocene including the recent decades (e.g., Scafetta, 2009,  Scafetta and Willson, 2014, Scafetta, 2013Kerr, 2001, Bond et al., 2001, Kirkby, 2007, Shaviv, 2008, Shapiro et al., 2011, Soon and Legates, 2013, Steinhilber et al., 2012, Soon et al., 2014).”
• “The global surface temperature of the Earth increased from 1970 to 2000 and remained nearly stable from 2000 and 2018. This pattern is not reproduced by CO2 AGW climate models but correlates with a TSI evolution with the trending characteristics of the ACRIM TSI composite as explained in Scafetta [6,12, 27] and Willson [7].”

IV. The Correlation:

Graph Source: Soon et al., 2015
Image Source: Smith, 2017

V. The Mechanism: Higher solar activity on decadal-scales limits the seeding of clouds, which means more solar radiation is absorbed by the surface, warming the Earth 

Image Source: Fleming, 2018

Image Source: Sciencedaily.com

VI. The radiative forcing from the increase in surface solar radiation: +4.25 Wm-2/decade between 1984-2000

Image Source: Goode and Palle, 2007

Image Source(s): Hofer et al., 2017 and Kay et al., 2008

Experts reveal that clouds have moderated warming triggered by climate change

Reblogged from Watts Up With That:

A new study has revealed how clouds are modifying the warming created by human-caused climate change in some parts of the world

Swansea University

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Trees are removed from cold lake beds in Scandinavia. Credit: Professor Mary Gagen, Swansea University

A new study has revealed how clouds are modifying the warming created by human-caused climate change in some parts of the world.

Led by Swansea University’s Tree Ring Research Group, researchers from Sweden, Finland and Norway analysed information contained in the rings of ancient pine trees from northern Scandinavia to reveal how clouds have reduced the impact of natural phases of warmth in the past and are doing so again now to moderate the warming caused by anthropogenic climate change.

Even though northern Scandinavia should be strongly affected by global warming, the area has experienced little summer warming over recent decades – in stark contrast to the hemispheric trend of warming temperatures, which is strongly linked to rising greenhouse gas emissions. According to the study, temperature changes have been accompanied by an increase in cloudiness over northern Scandinavia, which in turn has reduced the impact of warming.

Mary Gagen, Professor of Geography at Swansea University, said: “The surface warming caused by rising greenhouse gases is modified by many complicated feedbacks – one thing changing in response to another – meaning that there are large geographical variations in the temperature of a particular place at a particular time, as the global average temperature rises. One of the most important, and most poorly understood, climate feedbacks is the relationship between temperature and clouds. We might think that, simply, when it is cool it is cloudy, and when it is warm it is sunny, but that is not always the case.”

The research team analysed tree ring records to find out what summer temperatures were like in the past, and how cloudy it was. Using their collected data, the team produced a new reconstruction of summer cloud cover for northern Scandinavia and compared it to existing temperature reconstructions to establish the relationship between temperature and cloud cover.

Professor Mary Gagen said: “Most people know that the width of a tree ring can tell us what the temperature was like in the summer that ring grew, but we can also measure other things in tree rings such as the isotopes of carbon and water that the wood is made from. Isotopes are just different types of an element, the amount of the different isotopes of carbon in the wood tells us how cloudy it was in the summer the tree ring grew. By combining the tree ring width and tree ring carbon measurements we built a record of both past summer temperatures and past summer cloud cover. Summer temperatures in Scandinavia have increased by less than the global average in recent decades because it also got cloudier at the same time, and that modified and reduced the warming. That turns out to also be the case back through time.”

Author Professor Danny McCarroll explained: “We found that over short timescales, increased cloud cover lead to cooler temperatures and vice versa in the past. However, over longer timescales -decades to centuries-we found that in warmer times, such as the medieval, there was increased cloud cover in this part of the world, which reduced local temperatures. The opposite being true in cool periods, such as the Little Ice Age.

“These finding are important as they help to explain the feedback relationship between cloud cover and temperature, which is one of the major uncertainties in modelling future climate. Understanding the past relationship between temperature and cloud cover in this part of the world means we can now predict that, as the global temperature continues to rise, that warming will be moderated in northern Scandinavia by increasing cloud cover. The next step is to find out whether the same is true for other parts of the world.”

Professor Mary Gagen added: “One of the main sources of uncertainty about future climate change is the way that clouds are going to respond to warming, cloud cover has a really big influence on temperature at the surface of the Earth.

“Clouds are going to be critical in modify warming of the climate. In some places, like Scandinavia, it turns out that the summer climate gets cloudier as the planet warms, in other places though it is likely that warming will be enhanced by a reduction in cloudiness which will make the surface of the Earth even warmer. What is really worrying is that climate models have shown that, if greenhouse gas emissions are allowed to continue until there is double or even triple the pre industrial amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, then some of the most important clouds for cooling our planet, the big banks of oceanic clouds that reflect a lot of sunlight back to space, could stop forming altogether and this would really accelerate warming.”

###

The study, Cloud Cover Feedback Moderates Fennoscandian Summer Temperature Changes Over the Past 1,000 Years, is published in Geophysical Research Letters.

From EurekAlert!

Public Release: 25-Mar-2019

Climate Adversely Affecting Humans? The Facts Show Otherwise

PA Pundits - International

Joe Bastardi  ~  

This is the third part of a trilogy intended to get readers to examine more deeply the climate debate. I always tell people they should go look for themselves. I do not expect any person to blindly accept what they are told, and that applies to me also. I do ask that you look at these ideas to gain a greater vision of what’s going on.

The first part addressed perspective. I noted that the timescale we are looking at is only a snapshot of what is a multibillion-year “movie” that contains many scenes leading up to the total story.

The second part challenges the idea that extreme weather events are getting worse.

Which brings us to today’s subject matter: Climate is not impeding human progress. In fact, it’s been quite the opposite in the fossil-fuel era.

Here are some charts to make my point.

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Borenstein Tries The Daily Records Con

HiFast Note:

Here’s the Average Mean Temperature and other charts for Wooster, OH:

WOOSTEREXPSTATION_OH_AverageMeanTemperature_Jan_Dec_1895_2018

NOT A LOT OF PEOPLE KNOW THAT

By Paul Homewood

Another remarkably dishonest and deceitful piece, even by Seth Borenstein standards. That it should be aided and abetted by NOAA is shameful:

image

Over the past 20 years, rather than shiver through record-setting cold, a new Associated Press data analysis shows.

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A new book with unexpected good news about polar bears

From FabiusMaximus:

A new book with unexpected good news about polar bears

Summary: This is a fascinating book about science, about the making of public policy, about climate change, and above all – about nature. They all intersect in the debate about the future of polar bears.

The Polar Bear Catastrophe That Never Happened
Available at Amazon.

 

Review of a fact-rich, logical, and dispassionate book that upsets a key climate change narrative …

The Polar Bear Catastrophe That Never Happened.

By Susan Crockford (2019).

 

Zoologist Crockford crisply tells the history of the rise and fall of polar bears as climate change icons. It is an engrossing story of a small niche group of dedicated biologists, the apex predator of the polar regions, and the American public.

“Researchers have learned a lot over the last two decades about bears’ ability to thrive in the Arctic and to take dramatic changes in that hostile environment in their stride – in particular changes in sea ice levels. Unfortunately, that understanding came too late to prevent the polar bear becoming listed as a species threatened with extinction because of future climate changes. …

“Stirling’s paper therefore came at just the right time. Apparently showing a link between manmade global warming and harm to a charismatic beast like the polar bear, it became the basis of a frenzy of global warming agitation. Soon the polar bear had been hoisted to the top of the climate change flagpole, making it the most easily-recognizable symbol of all that mankind was doing wrong in the world. …

“It is a story of scientific hubris and of scientific failure, of researchers staking their careers on untested computer simulations and the attempts to obfuscate inconvenient facts. Polar bear scientists were responsible for elevating the polar bear to climate  change icon status in the first place, actively promoting the idea of a catastrophic future due to man-made global warming. The failure of their predictions has resulted in a loss of public trust that they entirely deserve.”

A sad polar bear resting in the water
ID 1296017 © Stephen Coburn | Dreamstime.

Crockford documents in this tiny scientific community the same behaviors that have become common in climate science, and helped catapult it to fame – and prominence in global public policy debates. Perhaps these dynamics form a contagion that is spreading through the sciences?

  • Natural and non-climate anthropogenic factors are downplayed or outright ignored. For example, polar bear papers ignore the slaughter of polar bears by whalers and other hunters in the 19th and early 20th century (much like Jared Diamond’s theory of eco-cide on Easter Island ignored disease and predication by slavers).
  • Effects are attributed to anthropogenic factors before natural variation is explained.
  • Key aspects of the new paradigm are often based on the expert judgement of activist scientists, but its results are presented to the public as equivalent to Newton’s Law of Gravity.
  • Bold confident predictions are presented as a basis for public policy action before their underlying models are validated.
  • Worst of all, the new paradigm is defended by unprofessional methods against new data and insights (e.g., see the largely bogus attack on her and her work in Harvey et al. (Bioscience, 2017).

Crockford tells a story of science’s weakness and strength. The weakness comes when a small community of scientists adopts a paradigm that boosts their careers. Replication and peer-review might not work well under these conditions. Especially when powerful political interests support the paradigm for their own gain. Under these conditions the paradigm can be defended despite large body of contrary evidence. This is example of the replication crisis gripping so many areas of science.

But the inherent strength of the scientific method wins eventually. Karl Popper said that science begins with clear and testable predictions, such as that made in 2005 by scientists of the Polar Bear Specialist Group of the IUCN Species Survival Commission (IUCN = International Union for Conservation of Nature). The Arctic Ocean was warming, and the disappearance of sea ice would destroy the bears.

“The PBSG recommended that the IUCN Red List committee accept their collective opinion that the polar bear be listed as ‘Vulnerable’; and they told the IUCN that the global population was likely to decline by ‘more than 30% within the next 35 – 50 years’. The following year, the IUCN added polar bears to its Red List, categorising them as being of ‘Threatened’ status …. And this is how the polar bear (Ursus maritimus) became the first species ever to be classified as threatened with extinction based on predictions of future climate change rather than current population status.”

There were other predictions of collapses in bear populations of up to 67%. But Nature did not make us wait so long for the results.

“In summary, despite the fact that sea ice coverage since 2007 has repeatedly reached levels not predicted until 2050 or later, not only has the estimated global population size of polar bears not declined by 67% (i.e. to 8100) – or even just over 30% – it has increased by approximately 20% above the estimate used by the USGS analysts who made the predictions. Such ‘a modest upward trend’ was predicted by critics of the USGS forecasts, based on upward trends in previous decades due to hunting restrictions that are still in place.”

The bears were more adaptable than expected. The birds and seals (bear’s fav foods) loved the climate change, and multiplied. Good news for everybody, except the locals who have to once again cope with thriving polar bear populations.

Tasty! Life is good.

Two Polar Bears Share a meal.
ID 823042 © Digitalphotonut | Dreamstime.

This is a wonderful story, and she tells it well in the first third of the book. Powerful personalities are vividly described, science and politics are clearly explained. The graphics are excellent. She does an equally good job with the rest of the book, which describes scientists’ reaction to the good news about bears. Too much is at stake in the climate wars – both careers and politics – to let data determine the winner. It is an equally gripping story, but in a different way. For example, see her account of how Mitchell Taylor was “booted out” of the PBSG for questioning the paradigm (details here).

To see how the public is told about the unexpected prosperity of polar bears, read “The polar bears are fine” by Tristin Hopper in the National Post, March 2017.

“‘There’s no doubt about what’s happening to Arctic sea ice …but their populations aren’t declining as was once expected,’ said Douglas Clark, a University of Saskatchewan researcher …To be sure, polar bear biologists remain convinced that the forecast for the world’s polar bears remains grim. …What scientists can be sure of is that the Arctic is going to keep melting. And whichever way they plot it for ice-dependent polar bears, the result is an Arctic littered with bear bones. …Warming is not universal, and is having a unique effect on every region and every polar bear population. But, says Stirling, ‘warming will eventually reach them all unless we are able to slow or stop it in time.’”

A more pointed observation, graphic but accurately capturing the games being played with science.

“Other areas of science are taking on board the Replication Crisis and trying to do something about it. Contrast this with Harvey et al. {their rebuttal to Crockford} who do not accept any of their work is wrong and leave a horse’s head in Susan Crockford’s bed.
— Australian physicist Peter Ridd, quoted in chapter 7.

Crockford concludes with some speculative and, if correct, awesome news: polar bear populations are expensive to measure (and so poorly measured), but might be far larger than the consensus believes.

This is a book about good news. Science works, in its usual slow sloppy way. The recovery of polar bear populations is a major public policy success, showing that our political machinery can still work. Last, and most important, nature is more resilient than doomsters believe. I found it well worth reading.

Susan Crockford

About the author

Susan Crockford is a zoologist with more than 35 years experience, including published work on the Holocene history of Arctic animals. She is an adjunct professor at the University of Victoria, British Columbia (a “non-remunerated professional zooarcheologist associate”) and co-owner of a private consulting company, Pacific Identifications Inc.

See her publications and her website Polar Bear Science. See her first book about polar bears: Polar Bears: Outstanding Survivors of Climate Change. See my review of it.

She has also written a novel, Eaten – a polar bear attack thriller.

For More Information

An example of fear-mongering about polar bears: Mother Jones sounds the alarm about global warming! This time about the north pole. Exploiting the polar bear story for political gain!

To understand better how science works, see Thomas Kuhn tells us what we need to know about climate science.

Please like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter. For more information see The keys to understanding climate change and my posts about climate change. Also see all posts about polar bears, the arctic area, and polar sea ice, and especially these with good news about the climate…

  1. More good news about climate change from the IPCC: no sign yet of the methane apocalypse.
  2. Prof Botkin gives us good news about our changing climate.
  3. More good news about the climate, giving us a priceless gift.
  4. Twenty stories of good news about polar bears!
  5. Are 30 thousand species going extinct every year?
  6. Good news about polar bears, thriving as the arctic warms!
  7. The IPCC gives us good news about climate change, but we don’t listen.
  8. Good news about CO2 emissions. Progress to a better world.
  9. Good news about polar bears, exemplars of climate change.