Polar Bears Multiply: Global Warming Faulted

From Live Science, accessed 08/19/11:

“Charles Monnett, a wildlife biologist with the U.S. Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Regulation and Enforcement, (BOEMRE) was placed on administrative leave on July 18 pending the conclusion of an Inspector General investigation into “integrity issues,” according to the suspension order. Monnett had been questioned by the Interior Department’s Office of the Inspector General (OIG) in February about a 2006 research article published in the journal Polar Biology, in which he reported observations of drowned polar bears in the Beaufort Sea. In the article, Monnett and his co-authors speculate that bear drownings could increase if continued climate change resulted in less ice cover in the Arctic. The work was cited in the 2006 Al Gore documentary film, “An Inconvenient Truth.” [Gallery: Polar Bears Swimming in the Arctic] “

Here is what my own inquiry shows: Monnett and Gleason in their 2006 article abstract and introduction list at length diverse kinds of damage global warming might have on polar bears’ welfare. They present the fact that they had noticed four carcasses of polar bears off-shore incidental to a study of something else. They comment that similar studies conducted in the same general area in the past had turned up no polar bear mortality. They say that they “speculate” (their word) that continued warming would probably have bad consequences for the polar bear population. Nowhere is there any suggestion, in the abstract or in the introduction, that the warming in question is long-term or, especially, man-made.

I have no objection to any of the above as a scholar although I can summarize my environmental position as follows:

Algore in Wonderland should be imprisoned at hard labor for his dishonest movies. There, he should be forced to make luminescent light bulbs.

Of course, the expected sources rushed to take Dr Monnett’s suspension as evidence of persecution of Dr Monnett and persecution of polar bears:

Here is what green reporter Kassie Siegel said in the Huffington Post:

“Since Dr. Monnett published his paper, bears have continued to starve, drown, and even resort to cannibalism as the Arctic sea ice melt has accelerated, and many more papers documenting these impacts have been published. Some, like Senator Jim Inhofe of Oklahoma, have jumped on the investigation to attack protection for the polar bear and the science of global warming. But even were there some credible complaint regarding Dr. Monnett’s paper, which there is not, that paper is but one drop in the tsunami of evidence showing that unchecked global warming will drive polar bears to extinction. “

Ms Siegel is the kind of person one loves to dislike on sight. First, she is the lawyer. That’s from UC Berkeley, of course. It’s easy to dislike lawyers’ ignorance because they seem to be giving themselves blanket permission to be ignorant: “I passed the bar, they appear to say. There is nothing harder, therefore I know everything and what I don’t know is probably unimportant.” Of course, there is no evidence that I could find on the Internet that Ms Siegel has any competence in biology or climate science, or any science at all. I suspect she is a virgin that way. In her PR pictures, she wears one of those annoying cute wool hats with an arctic motif. (If that anyone turns up any evidence of any scientific training for this person, including an AA degree – a junior college degree – in biology, I will immediately publish the fact here).

Correspondingly, Ms Siegel parades her ignorance of zoology without provocation. Polar bears do not “resort” to cannibalism because they have nothing normal to eat. (Like I would, say, “resort” to vegetarian pasta if no prime steak were unavailable). Cannibalism is one of their normal behaviors. All large carnivores do this. Bears even share with lions a predilection for dinning on babies of their own species. Everyone who watches “Animal Planet” knows this.

Ms Siegel further invokes a “tsunami” of evidence about global warming, polar bears, and their extinction. Of course, there is no such tsunami. If you are an average working stiff with children and a mortgage (under water or not), you might take her word for granted. If you are anyone under 20, almost certainly, you will take her word for it. Personally, I think there is no such evidence at all, just more or less informed speculation, some of which may be worth reading.

I am waiting for Ms. Siegel, the lawyer-guru-authority, to give me a reasonable reading assignment, or any of her followers, drawn from the “tsunami.” Go ahead, if you are reading this, give it your best shot. Begin with two references. Please!

In the meantime, do I think it’s impossible for a federal bureaucracy to persecute one of its employees that is a whistle-blower? To ask the question is to answer it. It’s certainly plausible but plausible is not the same as sure. Here is what the AP reported recently on Dr Monnett’s suspension:

By BECKY BOHRER, Associated Press – Jul 29, 2011

JUNEAU, Alaska (AP) — The recent suspension of Alaska wildlife biologist Charles Monnett is unrelated both to an article that he wrote about presumably drowned Arctic polar bears or his scientific work, a federal official said Friday.

The director of the U.S. Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Enforcement and Regulation, told agency staff in Alaska via email that it instead was the result of new information on a separate subject that was recently brought to officials’ attention.

The email, written by Michael Bromwich, was obtained by The Associated Press.

The Anchorage-based Monnett was placed on administrative leave July 18, pending final results of an inspector general’s investigation into “integrity issues.”

Monnett coordinated much of the agency’s research on Arctic wildlife and ecology and had duties that included managing about $50 million worth of studies, according to a complaint filed with the agency. The complaint was filed on his behalf by the watchdog group, Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility.

A memo dated days before July 18, sent to Monnett by contracting officer Celeste H. Rueffert, said that information raised by the investigation “causes us to have concerns about your ability to act as the Contracting Officer’s Representative in an impartial and objective manner on the subject contract.”

That same day, July 13, a stop-work order was issued for a polar bear tracking study, entitled “Populations and Sources of Recruitment in Polar Bears.” [That’s a different study. – JD]

In the meantime, I am reaping again the benefits of multilingualism. It’s not that I get better treatment in a foreign restaurant, or in any French restaurant here, or in France, or in any Chinese restaurant anywhere (See my story “Life With an Accent….” recently published on this blog. There is another essay on the topic whose title I don’t remember.) I don’t; none of the above. Rather, I get info on the same topics from disparate sources with different frames of mind. So, I am watching a French documentary about a crew of French people who are traveling on a large sailboat from Norway to the Pacific through the northwest passage.(“L’odyssée climatiques du Sout,” caught on TV5, on 8/19/11) Now, let me tell you things about the French you probably don’t know: They tend to be good at adventure and bad at commentary. They make original documentaries that are often excellent from a visual standpoint to which they add feeble-minded voice-overs.  The rarely do their reading before they leave for such a trip. Often, there is no reading available in French. Monolingualism in languages other than English is a sort of informational prison. It may be hard for you to believe but I believe that the average middle-class French person has a poorer general culture than his American counterpart. (And if I don’t know this, who does?)

So, the French crew is stopping over in Pond Inlet, a small arctic village in Nunavut, Canada. To a man and woman, they believe in man-made (woman-made?) and worrisome global warming, of course. Their journey is meant to illustrate its ravages. The expedition captain does his job well. He makes it a point to interview (in his halting English) Inuit hunters and others with official or informal connections to hunting. What he finds is a general complaint that there are too many polar bears and that the Canadian federal government does not deliver enough permits to hunt them. Let’s be fair as well as discerning: The Inuit up there are not environmentalist sissies. And what, with the price of groceries being three or four times higher than in California, bear stew is a valued option.  One professional hunter opines on camera that the increase in polar bears results from a new abundance of seals. The seals themselves have multiplied in unprecedented ways because the water in the vicinity of their village is ice-free for a longer period than used to be the case. Let me summarize:

Global warming > ice-free sea > more seals > more polar bears !!!!

Now, I would be the first to doubt the accuracy of traditional people in recording cold facts (no pun) over any but short periods. To a large extent, modernity means learning how to count and taking numbers seriously. However, you can be sure that if it were the case that Inuit hunters reported a new shortage of polar bears in their area because of a decrease in ice cover, the report would be exploited by the likes of Ms Siegel, officiating on the Huff Post, and in other Greenleftie outlets. Algore in Wonderland would say again, “I told you so “ instead of having a meltdown on television (no pun) as he did recently.

Incidentally, another hunter waxed enthusiastic about the incomparable beauty of tundra flowering in recent seasons.  I know it’s neither here nor there but it was nice to hear.

Why bother, you might ask? After all, the belief that human activities have been causing significant warming of the planet with predictably catastrophic consequences has recede considerably in the past couple of years. Algore’s meltdown is proof that this cult belief may not be much of a danger to our economy or to our welfare in general anymore. My answer is that I have the time, the leisure to study the morphology of collective delusions, of which global warming fear is a late manifestation. There will be others. The more we know about collective delusions the better we will be able to guard against the next ones.

Not directly related. A small group in and around Santa Cruz is trying to use environmentalist legislation to injure or to close the county fairgrounds. See the link below.


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