Investor's Business Daily Misleads on Polar Bears

Investor’s Business Daily just published a foolish editorial about the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service's recent proposal to designate over 200,000 square miles of Alaskan coast and sea ice as “critical habitat” for the State’s beleaguered polar bear population.  The editorial doesn’t contain much in the way of actual substance, and what substance it does have is mostly bunk.  Here’s a sample:

The administration creates the mother of all protected habitats for a species whose numbers have increased since Al Gore's "An Inconvenient Truth."

Wrong.  In fact, not even close to being right.  The global population of polar bears is thought to number between 20,000 and 25,000 individuals.  No scientist of whom I’m aware suggests that this number has increased since 2006, when “An Inconvenient Truth” was released.  Way back in 2005, of the 19 recognized polar bear sub-populations, 5 were thought to be declining, only 2 were thought be increasing, and five were thought to be stable.  As for the rest, we simply didn’t know.  One of those declining populations, by the way, is in the Southern Beaufort Sea, where much of Alaska’s polar bears are located.  Today, the situation has only deteriorated.

The editorial also states:

One of the nine critical errors Judge Michael Burton found in Gore's film was the claim that polar bears were drowning while searching for ice melted by global warming. The only drowned polar bears the court said it was aware of were four that died following a storm.

Well, I can’t speak to Judge Burton’s ruling, but as a factual matter this is also wrong.  In 2005 scientists did indeed spot four drowned polar bears in the Beaufort Sea during regular transect surveys of the area and following an intense storm.  But based on extrapolation from the area surveyed, they estimate that as many as 27 bears could have died.  It was the first time in over a quarter-century that such a mass-drowning event had ever been recorded.  In 2008 a large number of swimming bears was also reported in the same area.  As sea ice continues to retreat farther from land and the distance polar bears need to swim grows, such mass drowning events are projected to increase, not only in the Beaufort Sea, but in other places as well.

If Investor Business Daily wants to editorialize about designating critical habitat for the polar bear, fine.  But guys, get your facts straight first.

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