Climate Science Glossary

Term Lookup

Enter a term in the search box to find its definition.

Settings

Use the controls in the far right panel to increase or decrease the number of terms automatically displayed (or to completely turn that feature off).

Term Lookup

Settings


All IPCC definitions taken from Climate Change 2007: The Physical Science Basis. Working Group I Contribution to the Fourth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, Annex I, Glossary, pp. 941-954. Cambridge University Press.

Home Arguments Software Resources Comments The Consensus Project Translations About Support

Twitter Facebook YouTube Pinterest MeWe

RSS Posts RSS Comments Email Subscribe


Climate's changed before
It's the sun
It's not bad
There is no consensus
It's cooling
Models are unreliable
Temp record is unreliable
Animals and plants can adapt
It hasn't warmed since 1998
Antarctica is gaining ice
View All Arguments...



Username
Password
New? Register here
Forgot your password?

Latest Posts

Archives

Visions of the Arctic

Posted on 13 July 2011 by John Cook

Guest post by photographer Florian Schulz. Photos courtesy of Florian Schulz/National Geographic from the July 2011 issue of National Geographic magazine, on newsstands June 28.

A thundering bang rips me out of my sleep. I open my eyes but see only darkness. For a moment I try to figure out where I am. Then I hear it again: another deep, hollow clang, followed by a high-pitched scraping noise. I slowly come to and remember that I am below deck on an old sealing vessel, traveling to northern Svalbard, an archipelago in the European Arctic, with the IMAX film team.


A polar bear rides a summer sea-ice raft off Norway's Svalbard archipelago. Sea ice provides crucial habitat for the Arctic's top predator, but warming temperatures are creating extended ice-free periods that tax bears.

Thinking the boat might have run aground, I quickly rush up to the helm and immediately understand. We are entering a part of the Barents Sea that is full of loose sea ice. Like a bumper car, our ship tries to find open passage between the ice floes, but collisions are unavoidable.

We now have entered the true home of Ursus maritimus, the sea bear. As we have multiple observations of polar bears over the days, I am beginning to fully understand the origin of this name. I have observed bears swimming for miles in freezing water that would render a human immobile within minutes. I have watched them dive under ice floes to surprise seals hauled out on the other side, and have even seen them surface with a small ringed seal in their mouth after catching it underwater. I have been amazed at how they seem to be completely at ease resting on small pieces of ice, drifting miles from shore, surrounded by open water. No doubt, the pack ice environment is their home and they want to hang on to the ice as long as it has not melted yet. Out here on the ice, bears can hunt for seals, their most important food.


Ashore on Svalbard, a male polar bear investigates a whale's backbone. Fat reserves from hunting ringed and bearded seals, and sometimes walruses, must carry bears through lean summers.

On the west coast of Svalbard, I have the chance to observe bears that have already been forced to land as the sea ice has melted earlier. Over a week, I spend anchored in a little bay near a washed up fin whale carcass that is attracting many polar bears.

After spending day after day observing, filming, and photographing, we now recognize individual bears and can pick out new arrivals. Some of the newcomers arriving from the sea ice have beautiful white fur, while the fur of the bears that have been at the carcass for a long time is yellowish from the whale oil in the water.


"When the female saw him," Schulz said, "she huffed at her cubs, and then they just pinned their ears back and ran." Leaping over floes, they kept going long after they'd made good their escape.

I am beginning to wonder if this carcass is a blessing or a curse for the bears. It attracts large numbers of them, but it hardly seems to provide enough meat to feed them well. The cubs of the bears that have been around for a while appear malnourished and far too small for the end of June. With so many bears close to the carcass, a lot of energy is spent fighting over the food. At the same time, the remaining meat is a sure bet for the bears, which are now stranded on land as the ice retreats. In spring and summer, without access to seals, polar bears have to live on scraps, mainly surviving on the valuable fat reserves they have built up during winter. On land, food is scarce and consists of washed-up marine mammals and birds’ eggs. I have even seen bears eating seaweed. Polar bears are in their true element when hunting seals out on the ice, which in my mind is why the newly arriving bears look so much healthier. I wonder how the bears will cope with the ever-retreating sea ice, as they will lose their hunting platform for seals and be forced to rely on sources of less nutritious food.

The effects of global warming are intensified in the far north.  Temperatures have risen at twice the global average in the arctic regions.  Scientists estimate, that by 2050 the Arctic Ocean may be largely ice free in summer.

It is ironic that the polar bear, the king of the Arctic, which has always been able to withstand anything nature throws its way - the most severe cold, the fiercest storms, and the coldest water - now faces a new enemy it is not equipped for: global warming.  

As I am documenting the polar bears in their back ice environment a single image often comes to my mind. It is a polar bear swimming for his life in an ice-free ocean. Year after year he has retreated further north towards the ice edge, where not only he but many animals begin to concentrate, until the final year, when all the ice has melted and he is surrounded by hundreds of miles of open ocean.

Florian Schulz is a professional nature photographer who has dedicated more than a decade to promoting the creation of wildlife corridors. As a part of his ongoing project Freedom to Roam®, Schulz has documented some of North America’s last remaining wild places, from Baja California to the Beaufort Sea. The youngest founding member of the International League of Conservation Photographers (ILCP), Schulz has won numerous awards, including Environmental Photographer of the Year, Conservation Photographer of the Year, and an Independent Publisher Book Award for his first book Yellowstone to Yukon: Freedom to Roam.

A native of Germany, Schulz spends eight to ten months a year in the field, often joined by his wife, Emil Herrera Schulz. For more information, please visit his website at www.VisionsoftheWild.com.

To the Arctic:


Florian Schulz spent many months in the Arctic, where he endured subfreezing temperatures - camping on ice sheets, diving beneath icebergs, and riding hundreds of kilometers on dogsleds – to document the incredible diversity of life for his upcoming book, To The Arctic, the companion book to the IMAX Theatre film of the same name by MacGillivray Freeman Films.

0 0

Printable Version  |  Link to this page

Comments

1  2  Next

Comments 1 to 50 out of 57:

  1. Nice story and great pictures. Thank you.
    0 0
  2. That polar bear is no more swimming for his life than I was this morning at the local YMCA. Polar bears are marine mammals and routinely swim many miles in open ocean. Sure, the pictures are great, but unless the photographer can provide a picture of that bear drowning, or struggling to make it to ice/land and exhaustingly hauling itself out to barely survive - then his statement is unsupported. Polar bears have been observed swimming many dozens of miles from shore with no duress. It would be interesting to see a larger scale view of that picture.
    0 0
    Response:

    [DB] Thank you for providing an object lesson of the denialist mentality.  It would be interesting if a dissembler were to even once see the "larger scale view" without the veils of confirmation bias blinding their eyes.

    And what is said polar bear to do when those "many miles" become many hundreds of miles?  When meals become weeks and months apart?

    Your position is impoverished of merit.

  3. Apirate There are plenty of studies showing the risks that polar bears,other wildlife and their environment face. I would suggest reading the following links: http://www.nature.com/ncomms/journal/v2/n2/full/ncomms1183.html http://www.usgs.gov/blogs/features/2011/03/28/species-at-risk/ http://www.amap.no/swipa/
    0 0
  4. DB: Can you or anyone else, other than the photographer (if he is willing), legitimately say that polar bear in that picture is in legitimate duress? I have a MS degree in Fisheries and Wildlife Biology. I am not denying anything. I can tell you for sure that polar bears swimming in open ocean is normal. DB, do you know how far that bear was swimming? Do you know how far apart his meals were? Or, are you emotionally reacting to a "snapshot" and a tagline? The prepoderance of evidence of polar bear biology and behavior says that picture is normal. What proof is there that that picture shows anything remotely abnormal?
    0 0
    Response:

    [dana1981] Please read the article more carefully.  The author is not claimng that the polar bear in the picture is in distress.  He's talking about 'an image in his mind' of the inevitable day in the future when the Arctic is almost entirely ice free, and polar bears experience the consequences.

  5. Pirate#4, As usual, a moment with the Google machine yields the story of yet another polar bear: What a scientist called the "ordeal" of Bear 20741 was documented in the journal Polar Biology, and while it may not have been unprecedented -- shrinking Arctic ice has led to frequent reports not only of long-distance swims, but even cannibalism -- the study provided some of the best documentation to date of the real-world conditions of a polar bear on a warming planet. Is it really that much easier to react with the usual 'no its not'?
    0 0
  6. There is a thing that make me doubt that of Arctic sea ice meltdowm will put Polar Bears in danger of extinction is the fact that Hudson Bay is populated by polar bears despite the fact that every summer the sea ice there melts completely, resulting in 100% open water. If bears that live in Hudson Bay can survive and thrive with just a seasonal sea cover, then why their Russian comrades cannot survive a change from perennial to seasonal sea ice cover? So I am skeptical that Polar Bears are in danger. On the contrary, I am near certain that the ones that are in danger because of Arctic meltdown are a species known as Homo "Sapiens Sapiens", because a change from perennial to seasonal sea ice cover in the Arctic will severely disrupt global climate.
    0 0
  7. apiratelooksat50 - I'm appalled. You have completely misread the piece. Clearly Schulz was speaking of a mental image of a future where the Artic has no ice (not the present), using a photo of a swimming bear with no visible ice to illustrate that mental image. A future, a "final year", where the bears have no sea ice to fish from, no place to go for seals but hundreds of miles of open water, and a future where they will quite frankly starve. Your objection reeks of denial.
    0 0
  8. From Peru#6 "I am skeptical that Polar Bears are in danger." You're right to be skeptical, but here is what the science seems to say. Regehr et al 2010 Survival and breeding of polar bears in the southern Beaufort Sea in relation to sea ice: polar bear survival declined with an increasing number of days per year that waters over the continental shelf were ice free. In 2001-2003, the ice-free period was relatively short (mean 101 days) and adult female survival was high (0.96-0.99, depending on reproductive state). In 2004 and 2005, the ice-free period was longer (mean 135 days) and adult female survival was low (0.73-0.79, depending on reproductive state). I don't know whether that means endangerment or not, but anyone can see what happens if you forecast forward with even more ice free days (the full paper is here; the graph of concern (figure 4) is logistic. 100 days good, 135 days not so good, 155 days verry bad). Perhaps the perceived fate of Hudson's Bay bears depends on who you read. Compare a report of actual research, For Hudson Bay Polar Bears, The End is Already in Sight to a blogger's more jaundiced viewpoint. I'm more skeptical of one of these than the other.
    0 0
  9. PM @ 3 Thanks for the links. I went through them quickly and intend to spend some more time on them. Without further examination, I would like to point out that cannibalism among bears (especially males to young) is well documented. That is why females are so dangerous to be around while they have cubs. It's very easy to make a statement that climate change is causing an increase in cannibalism, but it is a different matter entirely to prove it. Seriously, thanks for the links.
    0 0
  10. Dana 1981 at 4 You are right. The photographer is making an emotional (not scientific) statement. But, by putting that paragraph directly ahead of the picture he is looking for an emotional response from the reader without actually saying what the picture represents in reality. My apologies.
    0 0
  11. KR at 7 Polar bears separated from their very close cousins, brown bears, about 150,000 years ago due to ecological changes. The divergence was "completed" during the Pleistocene which was a period of heavy glaciation. Ironically, brown bears and polar bears can still interbreed and do so in the wild which shows they may only be sub-species. Polar bears show signficant adaptations to a maritime environment. If that environment changes then they must adapt again, or die. Polar bear populations have fluctuated many times in the past and are quite robust presently. Any hint of their eminent demise is merely a prediction based on modeling. Don't misunderstand me - I like polar bears and want them to live forever. Are other marine mammal populations in scientifically documented danger (not predictions!) from sources other than human predation?
    0 0
  12. apiratelooksat50 - I don't believe other marine mammal populations (my, what a limited example) are in danger from climate change or non-predation issues. Multiple researchers, as per the various links presented so far, indicate that polar bears are at risk due to climate change. Brown bears certainly aren't, but that doesn't relieve the risk to a significant and morphologically distinct population of polar bears who inhabit completely distinct ecological niches. Moreover - that does not mean you didn't completely misread the opening post.
    0 0
    Response:

    [DB] In the spirit of not reading or misreading posts on Polar Bears, here are a few more with even more, regrettably, scientific information:

    1. Polar bear numbers are increasing
    2. Muller Misinformation #3: Al Gore and polar bears
    3. How does global warming affect polar bears?
  13. KR @ 12 If the other species aren't in "potential" danger (and they would be mainly prey species) due to the various issues trotted out in the links: then why are the polar bears? The opening post was clearly written to garner an emotional response. Emotions should be reserved for children and puppies, not science. There is nothing scientifically based in that article. If you read it carefully you will see phrases like "in my mind" and "I am beginning to wonder if this carcass is a blessing or a curse for the bears." The paragraph after the picture of the mother and cubs leaping from floe to floe is written in the words of an artist, not a scientist. All bears are notoriuos scavengers. Why do you think people camping in bear territory have to take special precautions with their food and garbage? The author states that he has seen bears eating seaweed - implying that is abnormal. Nothing new there. Polar bears are certinaly the most carnivorous of bears, but will eat everything from their favorite food seal; to walrus, caribou, beached whales, grass, and seaweed. A beached whale is a calorical bonanza for polar bears (and any other scavenger). No wonder they fight over it. And, the most glaring error in the article is that the author states polar bears build up fat in the winter. What!?! The author is an artist (and a good one), not a scientist.
    0 0
  14. Pirate, you're right: the use of polar bears as a poster child for GW is intended to strike an emotional chord in the minds of hundreds of millions, perhaps billions, of casual trackers of the GW issue. So what? You're pointing it out is also a rhetorical move, designed to suggest that those who are concerned are willing to use emotional plugs to forward the issue. Again, so what? Anything that gets people involved and looking at the science is fine by me, though I doubt if I'll miss polar bears all that much when they're gone. It won't be the species I'll be sad about; it will be the total disregard that many of seem to have not just for other species but other individual instances of our own species. This whole "hey, polar bears will still be able to survive" smacks of elitism. It sounds like "hey, so people will be displaced. They'll easily migrate."
    0 0
  15. KR @ 12: I'd disagree - I think many marine mammals are in danger, due to potential implications of ocean acidification on marine food chains. Particularly the baleen whales, IMHO. I assume that the ongoing "OA is not OK" article series will give us some more insight into that.
    0 0
  16. From Peru @ 6, in Hudson Bay and the Canadian Archipelago, Sea ice is kept close to land by being sheltered from break up by the archipelago. I suspect sea ice also forms easily in that area, particularly in Hudson Bay due to a lower salinity. Therefore it is unsafe to assume the current precarious survival of Polar Bears in those regions to Russian (and Alaskan) conditions. Further, and more importantly, what seems to be missing in the polar bear debate is any knowledge of evolution. With warming, not only will the ice melt, restricting polar bears to land; but the land will also warm, extending the range of Brown bears and Grizzlies (and humans). Most species easily survive their natural environmental conditions, and survive quite well in adverse conditions. What they do not survive is competition from other species better adapted to conditions they find adverse. The warming world will bring about such competition between Grizzlies and Polar bears. It will also increase human inhabitation in polar bear ranges. Both factors are likely to push stressed populations into extinction.
    0 0
  17. Tom Curtis @ 16: 2nd paragraph If changes in habitat occur then all flora and fauna in the area will have to adapt or perish. That is evolution, is it not? Not that it has anything to do with AGW, but keeping in vein with this post - changes in habitat led to the evolution/adaptation of brown bears into polar bears.
    0 0
  18. Apiratelooksat50 I am a wildlife scientist - similar to you I guess - and you are correct in your assertion that polar bears swim for miles in the ocean ocean. But then, no-one is denying that fact. But if you are a scientist, then you will know that the statement you made in #2 was just shockingly wrong, and should be retracted: ".....That polar bear is no more swimming for his life than I was this morning at the local YMCA. Polar bears are marine mammals and routinely swim many miles in open ocean...." How do you know? The polar bear MAY have been perfectly safe, but you don't know where the photo was taken, nor do you know the circumstances of that particular bear was facing. Evidence my dear chap, evidence. If you don't want to be branded a denier, then you should make statements based on evidence, and not on a knee jerk reaction to something. You said it best yourself in post #4: "....DB, do you know how far that bear was swimming? Do you know how far apart his meals were? Or, are you emotionally reacting to a "snapshot" and a tagline?..." You were 100% correct to point those things out to DB. But you should have taken a piece of your own advice. Quite simply, YOU don't know how far that bear was swimming, nor how far apart his meals were. YOU were the one who was emotionally reacting to a snapshot and a tagline.
    0 0
    Response:

    [DB] I plead guilty to a somewhat emotional reaction to a serial dissembler.

    Mea culpa.  ;-)

  19. mandas #18: "YOU don't know how far that bear was swimming," Here's how far this bear was swimming: polar bear 20741 decided to leave a remote Beaufort Sea beach. The 7-year-old, nearly 500-pound bear walked north into frigid Arctic Ocean water east of Barrow in search of sea ice. ... She covered 426 miles -- farther than researchers have recorded a polar bear swimming without a break. After nine days, she reached pack ice ... Her body mass was reduced 22 percent and her internal temperature had dropped. Her yearling cub was gone, likely drowned. So what have we established? Bears can swim a heck of a long way when they have to. Their cubs, not so much. I'm no biologist, but when cubs die, isn't that bad news for the bears? But whether one reacts emotionally or not is unimportant. What is important here is that sea ice is disappearing before our eyes. The fate of these particular bears is just one more pesky piece of that consistent evidence.
    0 0
  20. Pirate, the science explaining the melting of the arctic ice cap is well represented at this site. Communicating the consequences of climate to the general public has not been easy. If Florian's photographs and anecdotal story strike an emotional note with the greater public then it is all to the better good. I suspect that keeping the science dry and restricted to the lab and not in front of the public in language and images they can understand is all part of the agenda of those who wish to deny the science and prevent meaningful action from being taken.
    0 0
  21. Pirate said: "DB: Can you or anyone else, other than the photographer (if he is willing), legitimately say that polar bear in that picture is in legitimate duress?" Most wild life is under duress 24/7. And the word legitimate is a meaningless word outside human existence/knowledge. Last time I looked Polar Bears aren't human. Polar bears use sea ice to travel across the sea and hunt for food. They don't have much food sources on land, so the sea is a rich area for them to hunt. As sea ice melts more abruptly as a result of climate change, they are forced to swim more to reach ice flows or to return to land. This causes significant problems especially for a female polar bear with her young following her. Young polar bears can struggle moving from ice to water, especially if food is short. Ok so lets assume the ice goes and polar bears are forced to move in land. What is the impact? Well other species including humans have occupied that land for thousands of years. There is no real positive news for polar bears or for thousands of other species threatened by our behaviour.
    0 0
  22. Mandas said "I am a wildlife scientist - similar to you I guess" I thought APirate was a school teacher??
    0 0
  23. The flip side of decreasing pack ice in Europe, Alaska, and of course Hudson Bay, is the increase in open water season in north certral Canada. One of my first posts on this forum /polar-bears-global-warming.htm#14708 was to point out that while the Hudson Bay populations were doing poorly due to decreasing ice, the other populations were only being impacted by hunting (at a rate of up to 10% per year) but were otherwise doing fine. The fate of an individual polar bear has little scientific relevance. The fate of a population is more concerning because of broader implications, but I don't have much knowledge of the history of historical variations in populations. But I doubt they were always where they are now. Warming in Arctic will favor the populations where the warm season is currently short.
    0 0
  24. 'Other marine mammals not impacted': Actually, one of the threats to polar bears from global warming is the danger it poses to their food sources. Ringed and Bearded seals are the primary prey of polar bears... but they den on the ice. As ice melt has accelerated it has become common for newborn pups to have their den melt around them before they are capable of surviving in the water. In the U.S. the conservation status of both species is currently under review to see if they should be listed under the Endangered Species Act. 'Most polar bear population declines are only due to hunting': Eric, as we've discussed before, that isn't supported by the evidence. People wishing to get the real story can do so at the IUCN polar bear status page. The links to each sub-population on that page give information about the causes of population declines... and the claim that it is over-hunting for every group except the Hudson Bay population is just false.
    0 0
  25. CBDunkerson, I appreciate your well-founded replies to me over the past year. The table that is linked in the post (link above) shows that "most declines due to hunting except Hudson Bay" is well-supported with a modification. There are 6 populations with risk of future decline evaluated at "very high": Baffin Bay, Davis Strait, Kane Basin, Norwegian Bay and the 2 Hudson Bay populations. The first three are declning due to hunting, and the latter three have declining body condition. One other population, Lancaster Sound is listed as "higher" risk of decline, due to hunting. Southern Beaufort Sea is at moderate risk of decline due to declining sea ice. Two populations have very low risk of decline, and the rest have insufficient data (e.g. Russian populations with substantial hunting). I would recommend that people click on each population and read the text.
    0 0
  26. Eric, Recent polar bear populations have been so strongly influenced by hunting that other influences are lost in the noise. There is little doubt that the Oslo agreement has been responsible for an increase in polar bear populations worldwide over the past several decades. Actual values for this increase are open to speculation as early data was difficult to obtain. Even recent numbers are somewhat speculative. Restricting hunting to natives in the affected areas may have resulted in population changes to certain areas (Hudson Bay) that are not representative of the whole. Increases in human populations in these areas have probably been a much larger factor than any other. Recent calls for lifting the ban on polar bear hunting will undoubtedly effect their numbers. Discerning the effects of climate change in relation to hunting is very difficult.
    0 0
  27. The writeup on the Davis Strait population says: "Ecological covariates associated with survival suggest that the decline may be as a combined result of short-term and local density dependence, stabilization of harp seal (Pagophilus groenlandicus) numbers and declining ice conditions." Ergo, I wouldn't agree with the statement that this was due to hunting. That leaves only three populations (Baffin, Kane, and Lancaster) which are declining primarily due to hunting. The Chukchi Sea population is declining due to both ice loss and illegal hunting, but it isn't clear how much of the decline is due to each factor.
    0 0
  28. I have never read a piece by an environmentalist which did not pose a dire warning of some kind about the imminent demise of some form of wildlife. Surely the odds are that some creature somewhere will benefit from a warmer world. In fact the odds are probably even that 50% of creatures will benefit and 50% won't.
    0 0
    Moderator Response: [Dikran Marsupial] The odds are almost certainly not 50-50. Most organisms will have adapted to a particular ecological niche, and so any change is likely to mean they are sub-optimally adapted for their conditions. Of course there will be winners and loosers, but the theory of evolution would suggest there will be more loosers than winners, at least in the short-medium term.
  29. Ken, Historically, life has benefited more from warmer than cooler climates. Plant life becomes more abundant due to the longer growing season and greater precipitation. Animal life benefits from greater plant life, and milder winters. That is not to say that there are not those who come out on the short end due to competition and changing environments. Recently, the growth of the human population has influenced other life on this planet much more than any factor since the end of the last ice age.
    0 0
  30. Ken, you can't calculate the odds of evolution like that--even with very gradual changes. It all depends on the type of change. For example, if a snowball Earth gradually develops, will 50% of species benefit? No. If an mile-wide asteroid strikes the Earth, will 50% of species benefit? No. If gradual warming (3C over 40k y) occurs, will 50% of species benefit? Possibly. If rapid warming occurs, will 50% of species benefit? Maybe, but you'd damned well better have a studied reason for thinking so (and express it), because rapid change rarely benefits elements in a complex, integrated, dynamic biological system. Even elements that benefit in the short term in such conditions might be doing so at the (unfortunately necessary) cost of their long term survival. Your statement is evidence of poor thinking, Ken. In fact, it seems only to serve a need to be contrary. While I might agree that there might be a need to point out these "Natural World 101" type ideas for the sake of lurking doubters, in this case I think it's a complete waste of time.
    0 0
  31. Eric the Red @29, that is a simplistic response. Life adapts to the conditions it is in, and when those conditions change, some species find themselves ill adapted to the new conditions and go extinct. That is part of the reason the end of the last glacial saw an extinction pulse, and why the PETM and the end Permian warming resulted in massive extinctions. Indeed, the end Permian extinction was the greatest extinction known in 600 million years. A shift from cold, relatively dry conditions to warm moist conditions, therefore, is likely to result in an extinction pulse. That in five to ten million years life will adapt and there will be more species, and more biomass on the planet will not change that. Further, unlike the events in the PETM and Permian extinction, on this occasion species around the world are already massively stressed from habitat loss and over exploitation. That means life has few resources with which to survive a significant environmental change.
    0 0
  32. Eric the Red at 23:43 PM on 13 July, 2011 Eric, the evidence indicates otherwise. Surprising as it may seem global biodiversity as indicated by the fossil record is inversely related to temperature; i.e. greater biodiversity during cooler periods and lower during warmer. PJ Mayhew et al. (2007) A long-term association between global temperature and biodiversity, origination and extinction in the fossil record Proceedings of The Royal Society B 275, 47–53 abstract Of course the huge rate of warming that we are experiencing now and still to come is bound to lead to considerable species loss, compounded by habitat degradation and loss, and that's of greater concern (the very rapid warming) than a warm climate per se.
    0 0
  33. I suppose it begs the question (modern usage), how much warming can a polar bear?
    0 0
    Moderator Response: [Dikran Marsupial] "warming" added
  34. Ken Lambert@28 said "Surely the odds are that some creature somewhere will benefit from a warmer world. In fact the odds are probably even that 50% of creatures will benefit and 50% won't." The whole issue is very complicated. If you assume that humans are more adaptable to change in climate than other species and we tend to like staying in one place these days. Then if a 'creature' Southern Europe started finding things tuff and migrated north, it is likely that it wouldn't have a problem because the it probably already adapted (or has been genetically manipulated by humans) and can live beside humans. However in the same scenario, creatures in North Africa may be used to living well away from humans. So even if they crossed the Mediterranean they have the added problem of cities, towns, industry and other human developments of Southern Spain and France. The chances are humans aren't going to be to happy with that (along with possible desertification of Southern Europe). So humans could be forced to move North or stay in hotter Southern Spain/France and live with the migrating species from Northern Africa. Now I suppose if you couldn't care about economics (which seems strange since economics seems to be the core of many skeptics opposition to AGW) then you could say, who cares? It will all sort itself out. Humans will just settle elsewhere and migrate North. But the reality of that concept is that it is really about ignoring the future and living for today. That is what current economic theory is about, so no surprises there. The main issues regarding all of this, including Polar Bears, is the capacity in the modern world for species to migrate. Probably air and sea species (birds, fish etc) have a head start, but will still have problems with other environmental issues. But land based species are going to have a hard time (with the exception of trees and plants possibly). But apart from just climate change, humans are putting huge amounts of pressure on species under the current climate conditions, let alone one in which climate is changing.
    0 0
  35. Paul D @ 21 and 22, First, I wear several hats: science instructor, swim coach, and environmental consultant. My educational and professional background is in aquaculture, fisheries and wildlife biology. From there I moved into industrial EHS management and eventually into consulting. I am published in the environmental field and have worked closely with my local, state and Federal environmental regulatory agencies. I am also a recommended consultant by my state Department of Natural Resources for nuisance wildlife control. (I trap and relocate whenever possible). Don't know if that makes me a wildlife scientist, or not, but... And, you are absolutely correct about organisms being under 24/7 duress. It is eat or be eaten. Reproduce or watch your genes disappear. Food, shelter, and water are the primary needs. Survival of the fittest, right? Again, polar bears evolved due to the stressors of an ice age. But, life has always adapted and always will. Yes, human behavior has undoubtedly impacted many forms of wildlife. Some positive, some negative. No one knows for sure what our climate impacts on arctic biomes will be.
    0 0
  36. Ken Lambert at 28 Good post. Goes back to my polar bear and manatee analogy. What may be bad for polar bears will probably be good for manatees.
    0 0
  37. I have never read a piece by an environmentalist which did not pose a dire warning of some kind about the imminent demise of some form of wildlife And of course, all of them turned out to be wrong, so nobody has anything to worry about, ever. Right? One of the ugliest and oldest denialist tactics is this insistence that negative scenarios are manipulative or inherently improbable (even -- or especially -- when the evidence supports them). The fact that it's often presented as an attack on "emotionalism" makes it even more absurd, since it's an entirely emotional reaction (kind of like shouting "Is not!" until your face turns purple). The fact that it's also hypocritical is demonstrated by their over-the-top alarmism about any steps we might take to address the problems. But then, everyone here knows this. Including, I suspect, the people who keep trotting these comments out.
    0 0
  38. What may be bad for polar bears will probably be good for manatees. Well, if some guy on the Internet thinks so, that's good enough for me! Polar bears for manatees sounds seems like an even trade. Lord only knows why I ever bothered trying to follow the trail of cause and effect any further than that. It beats me why we waste our money funding scientific research in this country, when the real facts about nature are available gratis and free of charge online, in the form of casual speculation from anonymous "experts."
    0 0
  39. Pls SkS, Stick to the science. Somewhere, someplace, there is bound to be a jellyfish lover that has pretty pictures of jellyfish (including some newly discovered species) to use as propaganda material. Explaining the science is your strong point. arch
    0 0
  40. A Pirate says "And, the most glaring error in the article is that the author states polar bears build up fat in the winter. What!?!" and Eric at 23 says "Warming in Arctic will favor the populations where the warm season is currently short." Please read the links. Polar bears feed on seals on the sea ice in the winter. During the warm season they go ashore and do not feed. When the skeptics do not read the background information it is difficult to discuss the subject. A Pirate: you claim to be a scientist. How can you make such a catastrophic error? What!?!
    0 0
  41. Apirate @ 36 ".....Good post. Goes back to my polar bear and manatee analogy. What may be bad for polar bears will probably be good for manatees...." I thought you said you had an MS in Fisheries and Wildlife Biology? If so, you should give it back after that statement @ 36. Anyone with any knowledge of ecosystems and wildlife knows that the web of life is extraordinarily complicated, and that the removal or suppression of one species - particularly an apex predator - can have far ranging and entirely unpredictable consequences for other species. A very simple and well known example is wolves in Yellowstone NP. What species are regulated by predation by polar bears? If that regulation is removed, what will regulate their numbers in the future? Food resources? Is there competition between species for that food? What then happens to those species? What happens to lower level species if the level of predation is changed? etc etc etc And that's only part of the problem with climate change. Its not just wildife that are adapted to the current climate regime - humans and our whole culture are adapted to things exactly as they are now. If you change that, even by a small amount, you are going to create a requirement to adapt. Many species will be unable to and will go extinct - there is absolutely no doubt about that - and that will cause cascading effects which could cause trophic collapse in many parts of the world. The effects of this are completely unpredictable - and the associated costs are going to be staggering. People complain about the costs of mitigating climate change. They are in for a real shock when they find our what the costs of adapting are going to be.
    0 0
  42. Apirate said: "I am also a recommended consultant by my state Department of Natural Resources for nuisance wildlife control." Sounds very American! 'Department of Natural Resources' - We control nature it's a useful resource to exploit. 'Nuisance wildlife control' - Humans are expanding and using more land, those pesky animals keep coming into our cities, we need to control them. It's all in the language. And you really do emphasise the core of my comment@34.
    0 0
  43. I would like to point out to Americans that comment here, that along with other large nations. You can get a misleading view of human capacity to do damage to the environment. Having plenty of land and lower density populations can give the impression that humans have a long way to go before doing any significant damage. That unfortunately is not true in nations where land available is less and population growth has resulted in higher densities. The UK for instance has no significant native wild areas. It is all managed and manipulated. It is an example of what can happen with unrestrained human development. It is incapable of feeding itself and humans desperately try and protect species in small patches of land sometimes on no more than an acre. If that is replicated across the world, then you are talking about large numbers of deaths. Here in the UK we only support a population of 60 million (and growing), because we are dependent on land elsewhere, including America, Europe, Russia etc. If land is messed up elsewhere due to climate change or other abuses by humans. Then many nations, will have a lot of problems, because there is a high levels of interdependency.
    0 0
  44. So true Paul. We Americans have set aside large tracts of land for native wild areas because we can. Other nations are not so fortunate. In fact, those species most threatened come from the areas of greatest human density, and therefore, human contact and abuse. All species are interconnected; some in positive ways, some in negative, and some more closely than others. The majority of wildlife has been negatively influenced by human action, although there are those who have benefited. Similarly, every time the climate has changed in the past, the have been losers, but also some winners. The polar bears and manatees mentioned above have no direct interaction, and live in extremely different environments. Therefore, one would expect changes to affect each much differently.
    0 0
  45. There's an exhibition called High Arctic at the National Maritime Museum (UK) about the receding Arctic ice: http://www.nmm.ac.uk//visit/exhibitions/on-display/high-arctic/
    0 0
  46. Paul D @ 42 Our state Department of Natural Resources does not "control nature" as you put it. The DNR actually protects or Natural Resources from exploitation. As far as your statement: "'Nuisance wildlife control' - Humans are expanding and using more land, those pesky animals keep coming into our cities, we need to control them." Guess what? I agree with you! Except for the implication of controlling wildlife. In my mind if you build a house in cougar territory and a cougar eats your dog, then that's your fault - not the cougar. When I use the word control it is in the following manner. When bees, bats, snakes, etc... set up residence in someones home, we relocate them without harming in all cases possible. We also educate the public on the importance of creatures that are normally feared. I have had several clients that once we got the bats out of attic actually installed bathouses on the side of their house. Note: Just this past week I rescued two juvenile hawks that had run into tree trunks while learning to fly. These birds would most likely have died without human intervention. It's all in the language.
    0 0
  47. Michael Sweet @ 40 You are correct that polar bears build up their fat reserves during the winter and live off that during the leaner times of summer. Basically a reverse of other bear species. However, I was referring to the mother and cubs. I should have been more clear. New mothers do drop up to 40% of their body weight over winter while in a state of hibernation. Once she emerges from the den in the spring, both her and her cubs need to gain weight.
    0 0
  48. A Pirate: The original post does not mention mothers and cubs in hibernation so it cannot be wrong as you described. It discusses bears at a whale carcass in the summer. You are trying to change the subject to cover your catastrophic error. Mothers and cubs are discussed in the articles linked in the comments above. You clearly did not read the background and have little understanding of polar bear ecology. Please limit your strong comments to subjects where you have read the background material.
    0 0
  49. Speaking of polar bear mothers and cubs, there is a new study coming out which attempts to quantify how MUCH ice loss has increased cub mortality. The researchers used tracking collars to identify bears who had engaged in long swims and then compared survival of their cubs vs that of bears which hadn't been forced to swim long distances. It has long been obvious (deniers notwithstanding) that retreating ice edges would increase cub mortality, but this is the first study to show that empirically.
    0 0
  50. Michael Sweet at 48 Directly from the article: "The cubs of the bears that have been around for a while appear malnourished and far too small for the end of June." Obviously, the mother and cubs had been in hibernation per elementary polar bear biology. You clearly did not read the article for its content.
    0 0

1  2  Next

You need to be logged in to post a comment. Login via the left margin or if you're new, register here.



The Consensus Project Website

THE ESCALATOR

(free to republish)


© Copyright 2021 John Cook
Home | Links | Translations | About Us | Privacy | Contact Us