“What is causing the death of the polar bear as a climate change icon? Fat bears are part of it, but mostly it’s the fact that polar bear numbers haven’t declined as predicted,” writes Susan Crockford, a Canadian zoologist who specializes in polar bear populations, and author of the Polar Bear Science blog.
The polar bear has been categorized as an endangered and sad symbol of global warming by numerous activist groups and environmentalists, including the World Wildlife Federation and Polar Bears International.
Coca-Cola used the polar bear on its soda cans, and raised some $2 million for their cause in recent years. Former vice president and filmmaker Al Gore has also referenced the “drowning” polar bear in “An Inconvenient Truth,” a documentary film.
But Dr. Crockford says polar bears appear to be plentiful and plump.
“Not only have we been seeing pictures of fat bears rather than starving bears in recent years but there are lots of them in Western Hudson Bay and other seasonal sea ice regions where there should be none. No wonder polar bears are falling out of favor as an icon for catastrophic human-caused global warming,” she says.
“Polar bears are no longer a useful global warming icon because they are thriving despite diminished sea ice,” Dr. Crockford adds, noting that local Inuit populations in the Canadian Arctic consistently claim that polar bears are not dying off despite the claims of some scientists and activist groups.
“Let me assure you that polar bears are not extinct. They just aren’t a ubiquitous symbol for atmospheric warming anymore. Sure, the animal will probably keep its home on your can of Coke. And I don’t think Greenpeace will give up anytime soon on its mascot for its circumpolar campaigns,” writes Bucknell University environmental historian Andrew Stuhl in a commentary for The Arctic Institute, a non-profit based in the nation’s capital.