Researchers say polar bears are victims in public war of words

Jan 21, 2014
Researchers say polar bears are victims in public war of words
The researchers argue polar bears are most at risk due to human-induced climate change.

Polar bears and Inuit communities have become victims in the public war of words on climate change and wildlife conservation, according to researchers from Britain and Canada.

University of Exeter geographer Dr Martina Tyrrell and Dr Doug Clark from the University of Saskatchewan's School of Environment and Sustainability examined the fallout from a media campaign in the run-up to the March 2013 proposal to severely limit or prohibit trade in under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES).

The researchers found campaigns by animal welfare organisations, often backed by prominent celebrities, targeted polar bear hunting while virtually ignoring the threat posed to polar bears by the loss of sea ice habitat due to human-induced climate change.

Dr Tyrrell said: "By obscuring the root causes of the threats to polar bears, the likelihood of truly rational, feasible, and justifiable conservation actions for a warming Arctic may be receding just as fast as the region's sea ice."

Their article examines the data used by animal welfare organisations in an attempt to sway public opinion regarding polar bear hunting.

By analysing the news coverage on the subject, the researchers suggest climate change-induced habitat loss was de-emphasised through an oversimplified view of commercial hunting, through the manipulation of numerical data, and through misleading narratives of impending extinction.

Dr Tyrrell added: "Parties on all sides are likely to have the best interests of polar bear populations at heart, but unfortunately only paying attention to one side of the issue places their future in greater jeopardy. An oversimplified emphasis on polar bear hunting diverts attention away from climate change-induced loss and from the realities of humans and animals sharing that habitat."

In their paper, published in the latest issue of the journal Global Environmental Change, they also highlight the lack of consideration paid to ongoing and long-term polar bear conservation management practices and the potential economic and cultural impacts of a CITES ban on indigenous Inuit communities in the Canadian Arctic.

Dr Clark said: "The data was manipulated to grossly conflate the international trade in bears. They also presented a well-managed Inuit subsistence hunt as a for-profit enterprise. Indigenous rights guaranteed in land claims allow Inuit to hunt polar bears. Under their management, the hunt also injects much-needed income into Inuit communities in Canada's North."

While the US-Russian-backed proposal to ban polar bear trade was not voted in by CITES delegates last year, the researchers expect the issue to come up again and are advising a more even-handed approach when it does.

"If we are going to come up with effective and appropriate multilateral conservation policies that can be acted upon and supported by the public, we need more nuanced conversations and media coverage about polar bear conservation," added Dr Clark.

Explore further: Polar bear dies at South African zoo

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The Shootist
2.6 / 5 (10) Jan 21, 2014
Researchers say polar bears are victims in public war of words


Researchers are idiots (or bought). The only "victim" of Global Warming are people's pocketbooks being picked by opportunistic politicians.

The sun has shut down. - BBC

"I am saying that all predictions concerning climate are highly uncertain". Freeman Dyson
Maggnus
4 / 5 (8) Jan 21, 2014
I knew as soon as I saw the headline that you would comment Shootist. Too bad you are so wrapped in your flag of indignation.

"The public knows that human beings are fallible. Only people blinded by ideology fall into the trap of believing in their own infallibility." Freeman Dyson.

HannesAlfven
3.2 / 5 (9) Jan 21, 2014
This piece is -- to anybody who is fluent in what marketing is -- an obvious effort at marketing climate change. There is nothing at all scientific about it, as science is unable to offer any convincing demonstration that polar bears are, to date, the victims of climate change. The claims that the polar bears are endangered are apparently based upon the predictions of the models themselves. Polar bear numbers are actually up from decades ago.

People should not forget that all of these non-profit organizations promoting climate change routinely meet to coordinate their messaging. They have access to some of the most sophisticated marketing techniques, and linking polar bears to climate change is all win, in terms of establishing an emotional connection between people and these faraway places where humans cannot live.

People who follow science & technology are especially vulnerable to marketing, since they already try so hard to avoid learning about how it works.
Captain Stumpy
4 / 5 (8) Jan 21, 2014
to anybody who is fluent in what marketing is

@hannesalfven
are you an ad exec?
People should not forget that all of these non-profit organizations promoting climate change routinely meet to coordinate their messaging

many anti-warming groups do the same
They have access to some of the most sophisticated marketing techniques

i would think the big oil companies and the Koch bro's supporting the anti-GW campaign have a bit more $ than the non-profits
People who follow science & technology are especially vulnerable to marketing

links
supporting evidence
in terms of establishing an emotional connection

the only way to show humans the error of their ways is to show a connection
how will it affect them
that connection can be made through another apex predator

and anti-AGW are all logic and no emotion?
have you not been keeping up with the comments?
plenty of evidence that they are not all logical just on THIS site

just sayin'
antialias_physorg
4.1 / 5 (9) Jan 21, 2014
Researchers are idiots (or bought)

Funny how researchers don't ride around in fat limousines or own fancy villas (and how they consistently score way above on intelligence tests).

You may be very certain that compared to any one of them: you are an idiot.
Cocoa
4.3 / 5 (6) Jan 21, 2014
HannesAlvfen : "Polar bear numbers are actually up from decades ago."

Nothing to do with conservation efforts right? Their numbers are just rebounding - as a result of the increasing Arctic ice - that is now at an all time high (sarcasm).
aksdad
3.2 / 5 (6) Jan 21, 2014
HannesAlvfen claim that polar bear numbers are up is accurate. The 1973 regulation on hunting is the main reason for their rebound. He is also correct in stating that population decline projections are based on models not on actual observations. The only polar bears that suffered any significant decline recently are the Western Hudson Bay population. All other populations, including the neighboring Southern Hudson Bay group, are stable or increasing. It is unlikely summer sea ice decline is a factor for a number of reasons, most obviously because other populations have experienced summer sea ice decline but still thrive. There is a lot more to polar bear ecology than the overly-simplistic and so far untenable idea that declining summer ice cover is decimating polar bears. For more from a zoologist who specializes in arctic wildlife, see polarbearscience.com.
aksdad
2.7 / 5 (7) Jan 21, 2014
Captain Stumpy and antialias_physorg, despite your presumption of the comparative poverty of "scientists" and "non-profits" vs. Big Oil and the Koch brothers the reality is exactly the opposite. Climate science is funded by governments worldwide and the scientists themselves have a vested interest in promoting their research to stay funded. Research that concludes there's nothing to be worried about isn't funded indefinitely, for obvious reasons.

The government-funded and "non-profit" spending to promote worry about global climate far exceeds that of anti-global-warming campaigns; by some estimates, dozens of times more. And in case you hadn't noticed, Big Oil has embraced global warming. A lot of their advertising caters to the environmental movement and so does their research.
Captain Stumpy
5 / 5 (4) Jan 22, 2014
@aksdad
re:
despite your presumption of the comparative poverty of "scientists" and "non-profits" vs. Big Oil and the Koch brothers

I presume nothing, and I really dont care how much anyone makes
I DO find it interesting that the Koch/Big Oil support anti-warming groups, and are now attempting to hide said funding

http://phys.org/n...ate.html

why hide valid science support?
Why hide AT ALL if it IS VALID?

And in case you hadn't noticed, Big Oil has embraced global warming. A lot of their advertising caters to the environmental movement and so does their research.

nope. I had not noticed
no TV and I dont listen to the radio
antialias_physorg
4.3 / 5 (6) Jan 22, 2014
Climate science is funded by governments worldwide and the scientists themselves have a vested interest in promoting their research to stay funded.

Scientists can find stuff to do, don't worry your pretty little head about that. There is no need for them to produce 'positive' results.

And unlike most other professions: when you are caught lying as a scientist your career is over. Add to that that it takes MUCH longer to get to the status as scientists - do you really think someone would risk a decade of study and a minimally paying job (compared to what they could easily get in the industry) just to get funded for one year? You must be out of your mind if you think that.

And even the Koch brothers had to concede that climate change is happening. (And you should really ask yourself: WHY are private/oil companies even funding climate research? Doesn't that strike you as odd?)

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