NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis


February 19, 2007

Environmental activists have presented only one academic study that shows any negative effect of warming temperatures on polar bears, and only anecdotal evidence of bears drowning and eating each other, says H. Sterling Burnett, senior fellow at the National Center for Policy Analysis.

Other, more comprehensive research suggests the plight of that one population does not reflect the polar bear population trend as a whole:

  • Since the 1970s, while much of the world was warming, polar bear numbers increased dramatically, from roughly 5,000 to 25,000 bears -- a higher polar bear population than has existed at any time in the twentieth century.
  • Scientists believe polar bears thrived in the past 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.
  • Dr. Mitchell Taylor, a biologist with Nunavut Territorial government in Canada says the polar bear population in Canada alone has increased 25 percent from 12,000 to 15,000 during the past decade, with 11 of Canada's 13 polar bear populations stable or increasing in number.

Groups such as the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) have written on the threats allegedly posed to polar bears populations from global warming.  But their analysis isn't supported by the data, says Burnett:

  • Only two bear populations -- accounting for about 16.4 percent of the total number of bears -- are decreasing, and they are in areas where air temperatures have actually fallen, such as the Baffin Bay region.
  • By contrast, another two populations -- about 13.6 percent of the total number -- are growing, and they live in areas where air temperatures have risen, near the Bering Strait and the Chukchi Sea.
  • As for the rest, 10 populations representing about 45.4 percent of the total number of bears are stable, and the status of the remaining six populations is unknown.

Source: H. Sterling Burnett, "ESA Listing Not Needed for Polar Bears," Environmental News, Heartland Institute, March 1, 2007.


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