Don’t believe everything you read

Professionally I’m an environmental scientist. I get frustrated with how political environmental issues have become. With the divisive left and right of politics having drawn a line in the sand where it comes to the environment, it doesn’t seem to matter what the science says anymore. Even worse, the media seem to believe it’s up to them to tell us what to think.

As I teach my students, do your own research. Make your own conclusions by looking at the data yourself. And I’m not just talking about environmental issues, but everything you read in the media.

But as enviro is kinda my thing, here’s an example. What have you heard about polar bears recently? Their numbers are in decline? They are starving? Running out of ice? Suffering from climate change?

Alan Wilson [CC BY-SA 3.0 (]

Here’s the executive summary from a report by the Global Warming Policy Foundation: State of the Polar Bear Report 2018 by Dr Susan Crockford:

• Data published since 2017 show that global polar bear numbers have continued to increase slightly since 2005, despite the fact that summer sea ice in 2018 was again at a low level not expected until mid-century: the predicted 67% decline in polar bear numbers did not occur.

• Despite having to deal with the greatest change in sea ice habitat since 1979 of all Arctic regions, according to Norwegian biologists polar bears in the Svalbard area showed no negative impact from the low sea ice years of 2016 through 2018.

• Global sea ice extent was below average in March 2018, as it was in 2017, but this reduction in winter ice had no impact on polar bear health or survival, in part because most of the decline was in regions where polar bears don’t live (like the Sea of Okhotsk and the Gulf of St. Lawrence).

• Unexpectedly, for the second year in a row, freeze-up of sea ice on Western Hudson Bay came earlier than the average date in the 1980s; no-one knows why.

• In Canada, where perhaps two-thirds of the world’s polar bears live, the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife (COSEWIC) decided in 2018 to continue to list the polar bear as a species of ‘Special concern’ rather than upgrade to ‘Threatened.’

• Despite marked declines in summer sea ice, Chukchi Sea polar bears continue to thrive: reports from the first population-size estimate for the region, performed in 2016, show bears in the region are abundant (almost 3000 individuals), healthy and reproducing well.

• National Geographic received such a profound backlash from its widely viewed ‘this is what climate change looks like’ starving polar bear video, released in late 2017, that in 2018 it made a formal public apology for spreading misinformation.

• Contrary to concerns about threats to polar bears from proposed drilling for oil in the National Wildlife Refuge in Alaska, polar bear females are quite tolerant of disturbances, and oil companies have an excellent track record of dealing responsibly with polar bears.

• Polar bear attacks made headlines in 2018: two fatal attacks in Nunavut, Canada and a narrowly averted death-by-mauling in northern Svalbard caught the world by surprise.

• The territory of Nunavut, where most polar bears in Canada live, is now poised to make human safety their priority in managing growing populations of bears.


Don’t believe everything you read.

9 comments on “Don’t believe everything you read

  1. Thank you for taking it the way it was intended – it is good to read widely because so many things are open to interpretation and can be skewed to suit an agenda. Thank you for letting me comment😎

    • Yup, agree, I used to choose a current enviro news/political topic and then give the students a paper to read and they had to then tell the rest of the class their perspective – what they didn’t know was I would give them all different papers. Together they painted a very balanced perspective of the topic, but individually they skewed the student’s perspective. A very enlightening lesson for all 🙂

  2. I know this is a very serious post but I must respectfully ask that you remove information about the polar bear population in Canada increasing. You are sharing confidential military secrets with the world, AJ! Don’t let them know we are expanding our polar bear army to work along side our house hippo navy.

    A concerned Canadian citizen.

    • My deepest apologies, concerned Canadian citizen. No more mention of polar bear armies, house hippos or grizzly grenadiers.

  3. I’d been hearing such alarming things. I’m glad that most of it is untrue.

  4. Thank you very much 😂

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