Observations: Polar Bears Continue To Thrive, Grow In Number, Shredding Forecasts Of Climate Doom

Ten years ago, polar bears were classified as an endangered species due to model-based assumptions that said the recession of Arctic sea ice would hamper the bears’ seal-hunting capabilities and ultimately lead to starvation and extinction.

The Inuit, who have observed these bears catch seals in open water for generations (and likely know more about polar bears than Western scientists), disagree.

There is no evidence that the fast reduction of sea-ice habitat in the area has yet led to a reduction in population size.” (Aars et al., 2017 )
Inuit observations: “… back in early 80s, and mid 90s, there were hardly any bears … there’s too many polar bears now.  Bears can catch seals even—even if the—if the ice is really thin … they’re great hunters those bears … they’re really smart … they know how to survive.” (Wong et al., 2017)
Inuit observations: “No, because polar bears can go and follow the seals further [if sea ice retreats], so they won’t have trouble hunting. Also the snow covers the [seals’] breathing holes but polar bears can still hunt, it’s just for people. There is more rough ice, more thin iceBut it won’t affect polar bears’ hunting.” (Dowsley, 2007)
Reduction in the heavy multiyear ice and increased productivity from a longer open water season may even enhance polar bear habitat in some areas. … It seems unlikely that polar bears (as a species) are at risk from anthropogenic global warming.” (York et al., 2016)

Sometimes the “Western scientific understanding” of how the natural world operates conflicts with observations.

The view of polar bears as effective open-water hunters is not consistent with the Western scientific understanding that bears rely on the sea ice platform for catching prey.  … [Participants] indicated that polar bear body condition is stable; they cited the fact that polar bears are capable of hunting seals in open water as a factor contributing to the stable body condition of the bears.” (Laforest et al., 2018)
“‘Inuit believe there are now so many bears that public safety has become a major concern,’ says the document, the result of four years of study and public consultation. … The plan leans heavily on Inuit knowledge, which yields population estimates higher than those suggested by western science for almost all of the 13 included bear populations. … Scientists say only one population of bears is growing; Inuit say there are nine. Environment Canada says four populations are shrinking; Inuit say none are.” (ctvnews.ca 2018)

The paleoclimate evidence, which shows that sea ice was thinner and less extensive than today for most of the last 10,000 years, also contradicts the assumptions about modern polar bear endangerment due to thinning ice.  One must ask: How did polar bears survive sea ice free summers in the ancient past if they existentially rely on thick sea ice to hunt prey today?

When the observations don’t agree with the models and assumptions, real scientists are supposed to reconsider their hypotheses.

Climate scientists, on the other hand, too often discard the data that conflict with their modeled assumptions and proceed to call those who question their models and assumptions names (i.e., “deniers”).

This begs the question: Why is climate science so much different than real science?

In the 3 new papers referenced below, extensive observational evidence suggests that polar bear populations are currently healthier than in the past, and their numbers have been stable or growing in recent decades.


Laforest et al., 2018

Traditional Ecological Knowledge of Polar Bears in

the Northern Eeyou Marine Region, Québec, Canada

“Traditional Ecological Knowledge of Polar Bears […] Québec, Canada … Communities also differed in their perception of the prevalence of problem polar bears and the conservation status of the species, with one-third of participants reporting that polar bears will be unaffected by, or even benefit from, longer ice-free periods. A majority of participants indicated that the local polar bear population was stable or increasing.”
“[Participants] indicated that polar bear body condition is stable; they cited the fact that polar bears are capable of hunting seals in open water as a factor contributing to the stable body condition of the bears. … None of the participants explicitly linked the effects of a warming climate to specific impacts on polar bears. … Five participants indicated that polar bears are adept swimmers capable of hunting seals in open water. Residents of communities along Baffin Bay have also expressed this viewpoint (Dowsley and Wenzel, 2008), whereas Inuvialuit of the Western Arctic had variable perceptions of the ability of bears to catch seals in open water (Joint Secretariat, 2015).”
The view of polar bears as effective open-water hunters is not consistent with the Western scientific understanding that bears rely on the sea ice platform for catching prey (Stirling and McEwan, 1975; Smith, 1980). The implications of this disagreement are paramount, given that scientists suggest that the greatest threat to polar bears associated with a decrease in sea ice is a significant decrease in access to marine mammal prey (Stirling and Derocher, 1993; Derocher et al., 2004) … A recent aerial survey of the Southern Hudson Bay subpopulation concluded that the abundance of polar bears has remained steady since 1986 (943 bears; SE: 174) (Obbard et al., 2015). The survey included the entire coastal range and offshore island habitat of the Southern Hudson Bay subpopulation, except for the eastern James Bay coast. Taken together, the results of the aerial survey and the participant responses from Wemindji and Chisasibi indicate that the local population has remained stable. However, the unanimous responses from participants in Whapmagoostui/Kuujjuarapik suggest that there has been a localized increase in the number of bears near Whapmagoostui/Kuujjuarapik.”

Laidre et al. 2018

Traditional Knowledge About Polar Bears

(Ursus maritimus) in East Greenland:

Changes in the Catch and Climate Over Two Decades

Half the hunters from Ittoqqortoormiit reported that they catch more polar bears than 10–15 years ago and 38% said it was the same (Table 1). A few noted the conditions vary from year to year and the ice conditions determine whether they catch a polar bear in a given year. … When asked about changes in the number of polar bears in their hunting areas in the past 10–15 years (since the introduction of the quota), 63% of hunters in both regions said there are “more polar bears.” The remaining hunters said they did not know, there was no change, or there were fewer polar bears (Table 4). A variety of responses were given as explanations; the bulk of responses mentioned quotas, sea ice timing, and restrictions on what categories of polar bears hunters are allowed to catch (authors’ note: it is forbidden to catch females with cubs, dependent cubs and bears in dens).”


Durner et al., 2018

Polar Bears: Proceedings of the 18th Working Meeting

of the IUCN/SSCPolar Bear Specialist Group,

7–11 June 2016, Anchorage, Alaska

“Wilson et al. (2014, 2016) have found that despite large reductions in sea ice, particularly in summer, polar bears have not changed their habitat selection preferences in the Chukchi Sea.”
“Rode et al. 2013 documented stable or improving body condition and reproduction for polar bears captured in the U.S. between 1986–1994 and 2008–2011, a period during which substantial sea ice loss occurred, suggesting the capacity for positive population growth.”
A new survey in the Norwegian extent of the BS [Barents Sea] subpopulation was conducted in August 2015. The ice edge was located beyond an icefree gap north of the Svalbard Archipelago. The number of bears encountered in Svalbard indicates that there is a local stock of ~200–300 bears (preliminary results), which did not differ much from the number detected in 2004.”
The total estimated for Norwegian Arctic was just under 1000 bears, considerably higher than the total for the Norwegian side in 2004, but with a confidence interval overlapping with the earlier estimate.”
Taylor et al. (2005) estimated the number of polar bears in the BB [Baffin Bay] subpopulation at 2,074 (SE = 226). A 3-year genetic mark-recapture survey (via biopsy darting) was completed in 2014 resulting in a new population estimate, survival rates, and habitat use analyses (SWG 2016). The mean estimate of total abundance of the BB [Baffin Bay] subpopulation in 2012–2013 was 2,826 (95% CI: 2,059–3,593) polar bears.”
The initial [1980] estimate of 900 bears for the DS [Davis Straits] subpopulation (Stirling et al. 1980, Stirling and Kiliaan 1980) was based on a subjective correction from the original mark-recapture estimate of 726 bears, which was thought to be too low because of possible bias in the sampling. In 1993, the estimate was again subjectively increased to 1,400 bears and to 1,650 in 2005. These increases were to account for bias as a result of springtime sampling, the fact that the existing harvest appeared to be sustainable and not having negative effects on the age structure, and Traditional Ecological Knowledge (TEK) [reports from Inuit] suggested that more bears were being seen over the last 20 years”
TEK [Traditional Ecological Knowledge, observational reports from Inuit] suggested the FB [Foxe Basin] subpopulation of polar bears had increased (GN consultations in villages in Foxe Basin 2004–2012). During a comprehensive summertime aerial survey in 2009 and 2010 (based on distance sampling and double observer estimation) covering about 40,000 km each year, 816 and 1,003 bears were observed, respectively (Stapleton et al. 2016). This most recent study of the FB subpopulation yielded an abundance estimate of 2585 (95% CI: 2,096–3,189) polar bears (Stapleton et al. 2016), which is not statistically different from the 1994 estimate indicating a stable population. Sea ice habitat for polar bears has decreased substantially for polar bears over the last several decades in Foxe Basin (Sahanatien and Derocher 2012).”
Body condition of KB [Kane Basin] polar bears appeared to have slightly improved between sampling periods [since the 1990s] (see SWG 2016). Overall, the data on abundance when considered with data on movements, condition, and reproduction, suggest evidence that the KB [Kane Basin] subpopulation has increased.”
“A mark-recapture survey, completed in 2006 suggested that the size of the NB [Northern Beaufort Sea] subpopulation to be 980 (95% CI: 825–1,135), and that it has remained stable over the previous three decades
“A recent Traditional Knowledge study from Canada concluded that the numbers of polar bears in regularly used hunting areas have remained relatively stable within living memory (Joint Secretariat 2015).”
“Overall, despite the difference in methodologies, assumptions, and biases between capture–recapture studies and aerial surveys, the evidence suggests it is likely that the subpopulation has not changed in abundance since the mid-1980s.”

45 responses to “Observations: Polar Bears Continue To Thrive, Grow In Number, Shredding Forecasts Of Climate Doom”

  1. SebastianH

    Climate scientists, on the other hand, too often discard the data that conflict with their modeled assumptions and proceed to call those who question their models and assumptions names (i.e., “deniers”).

    [snip – cheap shot deleted] But you failed to notice that it’s not about discarding data, it is about the interpretation of data.

    This begs the question: Why is climate science so much different than real science?

    Is it? [snip – gratuitous whining deleted] I see a lot of junk science presented from the skeptic side to argue against AGW. You should ask yourself why this kind of science is so much different from actual science.

    In the 3 new papers referenced below, extensive observational evidence suggests that polar bear populations are currently healthier than in the past, and their numbers have been stable or growing in recent decades.

    And yet one can find hundreds of articles about declining polar bear populations, them finding less food because of a shorter seasons, etc

    Anyway, this “it was warm before, how did they survive that” meme doesn’t really work. The current climate change is rapid. It’s similar to ocean acidification. With enough time and mixing this would not be as large a problem. Species can adapt well enough to slow changes …

    But I guess skeptics will only change their mind after a big enough extinction event occured. Not while it is happening and certainly not before. Observations are required so we can use our time machines to go back to the year 2000 and change everything. And since there are no records of time travel, it can’t be such a bad future … right? And nope, this is not an analogy 😉

    1. John Brown

      Can you at least cite 3 papers about polar bear population?

      Not asking for hundred, but 10 would be enough.
      Hundred, this is indeed impressive if you can make an effort instead of quoting out of your pale side. Shine it or show us for real!

      1. SebastianH

        It’s not that difficult to not wait for the other side to come up with lists of papers and do your research yourself. You are a skeptic after all … right? So don’t just believe what is presented here and dig deeper.

        http://science.sciencemag.org/content/359/6375/568
        “…as sea ice becomes increasingly short-lived annually, polar bears are likely to experience increasingly stressful conditions and higher mortality rates.”

        https://esajournals.onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10.1890/14-1129.1
        Reduced spatial and temporal availability of sea ice is expected to increasingly force population dynamics of polar bears as the climate continues to warm. However, in the short term, our findings suggest that factors other than sea ice can influence survival.”

        https://esajournals.onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/full/10.1890/09-1641.1
        “We evaluated the impacts of climate change on polar bears in the southern Beaufort Sea by means of a demographic analysis, combining deterministic, stochastic, environment‐dependent matrix population models with forecasts of future sea ice conditions from IPCC general circulation models (GCMs). … Model averaging was used to produce the vital rate estimates, and a parametric bootstrap procedure was used to quantify model selection and parameter estimation uncertainty. … The stochastic model was linked to a set of 10 GCMs compiled by the IPCC; the models were chosen for their ability to reproduce historical observations of sea ice and were forced with “business as usual” (A1B) greenhouse gas emissions. The resulting stochastic population projections showed drastic declines in the polar bear population by the end of the 21st century.”

        https://polarbearsinternational.org/research/research-qa/are-polar-bear-populations-increasing-in-fact-booming/
        About half of our population estimates are only educated guesses. Planetary physics require the world to warm as greenhouse gas concentrations rise, so without greenhouse gas mitigation, the ice will continue to melt. For an animal dependent on sea ice to survive, the prospects are not good. As the ice decline continues, the plight of the polar bear only can worsen.”

        https://www.iucnredlist.org/species/22823/14871490
        Population trend: ? Unknown

        Even Kenneth, managed to link to an article about climate change denial by proxy (polar bears): https://academic.oup.com/bioscience/article/68/4/281/4644513
        The scientific consensus is that polar bears will ultimately disappear if Arctic sea-ice declines continue unabated (Amstrup et al. 2010).”

        Google Scholar link: https://scholar.google.de/scholar?q=polar+bear+decline

        Yes, some studies/papers are about predicting the future and by that not reports of future observations (obviously).

        1. Newminster

          Models vs observations, Seb?
          You need to try harder than that.

          1. SebastianH

            How do you observe the future, Newminster? If I tell you that a ball thrown into your direction will hit you, will you also say that this is only based on a model and hasn’t been observed yet?

          2. P Gosselin

            Silly analogy, but will let Newminster respond.

        2. SebastianH

          Please not that I didn’t [add the actual quotes from the links to the papers and webpages].

          [SebastianH chose the links, KR examined them and added the quoted text pertaining to population trends from the link. All but the italicized/emboldened text in quotes below the links are SebastianH’s words. Apparently he was hoping we wouldn’t actually look at the links, which do not support his claim that “one can find hundreds of articles about declining polar bear populations”.]

          1. SebastianH

            Apparently he was hoping we wouldn’t actually look at the links, which do not support his claim that “one can find hundreds of articles about declining polar bear populations”.

            We read text very differently … must be confirmation bias.

    2. sunsettommy

      Sebastian flat out LIES with this unsupported absurdity:

      “And yet one can find hundreds of articles about declining polar bear populations, them finding less food because of a shorter seasons, etc.”

      Your lie easily destroyed by this link:

      Global polar bear population larger than previous thought – almost 30,000

      https://polarbearscience.com/2017/02/23/global-polar-bear-population-larger-than-previous-thought-almost-30000/

      ============================================

      Tough question for this resident troll:

      Where do Polar Bears Den at?

      1. SebastianH

        That website looks like it is part of the proxy-denial thing Kenneth linked to in the article.

        Easily destroyed … right. See links I posted as a reply to John Brown’s comment above.

        1. sunsettommy

          Sebastian clearly doesn’t read the link I posted, since they are based on estimated BEAR COUNTS:

          The results of three recently-released studies that were not included in the last IUCN Red List assessment add more than 2,050 bears (on average)1 to the official 2015 global polar bear estimate, a point you won’t likely hear next Monday (27 February) from most polar bear specialists, conservation organizations, their cheerleaders and corporate sponsors on International Polar Bear Day.

          This means the adjusted 2015 global estimate for polar bears should be about 28,500 (average), a marked increase over the official estimate of 26,500 (average) for 2015 — and an even larger increase over the 2005 estimate of about 22,500 (average)2, despite the dramatic loss of summer sea ice since 2007 that we hear about endlessly.

          https://polarbearscience.com/2017/02/23/global-polar-bear-population-larger-than-previous-thought-almost-30000/
          ====================================================

          This is why you are stupidly ignorant.

        2. sunsettommy

          By the way you still haven’t answered the question:

          Where do Polar Bears Den at?

          Meanwhile are you aware that low to zero Summer ice level is largely irrelevant to Polar Bear dietary and life style?

          There have been large periods of time in the early Holocene of little to zero Summer ice, that lasted for hundreds of years, yet the world still alive and the Polar Bears still around.

          They consume most of their calories for the YEAR, by early July.

          1. sunsettommy

            I posted another comment just before this one you approved:

            sunsettommy 26. October 2018 at 4:24 PM | Permalink | Reply
            By the way you still haven’t answered the question:
            Where do Polar Bears Den at?

            might be in the spam bin?

        3. sunsettommy

          It appears that Sebastian isn’t going to answer the question, probably because it would destroy his belief that Polar Bears MUST have sea ice to survive, I thinks he knows that too.

          “Tough question for this resident troll:
          Where do Polar Bears Den at?”

          Hint, majority of the Bears live in Canada…….

    3. Kurt in Switzerland

      More self-parody by Seb. Psychological projection par excellence.

      With your childish antics and you failure to consider data which refutes your beliefs, you are not doing any favors for those promoting a climate catastrophe due to mankind.

      But do continue. You provide entertainment for the rest of us. It’s embarrassing to watch Kenneth destroy every one of your petty assertions with data, only to have you bounce back with the same assertion only minutes later (as though you hadn’t even noticed that your argument failed miserably).

      1. mikewaite

        But surely , Kurt , you must be impressed by Seb’s absolute mastery of every aspect of climate change. No matter what the topic, polar bears, ocean acidification, drought series, satellite temperature measurements, tree ring paleo- thermometry ,etc , any statements here backed by, sometimes, scores of papers are instantly rebutted.
        Most professional scientists I have known and worked with have only managed eminence in one field, but Seb encompasses them all.
        Truly we are in the presence of genius, but it is a pity that with so much knowledge in his brain and at his fingertips, it rarely seems to emerge on screen in the conventional form of links to reputable journals- a great disappointment to those of us thirsting for real knowledge, but hopefully that will change.

        1. Kurt in Switzerland

          Yes Mike –

          I am in awe…



          of his uncanny penchant for self-parody.

          His true calling is comedy. Someday he’ll have an epiphany on that.

      2. SebastianH

        But do continue. You provide entertainment for the rest of us.

        I am glad you feel entertained.

        It’s embarrassing to watch Kenneth destroy every one of your petty assertions with data, only to have you bounce back with the same assertion only minutes later (as though you hadn’t even noticed that your argument failed miserably).

        I’ll say Kenneth usually doesn’t notice when his argument failed and lately he gets to have the last word by means of someone deleting / snipping my replies. So you might get the impression of me being “destroyed” … good for you. How about doing a little research yourself and not believing anything just like that, that gets presented here?

        You guys are stubborn, I give you that. At least you are loyal to your cause.

  2. Spectr

    Now that was funny.

  3. Bitter&twisted

    In climate “science” the models always trump reality.
    In turn reality has to be “adjusted” and “homogenised” to reflect model outputs.

    Post- modernism at its best (sarc).

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  5. Carl Friis-Hansen

    After radical limiting hunting, which was the major issue for the bears, the numbers logically increased. – Really, it is a no-brainier. However, it is heard for the fanatic CAGW’ers to loose their poster icon.
    It is difficult for me to understand what vested interest Sebastian has in rejecting the article so reference-less.

  6. Political Junkie

    It’s similar to ocean acidification, says Sebastian. Here’s what NOAA’s top scientist says:.

    The trove of FOI emails include some beauties. Here’s what NOAA’s Dr Shallin Busch had to say, privately, to her NOAA colleague Madelyn Applebaum on September 30 about the draft. They had been asked by the New York Times to sex it up with some specific hurts allegedly being caused by all this acidification.

    The editor asked,

    “It’s very interesting, but in order to work for us it needs to be geared more toward the general reader. Can the authors give us more specific, descriptive images about how acidification has already affected the oceans? Is the situation akin to the acid rain phenomenon that hit North America? What can be done to counteract the problem?”

    Dr Busch, who works for NOAA’s Ocean Acidification Program and Northwest Fisheries Science Center at Seattle, responded to Ms Applebaum:

    Unfortunately, I can’t provide this information to you because it doesn’t exist. As I said in my last email, currently there are NO areas of the world that are severely degraded because of OA or even areas that we know are definitely affected by OA right now. If you want to use this type of language, you could write about the CO2 vent sites in Italy or Polynesia as examples of things to come. Sorry that I can’t be more helpful on this!

    Dr Busch had the integrity to admit that science can cite “NO” significant ocean “acidification” impacts.

    https://quadrant.org.au/opinion/qed/2016/01/fishy-science-ocean-acidification/

  7. John F. Hultquist

    Nice summary of:

    “The old aerial polar bear hunt in Alaska”

    From the late 1940s until the early 1970s

  8. Jääkarhut ilmastouhan kanarialintuina | Roskasaitti

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  10. Polar bears defying scientists and thriving amid global warming | The Global Dispatch | The Global Dispatch

    […] the 3 new papers referenced here extensive observational evidence suggests that polar bear populations are currently healthier than […]

  11. mwhite

    “Is it time that people – and not polar bears – were the face of the Arctic”

    https://www.thegwpf.com/lesley-riddoch-why-fake-news-is-harming-the-arctic/

    It would appear that animal porn is hurting the cause.

  12. Bob Hoye

    You want to find out how many polar bears there are?
    Tell the Democratic National Committee that they are American polar bears.
    They will be registered to vote in no time at all. Plus the dead ones.
    Nothing to it.

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