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Saving polar bears by killing them?

By Dennis T. Avery
web posted January 10, 2011

A recent article in the British journal Nature warns that polar bears are increasingly mating with grizzly bears—because man-made climate change is rapidly melting the Arctic sea ice on which the polar bears love to hunt seals.

Breathlessly, we're told that a hybrid grizzly/polar bear was discovered in 2006. More recently another bear shot by a hunter also had mixed DNA. The offending hybrid bears should be "culled"—a kinder word than "killed"—according to lead author Brendan Kelly of the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.  

Hold on a minute.  Let's bless this story with some bits of reality.

First, there's no evidence the Arctic ice cap is really shrinking. The Arctic has a warming/cooling cycle of about 70 years, and the old archives of the New York Times are filled with stories from the 1920s and 1930s about the Arctic ice disappearing. Those 1920's stories turned out to be wrong, and the ice-expert Russians tell us they'll be wrong this time too.

The Arctic has warmed more than the rest of the planet since 1850, but the Arctic always warms and cools more rapidly than the earth's lower latitudes. It has to do with the laws of physics.   

Second, the polar bear was originally an offshoot of the brown bear family. The polar bear is thought to date from about 200,000 years ago—when a population of brown bears was apparently trapped by glaciers in an area near Siberia. Those bears underwent a rapid series of evolutionary changes to survive, including changing the color of their fur to better disguise themselves from the seals, and changing the shape of their bodies to facilitate swimming.

Third, there's precious little evidence of any trend toward more hybrid bears. Two bears in five years across the entire Canadian polar bear habitat can hardly be dignified as a trend. Especially, since it's just a reverse engineering of the polar bear's original evolution.

Why did our NOAA author write up this bit of information as a trend that could "doom the polar bear"? Why did one of the two most prestigious science journals in the world print it, based on such flimsy evidence?  Could this be just a continuation of the scientific sell-out on "blame humans for destroying Nature"? The scare has meant billions of dollars for a few key groups and front-page headlines for climate alarmists and credulous "environmental writers" around the world.

If the Siberian humans of 200,000 years ago had killed all the white bears that began to appear, we'd never have had the polar bear species. Humans would have forestalled one of Nature's major strategies for improving and adapting her animals. Are today's humans proposing to play the eugenics card to stop adaptation? Are activists afraid of the adaptations the animals produce themselves? Further, we know all of today's species have adapted to massive past changes in the earth's climate.

The claim of "unprecedented speed" in modern climate change is false. At the end of the Younger Dryas cooling event 11,500 years ago, temperatures near Greenland rose 15 degrees C in less than a human lifetime! Ocean temperatures and sea ice conditions apparently moved even faster. The polar bears obviously survived this. 

(A question: About 500 polar bears are killed by permit each year in Canada. Will each bear have its DNA tested and will hunters be charged more or less if their kill counts as a hybrid?) ESR

Dennis T. Avery, a senior fellow for the Hudson Institute in Washington, DC, is an environmental economist.  He was formerly a senior analyst for the Department of State. He is co-author, with S. Fred Singer, of Unstoppable Global Warming Every 1500 Hundred Years, Readers may write him at PO Box 202, Churchville, VA 24421 or email to cgfi@hughes.net.

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