Diary

Exposing Polar Bear Poppycock and Wildfire Fairy Tales

Venus the polar bear of the Ranua Zoo enjoys the snow in the polar bear's enclosure in Ranua, Finnish Lapland on Wednesday, July 26, 2017. The snow was donated to the Ranua Wildlife Park by the Ruka ski center some 150 kilometers (90 miles) away, to help cool down the polar bears in temperatures of around 24 degrees Celsius (75 F), but were expected to cool down by weekend. (Marko Junttila/Ranua Zoo via AP)

As most Americans have hunkered down for the past few months, climate alarmists have remained hard at work spinning ever more climate lies.

Among the falsehoods alarmists continue to persistently promote, regardless of the news cycle, are that human-caused climate change is causing more frequent and intense wildfires, and pushing polar bears to the brink of extinction. Data proves they are wrong on both.

Most recently, the BBC, CBS, The New York Times, and Science Alert ran stories hyping a new Nature Climate Change report titled, “Fasting season length sets temporal limits for global polar bear persistence.”

The authors of the BBC’s uncritical coverage of the report write, “Polar bears will be wiped out by the end of the century unless more is done to tackle climate change, a study predicts. Scientists say some populations have already reached their survival limits as the Arctic sea ice shrinks.”

The decline or extinction of some or all polar bear sub-populations would truly be an unfortunate consequence of climate change if it were true, but it’s not.

The Global Warming Policy Foundation recently published polar bear researcher Susan Crockford’s report, The State of the Polar Bear 2019. In it, Crockford writes, “a plausible and scientifically defensible ‘best-guess’ estimate at 2018, extrapolated from ‘known’ to ‘unknowns’ subpopulations within sea ice ecoregions … would be about 39,000 (range 26,000–58,000), although a more pessimistic best-guess based on a greater variety of ecosystem traits (including prey diversity and sea ice cover) came out much lower, at 23,315 (range 15,972–31,212).”

Even the worst case estimate of the current population of polar bears is far higher than the 10,000 bears estimated to exist in the 1960s, meaning polar bear populations have grown even during the recent modest period of warming.

The authors of the Nature Climate Change report added insult to injury by basing their projections of polar bear decline on the indefensible greenhouse gas concentration scenario, Representative Concentration Pathway 8.5 (RCP8.5), and absurdly high emissions scenario described in the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s (IPCC) Fifth Assessment Report.

RCP8.5 and the climate projections made based on it have been heavily criticized in the peer reviewed literature. “The RCP8.5 climate forecast was recently exposed in a peer reviewed paper published earlier this year by Zeke Hausfather and Glen Peters as being an implausible ‘worst-case’ scenario that assumes an unrealistic 500 percent increase in coal and a 6℃ rise in global temperature by 2100,” writes Crockford.

Polar bears evolved from brown bears over millions of years and still occasionally interbreed with them where their habitats overlap. Although polar bears are uniquely adapted to the Arctic region, they are not wedded solely to its coldest parts nor are they restricted to a specific Arctic diet. Aside from a variety of seal species, they eat eggs, fish, kelp, caribou, ducks, sea birds, berries (when available), reindeer, small mammals, and hunted or scavenged whales and walruses. Across multiple ice ages and interglacial periods, polar bears have been subject on a large number of occasions to periods much warmer than at present, with higher sea levels and less sea ice. In short, the Nature study gives the world no scientifically valid reason for thinking polar bears won’t continue to thrive in the future, regardless of whether the climate warms or cools.

Concerning wildfires, I’m getting a jump on the many hysterical, false stories I expect to see during the coming wildfire season. While the immediate cause of any wildfire is a spark or a source of flame, one critical underlying contributing factor for wildfire is aridity—how dry an area and its vegetation are.

Concerning this, the U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) is clear: there has been no increase in drought globally or in the United States, reporting with “high confidence” precipitation over mid-latitude land areas of the Northern Hemisphere (including the United States) has increased during the past 70 years, while having “low confidence” about decrease in rain or snowfall globally.

And data from the U.S. National Integrated Drought Information System shows the United States is undergoing its longest period in recorded history without at least 40 percent of the country experiencing “very dry” conditions, with peaks in drought around 1978, 1954, 1930, and 1900 being much larger than what the U.S. experienced in the 21st century and the late 20th century. In 2017 and 2019, the United States registered its smallest percentage of land area experiencing drought in recorded history.

Contrary to the impression given to the public each wildfire season by the liberal media, which is inextricably caught up in the climate crisis delusion, hard data shows wildfire trends in the United States have followed drought trends, declining over the course of the past century even as the earth has modestly warmed. As evidence, the data from the U.S. National Interagency Fire Center, which reports data on U.S. wildfires back to 1926, show the numbers of acres burned is far less now than it was throughout the early 20th century. Current acres burned run about 1/4th to 1/5th of the record values that occurred in the 1930s. At that time, the peak wildfire burn incinerated more than 52 million acres. Since 2010, the peaks have been 10 million acres or less.

Science doesn’t support the claim that human-caused climate change threatens the continued existence of polar bears or the loss of peoples’ homes, lives, and livelihoods by sparking more frequent or severe wildfires. So you can believe the science, or you can believe climate alarmists who have been wrong so many times I can’t keep count.

As for me, I choose to believe the science!

H. Sterling Burnett, Ph.D. ([email protected]) is a senior fellow on energy and the environment at The Heartland Institute, a nonpartisan, nonprofit research center headquartered in Arlington Heights, Illinois.