Planet Gore Replies

Greg Pollowitz has posted a reply to my critique of his post on the discovery of 125,000 western lowland gorillas in the Republic of Congo.  In his original post, Pollowitz seemed to argue that this discovery should undermine our confidence in predictions of declining polar bear populations due to sea ice loss.  Expanding on what was some pretty thin gruel, he now writes:

I'm saying that up until a few days ago, the settled science was that there were only 50,000 gorillas left in the world. I'm saying that millions of dollars have been spent in a way that might have gone to better use, for both the gorillas, and more importantly, for the humans that live in Africa. I'm saying that the WCS, when helping to look for polar bears "studied 28 years of satellite images of sea ice and contributed key data to a study by the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) that helped inform the USFWS decision." I'm saying that maybe the WCS should stop looking at their computers and, like they did in Africa, actually try to count the polar bears with something other than a 50-year ice model.

But look, this is still an incredibly weak argument.  The gorilla discovery (just like the discovery of vast antelope herds in the Sudan that Pollowitz also cites) is fundamentally a situation in which a new population of wildlife was discovered in suitable habitat that hadn’t been surveyed by biologists.  In the case of polar bears, it’s the habitat itself that’s vanishing.  The listing of polar bears is based on a pretty simple syllogism—Arctic sea ice is disappearing and will likely be entirely gone by the end of the century; polar bears need sea ice to survive; therefore, polar bears are endangered.  Make no mistake, there are mountains of evidence to support this conclusion, but the logic is not hard to understand.