Beginnings Reporting on science and intelligent design

The polar bears are all right

Science | The mascots of global warming thrive despite dire predictions
by Julie Borg
Posted 3/15/18, 03:10 pm

Environmental alarmists have depicted polar bears as sick and starving victims of global warming, but a new, comprehensive report by one of the world’s leading polar bear experts found just the opposite.

An in-depth analysis by Susan Crockford with the Global Warming Policy Foundation says polar bears are thriving. Surveys indicated polar bear populations were higher than ever since an international treaty in 1973 enacted protections for them.

Although summer sea ice thickness has declined, spring and early summer sea ice measurements have remained adequate for the bear populations. And the summer ice decline actually offers more abundant food sources for the bears because their prey prefer thinner ice habitats, according to the report.

Crockford also noted that Arctic sea ice thickness has always varied considerably, sometimes measuring less than it does now, and polar bear populations vary naturally in response to changing conditions.

Environmental organizations use starving polar bears as poster children for catastrophic consequences of climate change, issuing dire warnings that polar bears could disappear completely from the Arctic in the next 100 years. In December 2017, a National Geographic video of a starving polar bear went viral and stirred much public compassion. But the video, Crockford said, showed a bear suffering from cancer or some other condition that made it unable to hunt, not starving from a lack of food sources.

Some studies show declines in average weights of polar bears since 1980, but Crockford found no recorded increase in the number of bears starving to death or too thin to reproduce. Most bears are in good to excellent condition, she said.

Cal Beisner, founder of Stewardship of Creation, noted those who predicted disaster for polar bears made the same mistake as those who overestimated the causes and consequences of climate change. “Just as is the case with fears of dangerous man-made global warming, those making the claim [that polar bears will die out] depend entirely on computer models, models that are at best not verified and at worst falsified by empirical observation,” he wrote on his organization’s blog.

Associated Press Associated Press An undated photo of Amelia Earhart

Remains found in 1940 likely Earhart’s

Bones found in 1940 on Nikumaroro, a remote island in the South Pacific, may belong to Amelia Earhart, according to a new study published in the journal Forensic Anthropology. Earhart, the first female pilot to fly solo across the Atlantic Ocean, disappeared somewhere over the Pacific during a 1937 attempt to fly around the world.

A physician originally analyzed the bones found on Nikumaroro and said they came from a man. But now, using modern techniques, Richard Jantz, a professor of anthropology at the University of Tennessee, determined the bones came from a woman, likely Earhart.

Jantz calculated the lengths of Earhart’s humerus and radius bones from a photograph of her that also included an object to determine scale. He estimated the length of her tibia from measurements of her clothing. When he compared those measurements to those of the bones, they matched. Earhart “was known to have been in the area of Nikumaroro Island, she went missing, and human remains were discovered, which are entirely consistent with her and inconsistent with most other people,” Jantz said in a statement. —J.B

iStock.com/Sasiistock iStock.com/Sasiistock

Hearing in color

Synesthesia, a rare neurologic condition that is estimated to affect about 5 percent of the population, has baffled scientists for more than 130 years. People with synesthesia experience an automatic and involuntary crossed response to certain sensory triggers. For example, hearing a musical note may cause a person to see a certain color or smell a certain scent.

Until now, the cause of this mysterious ailment eluded scientists because of the subjective nature of the symptoms. But new gene sequencing techniques finally enable researchers to investigate what drives these strange sensory experiences.

In a study appearing in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, researchers performed genetic testing on people with synesthesia that mingles the senses of hearing and vision. They found that those people possessed DNA variants that appeared to cause nerve cells in the areas of the brain that process auditory and visual information to become hyperconnected during early childhood development.

The findings may help research into the causes of autism spectrum disorders, which scientists suspect also involve abnormal nerve connections, Science magazine reported. —J.B.

Lights out

Having trouble getting your preschooler to fall asleep at night? Dimming lights and eliminating screen time before bed may help, according to a new study published in the journal Physiological Reports.

Other studies have indicated bright lights can affect adult sleep patterns, but the new research shows that young children are even more susceptible to light exposure. The researchers found even an hour of bright light before bedtime almost completely shuts down preschoolers’ production of melatonin, a sleep-inducing hormone. Melatonin also stays suppressed for at least 50 minutes after lights go out.

Young children have larger pupils and more transparent lenses, which makes them more vulnerable to the effects of light, lead researcher Monique LeBourgeois said in a statement. LeBourgeois attributed at least part of the problem to the growing use of electronic media among young children, which has tripled since 2011: “The preschool years are a very sensitive time of development during which use of digital media is growing more and more pervasive.” —J.B.

Julie Borg

Julie is a clinical psychologist and writer who lives in Dayton, Ohio. She reports on science and intelligent design for WORLD Magazine and WORLD Digital.

Read more from this writer

Comments

  • Bob C
    Posted: Fri, 03/16/2018 01:08 pm

    “Cal Beisner, founder of Stewardship of Creation, noted those who predicted disaster for polar bears made the same mistake as those who overestimated the causes and consequences of climate change.” 

    The predictors of climatic catastrophe only picked computer models that say what they want, not the truth.  The climate was changing before humans, mostly dominated the earth, and it will continue to change long after humanity is gone.  All for basic common sense ecological activities but energy credits and other untested crazy ideas are only scams to steal from people.      

  • Allen Johnson
    Posted: Sat, 03/17/2018 04:12 pm

    The truth is that sea ice is thinning and disappearing as temperatures in the arctic continue to soar far above historical levels. This arctic warming phenomenon has been predicted by computer models for a several decades.
    A fee on carbon with 100% rebated to every citizen would encourage more energy efficiency, conserve finite fuel, and for most Americans would return more rebate than the added costs of the carbon.
    I have not yet seen any national environmental policy proposal that Cal Beisner has ever supported. Can someone enlighten on this?

  • not silent
    Posted: Sat, 03/17/2018 11:44 pm

    While it seems that the climate is changing, in my opinion the jury is still out about whether or not humans are causing this change.  The reason I am undecided is because both sides of the argument seem intent on using claims that they are unable to back up in a credible way.  Several years ago I visited the government website to read the IPCC report for myself.  (This was the report that the movie An Inconvenient Truth was based on.)  I was disappointed to discover that the formula for determining CO2 emissions in that report did not actually measure gases in the air but used a nation's gross national product, or wealth.  (I found it notable and also disturbing that this would insure that the US would always be said to have the most CO2 emissions no matter how much we spent on alternative fuels or reducing emissions-at least until another nation became richer than we were!)  On the same website there was an assessment of the report that questioned why certain information was excluded-like a study showing that some Himalayan glaciers were ADVANCING rather than retreating.

    After I read the IPCC report, I found that various environmental concerns in my area which had previously been attributed to agricultural runoff or other issues were now being blamed on climate change.  I DEFINITELY believe we should protect the environment by decreasing pollution and emissions and developing alternative fuels because it's the only home we have and because God commanded us to be good stewards; but I have become concerned that very important issues like water pollution, agricultural runoff, and toxic waste have been pushed aside in the urgency to get people on board with climate change.  It doesn't make sense to me that these things would be minimized or even ignored by people who claim to want to help the environment because the things that fix climate change won't necessarily stop agricultural runoff or toxic waste. Furthermore, the fact that many people who believe humans are causing climate change have insisted their predictions were correct no matter what has happened-whether it was hotter or colder or more stormy or less stormy or more rainy or less rainy-has not helped their credibility.  (Since I read the original report, I know what they predicted!) 

    On the flip side, I have heard others claiming that humans are not causing climate change-as if that also means we have no effect on the environment at all.  Some of these people would oppose even the most basic common-sense measures to protect the environment, and I find that irresponsible and dangerous.  Whether or not anyone succeeds in proving that humans are causing climate change, it seems that it would be beneficial for ALL of us to work together to protect the planet by reducing emissions, developing alternative fuels, and cutting back on pollution.    

  • news2me
    Posted: Mon, 03/19/2018 08:49 am

    After watching the making of the Penguin movie made by the French I can see what contributes to the demise of the poles. The cutter ship that picked the film makers up almost ran over a penguin. Scientists who live there trash the area. It doesn't appear they are very considerate of that environment. Do they haul their waste out? They bore large holes deep into the ice with large machinery. Cutter ships making frequent visits with supplies and more news people and film crews are making their contribution to the mess. If you continue to break ice does it not melt? And now tourist ships are frequenting the poles to look at the melting ice. People were in row boats holding drinks that had chunks of ice from the glaciers they said were melting. And talk about run off. All of those ships have some nasty run off. 

  • LKSDG
    Posted: Sat, 04/14/2018 10:56 pm

    Climate science is so politically charged that it can be hard to determine what exactly is objective, empirical truth. However, this is a plea to investigate both sides of an issue before passing along information that appears to support your point of view.

    The Global Warming Policy Foundation calls Dr. Crockford a "zoologist" but as far as I can tell, makes no assertion of her expertise on polar bears specifically (http://www.thegwpf.org/new-report-polar-bears-are-thriving/).

    A recent article in BioScience refutes this and states, "Notably, as of this writing, Crockford has neither conducted any original research nor published any articles in the peer-reviewed literature on the effects of sea ice on the population dynamics of polar bears." (Internet Blogs, Polar Bears, and Climate-Change Denial by Proxy. Jeffrey A Harvey, Daphne van den Berg, Jacintha Ellers, Remko Kampen, Thomas W Crowther, Peter Roessingh, Bart Verheggen, Rascha J M Nuijten, Eric Post, Stephan Lewandowsky, Ian Stirling, Meena Balgopal, Steven C Amstrup, Michael E Mann. 2018. BioScience 68(4): 281–287. https://doi.org/10.1093/biosci/bix133).

    A search on Google Scholar for Author: Crockford and Topic: polar bear failed to turn up any peer-reviewed articles by Crockford about polar bears. She has published an article on sea ice (Sea ice expansion in the Bering Sea during the Neoglacial: evidence from archaeozoology. S.J. Crockford, S.G. Frederick. 2007. The Holocene 17(6): 699-706); a book chapter on sea ice and seals (Ch. 4 in Human Impacts on Seals, Sea Lions, and Sea Otters: Integrating Archaeology and Ecology in the Northeast Pacific, edited by Todd J. Braje, Torben C. Rick. University of California Press, 2011); and has also published about the Thule and about animal speciation and heterochrony. She has posted a paper about polar bears on PeerJ Preprints, but it has not yet been peer reviewed (Crockford SJ. (2017) Testing the hypothesis that routine sea ice coverage of 3-5 mkm2 results in a greater than 30% decline in population size of polar bears (Ursus maritimus) PeerJ Preprints 5:e2737v3 https://doi.org/10.7287/peerj.preprints.2737v3). The polar bear population data used therein appears to be primarily from IUCN. It was not clear to me the source of the sea ice data or that Dr. Crockford ran any of her own statistical analyses on the data. If the data, analyses, and conclusions are as sound as Dr. Crockford claims, I do not understand why this article was not submitted to a peer-reviewed journal for publication.

    Dr. Crockford also writes a blog about polar bears (https://polarbearscience.com/).

    Currently, Dr. Crockford works for Pacific IDentifications Inc. (http://www.pacificid.com/pages-added/about-pacific-id.php). From the website: "Susan Crockford obtained a Bachelor of Science degree in Zoology from the University of B.C. in 1976 and a Doctorate from the University of Victoria in 2004. She has devoted most of her professional career to the improvement and use of the comparative collections at the Royal B.C. Museum (5 years) and the University of Victoria (30 years). Susan has undertaken the analysis of complex assemblages from both biological and archaeological contexts and her experience with the identification of all fauna of western North America is exceptional. In 1990, she initiated an osteometric analysis of indigenous dogs of the central NW coast, a project that expanded to include genetic analysis of DNA extracted from bone as well as research on domestication and evolutionary theory. The topic of her recent dissertation (the role of thyroid hormones in vertebrate domestication and speciation) is a subject she continues to pursue. Her research interests are broad and she is able to provide both technical and intellectual support for a wide variety of client projects. She currently works full time for Pacific ID and holds an adjunct faculty position in the Departments of Anthropology and Graduate Studies at the University of Victoria."

    To me, this sounds like an accomplished scholar, but not a polar bear expert.

    So, what is the true status of polar bears?

ADVERTISEMENT