Most Polar Bears Live In Canada, Where There Has Been No Net Warming For Centuries. So Why Are They Endangered?

Modern Polar Bear Habitat Among

Coldest  Of The Last 10,000 Years

Image Source:

The habitat range for polar bears extends across the circumpolar boundaries of the Arctic Ocean, primarily inclusive of North America (Canada), coastal Greenland, and northern Russia (Siberia, Northern Europe).  However, about 70 percent —  13 of 19 subpopulations — of the Earth’s polar bears reside in Canada.  And Canada not only has not been warming to any unusual degree in the last few centuries, modern temperatures are still colder now than they have been for most of the last 10,000 years.

A Benighted Short-Term Climate Perspective

The media-popularized viewpoint that insists polar bears are sweltering under an imminent threat of extinction due to global warming in general and Arctic warming in particular is benighted by a lack of appreciation or understanding of a long-term geological context.

For most advocates of the position that climate changes in the Arctic are predominantly caused by the explosive rise in anthropogenic carbon dioxide emissions since the mid-20th century, there is a conspicuous hyper-focus on the climate monitoring period beginning in the 1950s…or the late 1970s, when the satellite era began (and polar sea ice could be monitored).  The problem with this short-term perspective, of course, is that the 1950s to 1980s were a cold period in the Arctic, so any trend line beginning in those years will skew towards the point of view that more recent warming is unusual, if not unprecedented.  As the graphs below illustrate, the 1920s to 1940s were a relatively warm period in the Arctic — similarly as warm as the most recent decades.  The willful selection of the coldest decades of the last 100 years as the prerequisite starting point for examining modern climatic trends is reflective of the tendentious narrow-mindedness afflicting most advocates of the position that we humans pose a dangerous threat to the biosphere.  Expanding one’s perspective and focus beyond the last 60 or 70 years, or even a cursory look at the long-term climatic context as presented in the scientific literature, severely undercuts the perspective that recent climate changes in the Arctic are unusual, remarkable, or unprecedented.

Yamanouchi, 2011 (Arctic)

  Graph adapted from Climate4you, HadCRUT4 data

Using A Long-Term Context, Canada Has Not Been Warming

A few million years ago, the Canadian Arctic’s mean annual temperatures were about 18°C warmer than they are now.  During the summers many regions of the Arctic Ocean were sea-ice-free.  And yet polar bears survived these balmy, sea-ice-free climates anyway.

Cronin and Cronin, 2015

Pliocene Arctic Ocean summer SSTs were appreciably warmer than modern and seasonally sea-ice free conditions existed in some regions. … At Lake El’gygytgyn (Lake ‘‘E’’) in Siberia summer temperatures were 8°C warmer than modern and at Ellesmere Island, Canada, summer and MAT [mean annual temperatures] were 11.8°C and 18.3°C higher than today.”
[A] seasonally ice-free marginal and central Arctic Ocean was common … regionally during the early Holocene [6,000 to 10,000 years ago]. … Some species thought to be dependent on summer sea ice (e.g., polar bears) survived through these periods.” 

Although not as warm as a few million years ago, the polar bears’ Canadian habitat was nonetheless multiple degrees Celsius warmer than now as recently as a few thousand years ago.  Not only that, but the “reconstructed temperatures [for the Canadian Arctic] do not indicate a warming” during the last 150 years.  In other words, the (1) modern day Arctic temperature trends, the (2) sea ice loss trend observed via satellites since the late 1970s, and the (3) modern seal-hunting practices of the “endangered” 21st century polar bear…are all well within the range of what has occurred naturally, or without human interference, for the last several thousand years.  Polar bears have survived much warmer temperatures than this in the past, and the likelihood they will continue to survive in today’s relatively cold Arctic climate is high too.

Below are samples of available climate reconstructions for Canada and other locations (Siberia, Greenland, Northern Europe) where polar bears live.  Each demonstrate that there is nothing unusual about the modern day Arctic climate…other than it may be colder than most of the last 10,000 years.  And each demonstrate that the hand-wringing about polar bear species extinction potentialities due to today’s non-global warming is, to put it bluntly, much ado about nothing.

Fortin and Gajewski, 2016 (Canadian Arctic)

“Biological production decreased again at ~ 2 ka and the rate of cooling increased in the past 2 ka [2,000 years], with coolest temperatures occurring between 0.46 and 0.36 ka [460 and 360 years ago], coinciding with the Little Ice Age. Although biological production increased in the last 150 yr, the reconstructed temperatures do not indicate a warming during this time. … Modern inferred temperatures based on both pollen and chironomids are up to 3°C cooler than those inferred for the mid-Holocene.”

Moore et al., 2001 (Canadian Arctic)

Summer temperatures at Donard Lake [Canadian Arctic] over the past 1250 yrs averaged 2.9 °C.  At the beginning of the 13th century, Donard Lake experienced one of the largest climatic transitions in over a millennium. Average summer temperatures rose rapidly by nearly 2 °C from 1195–1220 AD [+0.80 °C per decade], ending in the warmest decade in the record (~4.3 °C).

[The 19th century average was higher than the 20th century average, and the 20th century average was lower than the average of the last 1,250 years.]

Cook et al., 2009  (Canadian Arctic)

Renssen et al., 2009 (Canada, Eastern)

Viau and Gajewski, 2009 (Canada, Central)

Naulier et al., 2015  (Canada)


Polar Bears’ Siberian Habitat Is Colder Now Than Most Of The Last 10,000 Years

Hantemirov and Shiyatov, 2002 (Siberia, Northwestern)

Tarasov et al., 2009 (Siberia, Southern)

Polar Bears’ Greenland Habitat No Warmer Now Than In The 1920s, 1930s

Zhao et al., 2016   (Greenland Ice Sheet)

Hasholt et al., 2016 (Southeast Greenland)

“We determined that temperatures for the ablation measurement periods in late July to early September were similar in both 1933 and the recent period [1990s – present], indicating that the temperature forcing of ablation within the early warm period and the present are similar.”

Greenland Is Colder Now Than Most Of The Last 10,000 Years

Lecavalier et al., 2013 (North Greenland)

Thomas et al., 2016 (Greenland, West)

“Paired climate and ice sheet records from previous warm periods can elucidate the factors influencing GrIS mass balance on time scales longer than the observational record [Briner et al., 2016]. During the middle Holocene, temperature on Greenland was ~ 2°C higher than present [Cuffey and Clow, 1997; Axford et al., 2013].”


Aizen et al., 2016 (Asia, Greenland Ice Sheet)

“[P]eriods warmer than modern periods occurred for ∼6.5 ka [6,500 years] including during the HCO [Holocene Climate Optimum] and Medieval Warm Period.”

Northern Europe Is Colder Now Than Most Of The Last 10,000 Years

Esper et al., 2014 (Northern Europe)

39 responses to “Most Polar Bears Live In Canada, Where There Has Been No Net Warming For Centuries. So Why Are They Endangered?”

  1. sod

    This is getting repetitive.

    This graph alone is telling the whole story:

    either temperature was extremely erratic in the past, or we are talking about crazy error bars that need to be added.

    1. AndyG55

      Data never was your strong point, sob, which is why you ALWAYS try to avoid it..

      No significant change in temperature. Get over it. !!!

      Just the AMO pattern as shown in basically all surface data from the region, and in fact most of the Northern Hemisphere.

      And yes, we have been living in a particularly benign period climate-wise.

    2. Sunsettommy

      Sod, what was your point here?

      1. John

        He never has any..

      2. sod

        “Sod, what was your point here?”

        look at the graph:

        It looks like in the 30s we had massive changes in temperature, going from +7°C to -3°C.

        Those rapid changes vanished entirely afterwards, if we ignore a single dip in the 40s, which also looks like an outlier.

        Now please ask yourself: was temperature behaving totally differently in the 30s, or could this be an instrumental issue?

        1. AndyG55

          yes, modern equipment responds quicker to short warm periods.

          Shown by empirical evidence to add up to 0.9C extra in cool regions.

          You can see that the 30’s was obviously warmer than now.

  2. tom0mason

    Ah but wait for the voices crying that recent weather has melted the polar ice. For them looking for real reasonable explanations beyond CO2 is just too difficult.

    Unfortunately the Arctic Ice is not a good proxy indicating the global temperature trends in the short term, it is subjected to too much transitory oceanic and weather effects. No for that the other pole is a much finer site.

    1. SebastianH

      It may not be a good proxy, but:
      1) It’s record low in both Arctica and Antartica:
      2) Also oxygen content in the ocean is declining, because of warming:

      1. AndyG55

        1. Let’s totally ignore climate history and the fact that Arctic sea ice levels were much lower for most of the first 3/4 of the Holocene.

        2. There is absolutely no way they have enough data to make the statement they have done.. its all ASUMPTION driven models.

      2. tom0mason

        You prove my point admirably!

      3. tom0mason

        @SebastianH 16. February 2017 at 7:58 PM

        From your link 2.

        Ocean models predict a decline in the dissolved oxygen inventory of the global ocean of one to seven per cent by the year 2100, caused by a combination of a warming-induced decline in oxygen solubility and reduced ventilation of the deep ocean1, 2. It is thought that such a decline in the oceanic oxygen content could affect ocean nutrient cycles and the marine habitat, with potentially detrimental consequences for fisheries and coastal economies

        As I said above please get some perspective!
        This linked document is a model, you are presupposing that those that have done this work understand the totally of how nature works and can model it.
        I maintain these people do not. The form on modeling nature from scant data-set and extrapolating catastrophe has a long and, for some, amusing history. Legions of coming disasters from CO2 mediated global warming have been forecast, and are at best a massive expensive joke on the public, at worst evidence of fraµÐ.
        But then again, is there another way for a peaceful society to tolerate so many individuals with limited life experience, narrowly educated, and prone over-excitability to the point of derangement, be set among the rest of us?

  3. David Johnson

    It is rather amazing just how selective global warming is.

  4. D. Steven Fraser

    Very interesting to see the much wider variation of arctic temps,in the 1930s than now.

    1. sod

      “Very interesting to see the much wider variation of arctic temps,in the 1930s than now.”

      Those are garbage.

      an artefact caused by the proxies.

      In the real world, those spies should raise an alarm and would mostly end as bigger error bars.

      1. Sunsettommy


        bla bla bla….,bla bla….


      2. AndyG55

        “Those are garbage.”

        YOUR posts are the main GARBAGE around here, sob, then seb’s. Invariably unsupportable propaganda pap.

  5. Graeme No.3

    An excellent article Kenneth.

    1. AndyG55

      I’m going to tell him off a bit though.. 😉

      Try to keep articles about the same time period, together.

      eg… all the post-1900 articles one after the other,

      … then comment on the story they tell.

      Cheers.. ps love ya work Kenneth 🙂

  6. AndyG55

    OT……. Brilliant.

    Everybody, and I mean EVERYBODY, should watch the video. 🙂

    1. AndyG55

      With the USA going back to much cheaper, and MUCH more reliable, coal fired power, places like Germany will desperately have to re-assess their energy supply systems.

      They CANNOT continue to survive with massively high cost, unreliable electricity. Competition will not allow it.

      Manufacturing has built the developed world.. yet the green agenda seeks to DESTROY it.

      Greenies, go and live in the unpowered wilderness.

      seb, sob.. just continue being hypocrites.

  7. Frederick Colbourne

    I suggest removing the reference to “the polar bears’ habitat” millions of years ago since the DNA evidence supports their separation from brown bears 400,000 to 600,000 years ago.

    1. AndyG55

      I thought that someone caught a “growler” or something recently..

      It seems that polar and grizzly got together way more recently 😉

  8. AndyG55

    WOW…. I was just looking at the Russian arctic “old ice” and comparing 2103 to 2017…

    1. AndyG55

      In NSIDC, Arctic sea ice extent for 2017 has just overtaken 2016.

      The “less cold” blob has been displaced by a “more cold” blob in two crucial regions.

      Arctic sea ice for this year will now probably overtake several other years as well.

      1. P Gosselin

        And still a good 4 weeks or so to go…

        1. AndyG55

          The cold edge is now pushing out towards Iceland and Scandinavia, as well as pushing out through the Bering Sea and the Sea of Okhotsk..

          If that keeps up, there will be a steep increase in the extent of Arctic sea ice.

          Will be fun watching the Arctic ice Worriers trying to rationalise.

      2. Pethefin

        A wind & temperature graph is better in terms of visualizing the current situation in the Arctic:,92.37,574/loc=142.872,87.384

  9. AndyG55


    Scott Pruitt confirmed as head of EPA. 🙂

    That will make thing very interesting..

    Buy shares in popcorn !!

    1. sod

      “Scott Pruitt confirmed as head of EPA. 🙂”

      We are talking on an international blog. You should be aware, that most Germans reading this news will immediately come to the conclusion that Trump and a significant part of americans are simply insane.

      Pruitt will do massive damage and everyone can see already, that there will be an environmental disaster soon, which will demonstrate this to everyone.

      Everyone around the world will understand, that China is behaving normal (for example on climate change), while the USA under Trump are not. The administration will be the laughing stock of the whole science community.

      Expect people to fight back hard.

      1. AndyG55

        No sob.. only the MORONIC Germans.

        REAL Germans are about to WAKE UP thanks the Donald Trump.

        You watch what happens in your next election, ;little worm ! 😉

        And you really are being totally fooled by MSM reports of China.
        They are going gung-ho with coal, at home and abroad.

        Their comments about unreliables are for brain-dead morons like you, to Suck you in.. and you, being the GULLIBLE twit that you are, fall for it every time

        You really DO NOT have a functional brain, do you sob !!!

      2. richard verney

        Everyone around the world will understand, that China is behaving normal (for example on climate change),

        China is acting normally; it does not give a damn about climate change, and that is why under the Paris Agreement it is committed not to the reduction of CO2, but rather to increase its CO2 emissions between now and 2030. After 2030, who knows what it will do, but my bet is on China carrying on increasing its CO2 emissions after 2030. This is material since China is already the largest emitter of CO2.

        What all countries need to do is to act normally like China and not be at all concerned by reducing CO2 emissions.

        America is merely following the example set by China and is now going to increase its CO2 emissions over the next coming years. Good for America, and good for this planet since this planet has too little CO2 and for that matter is too cold, but unfortunately it does not appear that CO2 has any significant impact upon temperatures, if it did that would be another reason to emit CO2.

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