Saturday, November 13, 2004

“Global warming could cause polar bears to go extinct by the end of the century by eroding the sea ice that sustains them,” is the dire warning in a new report from an international group of “researchers” called the Arctic Climate Impact Assessment.

I’m not quite sure about the polar bears’ future, but it doesn’t seem any alleged manmade global warming has anything to do with it. The report, titled “Impacts of a Warming Arctic,” pretty much debunks itself on Page 23 in the graph labeled, “Observed Arctic Temperature, 1900 to Present.”

The graph shows Arctic temperatures fluctuate naturally in regular cycles roughly 40 years long. The Arctic seems to be undergoing a warming phase — similar to one between 1900-1940 — which will likely be followed by a cooling phase — similar to that of 1940-1970.

The report’s claim that increased manmade emissions of greenhouse gases are causing a rise in Arctic temperatures is debunked by the same graph, which indicates the near-surface Arctic air temperature was higher around 1940 than now, despite all the greenhouse gas emissions since.

Also self-debunking is the report’s statement, “Since the start of the Industrial Revolution, the atmospheric carbon dioxide concentration has increased by about 35 percent and the global average temperature has risen by about 0.6 degrees Centigrade.” So despite all the greenhouse gases emitted by human activity over 200 years — we’re supposed to worry, even panic, about a measly 0.6 degree C rise in average global temperature in that time?

Even if such a slight temperature change could credibly be estimated, it would seem well within the natural variation in average global temperature, which in the Arctic, for example, is a range of about 3 degrees C. Remember, global climate isn’t static — it’s always either cooling or warming.

Though their own data indicate manmade greenhouse gas emissions and warmer temperatures don’t seem to be a problem in the Arctic, the researchers nevertheless claimed these factors caused supposed 15 percent declines in both the average weight of adult polar bears and number of cubs born between 1981 and 1998 in the Hudson Bay region.

The 1999 study in the science journal Arctic that first reported apparent problems among the Hudson Bay polar bears suggested they might be related to the earlier seasonal break-up of sea ice on western Hudson Bay — a phenomenon that seems to correlate with the 1970-present Arctic warm-up. But, as mentioned previously, the 1970-present Arctic warming period seems part of a natural cycle and not due to manmade greenhouse gas emissions. Moreover, the notion of declining polar bear numbers doesn’t square with available information.

A Canadian Press Newswire story earlier this year reported that, in three Arctic villages, polar bears “are so abundant there’s a public safety issue.” Local polar bears reportedly increased from about 2,100 in 1997 to as many as 2,600 in 2004. Inuits wanted to kill more bears, which are “fearsome predators.”

An aerial survey of Alaskan polar bears published in Arctic (December 2003) reported a greater polar bear density than previous survey estimates dating to 1987.

If polar bears are getting skinnier as the 1999 study suggested, it may be due to greater numbers subsisting on the same level of available food. After all, harvesting Alaskan polar bears has been limited by the Marine Mammal Protection Act and international agreements since 1972.

The Arctic Climate Impact Assessment report has spurred new calls for a clampdown on carbon-dioxide emissions.

Sens. John McCain, Arizona Republican, and Joe Lieberman, Connecticut Democrat, told the Associated Press the “dire consequences” Arctic warming underscore the need for their proposal to require U.S. cuts in emissions of carbon dioxide and other heat-trapping greenhouse gases.

Fortunately, their call will likely get a chilly response from President Bush, who reiterated through a spokesman last weekend his continued opposition to the international global-warming treaty known as the Kyoto Protocol.

Steven Milloy is the publisher of, an adjunct scholar at the Cato Institute and the author of “Junk Science Judo: Self-defense Against Health Scares and Scams” (Cato Institute, 2001).

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