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Canadian researcher finds polar bears are doing fine — and gets climate-mauled

Terence Corcoran
By Terence Corcoran

We take you now deep out onto the frozen floes of Arctic science and polar bears, where the most dangerous threat known to man and bear alike is lurking among the icebergs: Junk science.

As a starting point, we look to a story published December 1st on Vice News’s tech site, Motherboard, that included an interview with U.S. polar bear scientist/activist Stephen Amstrup. In the article, Amstrup accuses Canadian polar bear scientist Susan Crockford of filling her bear research with extreme allegations. Climate activists have targeted Crockford, a zoologist and adjunct professor of anthropology at the University of Victoria, because her research inconveniently finds that, despite their claims, polar bears are not at risk. “You don’t have to read far in her material to see that it is full of unsubstantiated statements and personal attacks on scientists, using names like eco-terrorists, fraudsters, green terrorists and scammers,” Amstrup claimed.

A few days later, Motherboard published a slithery retraction. After Crockford complained that Amstrup’s comments about her were “a lie” and that she has never used such terms, Amstrup “clarified” his comments. He said that when he accused Crockford of calling scientists fraudsters, he really meant to accuse “climate deniers as a whole, rather than Crockford in particular.”

Ah, well, mix-ups like wrongly accusing a scientist of slanderous language are the kind of things that can happen given the context. It’s all part of an escalating epic of polar bear junk science. It begins with a paper in which Amstrup, who heads the activist group Polar Bears International, and other climate scientists — including famed temperature hockey-stick maker Michael Mann — produce what must be one of the most pathetic scientific smear jobs in the already sorry history of climate change science smear campaigns. Also along for the hatchet job was Stephan Lewandowsky, an Australian psychologist who asserts that people who have doubts about climate policy are wacky conspiracy theorists who would also tend to believe the 1969 moon landing was faked.

Motherboard published a slithery retraction

In their new paper published November 29th, in the journal BioScience, Mann, Lewandowsky, Amstrup and a dozen other authors, headed by Jeffrey Harvey of the Netherlands Institute of Ecology, attack Crockford as an unqualified climate “denier.”

Crockford is fighting back. On Wednesday, she demanded that BioScience retract the paper. She describes it, in part, as “simply malicious, and an egregious breach of professional ethics” and filled with “untrue statements.”

The sole personal target of the BioScience paper is Crockford. Crockford has written books on polar bears for children and adults (such as Polar Bears: Outstanding Survivors of Climate Change) and runs Polar Bear Science, a blog site that for years has drilled holes in many of the claims and predictions of mainstream climate scientists. One recent post showed that polar bear populations around Churchill, Man. were in good shape, amid lots of sea ice. Another recent item said Amstrup’s claims of sea-ice loss were inaccurate.

Climate scientists in the Amstrup/Mann/Lewandowsky camp have apparently had enough of Crockford’s steady debunking of many of their polar bear alarmist claims and have set out to destroy her and her reputation via what can only be called a vicious personal attack.

The sole personal target of the BioScience paper is Crockford

The BioScience paper claimed to have conducted a rigorous analysis of blog sites that have, over time, mentioned polar bears, Arctic ice and climate change.

Polar bears, the authors say, have become the “poster species” of the official “consensus” on the threat of man-made global warming. As a result, however, polar bears have also become the poster species target of climate change “deniers.” Those deniers, the paper claims, have succeeded in creating a “consensus gap” between official science and public opinion, a gap that the paper says has now reached the proportion of a “chasm.”

To get to the bottom of the chasm, Amstrup and associates claim to have analyzed 90 polar-bear-related blog sites, half of them described as “science-based blogs” and half described as “denier blogs.” At first, BioScience did not release the research data, but as the data began to leak out this week, it became clear it was warped to nail Crockford.

If this is science, we are all doomed

Of the 45 “science-based” blogs many are … well, not exactly what one would expect. There’s Discovery Kids and Gizmodo, along with such deeply academic sites as The David Suzuki Foundation and World Wildlife Fund Canada. Also listed as “science-based” sites are news blogs such as and a company that sells photo services.