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Pack ice and polar bears

Posted by Richard on February 7, 2007

You’ve no doubt seen the picture, accompanying a story about global warming and tugging at your heartstrings. It shows two polar bears atop what appears to be a remnant of an ice floe. Why, it looks like the poor dears have been stranded by the terrible consequences of global climate change. I feel so ashamed of my SUV. [sob!]

Well, Dan Riehl uncovered the real story behind the photo. For starters, the New York Times had the photo credit wrong — it wasn’t taken by Dan Crosbie, but by an associate of his on the same expedition, Amanda Byrd. I wonder if she’s any relation to the famous explorer. For another thing, the polar bears aren’t stranded on a rapidly melting floe, they’re exploring a wave-carved ice sculpture (maybe to better spot seals) near a large sheet of ice, as is clear from some of Byrd’s other photos of them. Another expedition photo shows someone standing guard with a shotgun in case the bears attack. The expedition encountered unexpectedly thick ice.

Riehl not only found several examples of the picture being misrepresented to sway people’s emotions, he also found an article in which an "environmental journalist" and a climate scientist revel in the fact that reporting about climate change has become one-sided, advocacy journalism.

Meanwhile, polar bears on ice floes are posing a problem in Iceland, which is experiencing a bitter winter with lots of pack ice (emphasis added):

Thick packs of ice, which have not been seen for almost 40 years, have been moving into the western fjords across some of the best fishing grounds, followed by bitter winds and plummeting temperatures. …

Communities living around the fjord of Dryafjordur, have noticed that their inlets have been filled with ice in recent weeks – ice drifting in from Greenland and carrying dozens of polar bears on their floes.

When chunks break off the bears become stranded, drifting helplessly on the floes. There have been a number of stories of bears making land around Iceland and having to be shot because they pose a danger to humans and livestock.

The return of pack ice to Iceland goes against all the forecasts of doom of global warming, although some forecasters think it may just be a climatic aberration.

When the empirical evidence fits the forecasters’ computer models, it proves their theory. When the evidence contradicts the models, it’s just an aberration. Ain’t the world of government-funded science wonderful? It’s so much more objective and honest when the checks are written by power-hungry politicians and bureaucrats with an agenda instead of by greedy oil company executives with an agenda.

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