NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis


January 22, 2007

Environmental lobbyists have taken a long leap of logic to posit that human-caused global warming will melt most of the ice at the North Pole within 50 years and that without the ice, polar bears will be unable to survive as a species, says H. Sterling Burnett, senior fellow at the National Center for Policy Analysis.

Fortunately, both for policy and the polar bears, anecdotal stories about polar bear cannibalism and drowning do not reflect the population trend as a whole:

  • Since the 1970s, while the world was warming, polar bear numbers increased dramatically from around 5,000 to as many as 25,000 today.
  • Historically, polar bears have thrived in temperatures even warmer than at present -- during the medieval warm period 1,000 years ago and during the Holocene Climate
  • Optimum between 5,000 and 9,000 years ago.

In fact, Mitchell Taylor, a biologist with Nunavut Territorial government in Canada, pointed out in testimony to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service that modest warming may be beneficial to bears since it creates better habitats for its main food sources.  Further, Taylor thinks that where polar bear weight and numbers are declining, arctic warming isn't the cause, but rather too many bears are competing for food.

Ironically, says Burnett, the World Wildlife Fund, while arguing that polar bears are at risk from global warming, presented data that actually bolsters Taylor's theory:

  • According to the WWF there are 22,000 polar bears in about 20 distinct populations worldwide.
  • Of those 20, only two populations -- accounting for 16.4 percent of the total number of bears -- are decreasing, and they are in areas where air temperatures have actually fallen.

Source: H. Sterling Burnett, "NO: It's a fact that their numbers are up fivefold since the 1970s," Charlotte Observer, January 22, 2007.


Browse more articles on Environment Issues