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No Time for the US to Be on the Fence about Global Protections for Polar Bears

Zak Smith

Posted April 16, 2012

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polar bears (Photo by NOAA)

Last week, the US Fish and Wildlife Service announced that it is undecided about whether it should propose protecting polar bears from the threat of international trade at the next Conference of the Parties to the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES).  We hope the Obama Administration will use the next two months (the comment period on its announcement) to move from “undecided” to actively supporting greater protections for polar bears by proposing a ban on the international trade in polar bear parts.

Two years ago, the Obama Administration led the charge at the last CITES Conference  of the Parties, urging a ban on the international commercial trade in polar bear parts.  While the proposal didn’t receive the level of international support necessary for a ban, now’s not the time to back down.  With the polar bear’s plight getting worse over the last two years – record prices for polar bear skins, unsustainable harvest of polar bears in Canada (the only country that still allows the killing of polar bears for international trade), and new evidence of polar bears being ravaged as their habitat melts away – the US should be doubling its efforts to gain protection for polar bears at CITES, taking the polar bear’s case to the world.

With the very survival of polar bears on our planet in doubt as a consequence of climate change, we must strengthen populations so they will have the best chance of surviving until we stabilize the global climate.  Scientists, governments, and the public understand that climate change will be devastating to polar bears; the best scientific estimates show polar bear populations plummeting by two-thirds within the next 40 years.  Polar bears will likely cease to exist in the wild in four of the five countries where they are currently found: Greenland, Norway, Russia, and the United States.  Fortunately, we can strengthen polar bear populations by ending the international trade in polar bear parts, which is driving unsustainable harvest in Canada and poaching in Russia.

While the US Fish and Wildlife Service still believes that the polar bear meets the criteria for greater protection under CITES (listing on Appendix I), it remains “undecided” as to whether it will once again lead the charge for greater global protection.  But at this critical juncture in the story of the polar bear’s survival on our planet, the US must take decisive action for polar bears at the next CITES Conference of the Parties, working with potentially like-minded polar bear range states, like Russia, to ban the international trade in polar bear skins, teeth, claws, and skulls once and for all.

Join us in urging the Obama Administration to propose greater protections for polar bears at the next CITES Conference of the Parties and to build a winning coalition to guarantee passage of the proposal.  Go to to take action now.

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BeckyApr 16 2012 04:15 PM

Please SAVE the POLARBEARS!!!!!!!!!

Sandy KempApr 16 2012 04:36 PM

Let's keep the Polar Bears around! They deserve a clean and safe place to live and raise their cubs! Don't drill in their home!

Raven HannahApr 16 2012 05:09 PM

When are we going to wake up and stop killing our planet?

ana antunesApr 17 2012 03:15 PM

Why is it so difficult for some people to understand that when one species die, part of us, humans, also die. Eventually, when we destroy all there is on this beautiful planet, we are also destroying ourselves.
Greed will be the end of us. Wake up, greedy money hungry 1%. When we go, so will you and all the money in the world will not save you. Don't you care about your grandchildren? What world are you leaving for them? Now is you time to help. Start by saving the polar bears. Be human.

BSApr 17 2012 03:44 PM


I'm shocked to learn that it's only the "1%" that is contributing to "global warming". Fascinating. So the other 99% don't consume any energy? Don't burn fossil fuels?


By the way, the planet has warmed far less than the any climate model has ever predicted. The planet's temperature also has not warmed in the past 10+ years.

And in spite of all the uproar over the supposedly warm winter, the planet is actually about 0.4C cooler today than at it's warmest months in 2002 and 2007. Relatively speaking, the planet actually experienced a cool winter.

The above is all based on the commonly accepted NASA surface temperature data. If you look at the annual and monthly graphs, it even looks like a cooling trend may be starting (although it's too soon to tell).

Great news, right?

Josh MogermanApr 17 2012 04:27 PM

BS---As always thanks for reading Switchboard, but are you now shifting from oil industry apologies to climate change denial? You are certainly aware that this puts you at odds with the vast majority of climate scientists who are at historic levels of agreement on this issue; once again living up to your moniker...

BSApr 17 2012 09:58 PM

I'm not denying anything. I'm not an expert on the matter. However, everything I said is factual.

Even if man is causing global warming, it's happening at a MUCH slower rate than any of the "majority of ... scientists" have predicted. That's good news, right?

As someone who is so interested in protecting the planet, why is it so hard to be happy that things aren't as bad as predicted?

John LiffeeApr 17 2012 10:51 PM

D.B. (yes, BS, I dub thee D.B. ... use your imagination.) —


Stop cherry-picking. To discern the signal from the noise, you have to look at long sweeps of time. It's that simple.

By repeatedly carpet bombing this blog with one of the hoariest, most easily torpedoed climate crocks, you demonstrate that everything you say is just noise, deliberately trying to obfuscate the signal.

BSApr 18 2012 08:57 AM

John. I have discussed both the long-term and the short term trends. You all refuse to engage in the discussion I've asked you to engage in.

Allow me to be more specific:
--In 1990, the IPCC released it's first assessment report. In that report, they predicted that global temperatures would increase at a rate of 0.3C per decade. Of course, since their models were highly inaccurate, they gave that a range of 0.1-0.8C.


--From 1990 until the present (that would be 2.2 decades), global temperatures have increased about 0.15C. If you want to fudge the data and use moving averages, you can probably call it +0.25C. Or if you compare 1990-1991 to the past 5- months, you get +0.1C, although that's getting more into the "noise". So we've seen the planet warm approximately 0.5-0.1C per decade. That is NOT noise.

I have not denied that the planet is warming. I have not claimed that man is not causing the planet to warm. The planet has obvioulsy warmed.

However, it is a fact that the planet has warmed MUCH less than was predicted. And global greenhouse gas emissions are probably much higher than predicted thanks to BRIC nations.

That is not noise. 22 YEARS IS NOT NOISE.

So I'll ask you again. What is the explanation? Why is the planet warming so much less than was predicted? And even if humans are causing GW, isn't it good news that the planet has warmed so much less than predicted?

Are you going to answer my question this time? Or just keep up with the passive-aggressive name calling?

You say what I say is "most easily torpedoed". Fine. Torpedo it. I've asked this question repeatedly, and so far, nobody here can answer it.

John LiffeeApr 18 2012 10:20 AM


I hate to quote Nordhaus (Yale economist whose techno-optimism and boundless enthusiasm for market solutions has been ... unhelpful), but at least he understands the science and this response to an opinion piece in WSJ (where else?) was the first thing I could put my hands on that directly refutes the two zombie arguments you've been spreading here like manure.

No doubt this will roll right off your back and you'll keep spreading manure. Cheerio!

Their first claim is that the planet is not warming. More precisely, “Perhaps the most inconvenient fact is the lack of global warming for well over 10 years now.”

It’s easy to get lost in the tiniest details here. Most people will benefit from stepping back and looking at the record of actual temperature measurements. Figure 1 below shows data from 1880 to 2011 on global mean temperature averaged from three sources. We don’t need complicated statistical analysis to see that temperatures are rising. Furthermore, they’re higher during the last decade than they were in earlier decades.

One of the reasons that drawing conclusions on temperature trends is tricky is that the historical temperature series is highly volatile. The presence of short-term volatility requires looking at long-term trends. A useful analogy is the stock market. Suppose an analyst says that because real stock prices have declined over the last decade, which is true, it follows that there’s no upward trend. Here again, an examination of the long-term data quickly shows this to be incorrect. The last decade of temperature and stock market data are not representative of longer-term trends. The finding that global temperatures are rising over the last century-plus is among the most robust findings of climate science and statistics.

Their second argument is that warming is less than predicted by the models: “The lack of warming for more than a decade – indeed, the smaller-than-predicted warming over the 22 years since the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) began issuing projections – suggests that computer models have greatly exaggerated how much warming additional CO2 can cause.”

What’s the evidence on performance of climate models? Do they predict the historical trend accurately? Statisticians routinely address such questions. The standard approach is to perform an experiment in which (case 1) modelers put the changes in CO2 concentrations and other climate influences in a climate model and estimate the resulting temperature path, and then (case 2) modelers calculate what would happen in the counterfactual situation where the only changes were due to natural sources, for example, the sun and volcanoes. They then compare the actual temperature increases of the model predictions for all sources (case 1) with the predictions for natural sources alone (case 2).

This experiment has been performed many times using climate models. A good example is the analysis described in the Fourth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. Several modelers ran both cases 1 and 2 described above – one including human-induced changes and one with only natural sources. This experiment showed that the projections of climate models are consistent with recorded temperature trends over recent decades only if human impacts are included. The divergent trend is especially pronounced after 1980. By 2005, calculations using natural sources alone under-predict the actual temperature increases by about 0.7 degrees Centigrade, while calculations including human sources track the actual temperature trend closely.

The IPCC report concluded: “No climate model using natural forcings [i.e., natural warming factors] alone has reproduced the observed global warming trend in the second half of the twentieth century.”

karen larsonApr 18 2012 10:58 AM

Saving God's creation. Make the right choice!

EMApr 18 2012 11:11 AM

We were put on this Earth to be its protector, including all the animals...Please save the Polar Bears...there are other ways if people would just open their eyes they would see that solar energy and wind power are not fantasy!!! STOP THE DRILLING AND THE KILLING!!!

shelley leppaluotoApr 18 2012 12:38 PM

It is our job to protect these animals we have to be their voice all animals have a purpose whenever one goes extinct the natural balance becomes unbalanced and there is a price to pay. Polar bears are also in danger do to the ice melting It is also speeding up their extinction.We can do little to change the their climate but we can protect them from human. please before its too late speak up and be their voice.Every voice counts!!

BSApr 18 2012 12:53 PM


Thank you for the first response I've actually gotten to my questions. I'll review everything you posted when I get a chance.

I'm going to say it again that I have not said the earth has not been warming. While I am qualified to tell the NRDC they are full of it when it comes to oil industry issues, I am not a climate expert and I do not pretend to be one.

Also, please kindly follow the site's code of conduct and refrain from personal comments. That includes calling me by names other than the name the I use. Note that BS is a shortened version of "Bob Smith" which isn't my real name, but is the name I choose to go by. I'm sure I could distort your name in an attempt to ridicule you, but doing so is not productive. Rather, it is childish.

BSApr 18 2012 12:57 PM

"whenever one goes extinct the natural balance becomes unbalanced and there is a price to pay"

Where do our responsibilities lie? Just animals? What about bacteria? We actually seek out to destroy natural bacteria. Sometimes trying to make it go extinct. Does that upset the natural balance? Because "natural" would mean not curing viral and bacterial diseases.

Also, animals and other organisms have been going extinct since the beginning of life on this planet. It is not our job to protect every single one. In fact, that is un-natural. Extinctions are part of the "circle of life". Our responsibility is to care for our planet and minimize our impact on the environment, but trying to be hero's and save every animal species is impossible and probably counter-productive.

(Note that my comments are not specifically about polar bears. If we are harming the environment and thereby harming them, it certainly is our responsibility to try to mitigate that.)

Tony DantonaApr 18 2012 01:22 PM

Leave the Polar bears alone, try to think of them as our own kind! What have they done wrong?? NOTHING!!!!! So focus on the wrong in the World, not the Right!!!

God's voice inside us all!!

BSApr 18 2012 07:27 PM

John--The first part of what you posted is not relevant. I'm fully capable of looking at the temperature trend of the past several decades (and longer) to see that there has been a warming trend. If you think I have said otherwise, then I think you're more interested in ridiculing me than in reading what I write.

The issue of models is more complex. I run models for a living, too. Although they are much simpler and use science that is much better understood (i.e. if you put in the right data, they should be virtually 100% accurate).

However, I am also smart enough to know that just because I can show that my model accurately matches historical data, that doesn't mean it will accurately predict the future.

By definition, a model is built to accurately model the past. The past is the data that is already available. So a model is "tuned" such that it does an acceptable job of matching historical data. However, in a complex model, there is essentially an infinite number of ways that the model can be "tuned". Tuning a model to match the past does not guarantee it will match the future.

So while using historical data is extremely useful, the purpose of a model is to predict the future. Therefore, the only way to know if the model was accurate or not is to wait for the future to happen and see how good the prediction was. And it wasn't good.

Charlotte BirtApr 18 2012 10:11 PM

We need to save what few that are left. Global warming has taken a toll on them. Don't let man finish killing the rest of them.

BSApr 19 2012 07:37 PM


Do you have anything further to add to the discussion? I don't think my arguments are quite as easily "torpedoed" as you might have thought. However, I would be interested in any publications you are aware of that have analyzed the ability of the climate models to accurately predict the future.

BSApr 20 2012 09:16 AM


Do you have any data on the accuracy of the climate models that you could share?

Without any confidence of accuracy, the tests that show less warming when manmade CO2 emissions are neglected are somewhat meaningless.

One might be able to say with confidence that increasing the concentration of greenhouse gases does cause the atmosphere to reflect more infrared radiation inward. However, without accurate models, how does one determine with confidence what that will do to temperatures and the overall climate?

Thomas DelpApr 22 2012 09:51 AM

the best scientific estimates show polar bear populations plummeting by two-thirds within the next 40 years. you give us no link to where you get this research so we can view and investigate the credibility of your claim. Educate and stop hurting our children and families with this radical agenda. You are passing off junk science as fact. This is fact and if you care about Polar Bears you should start with truth. Study: Polar Bear Population ‘Not in Crisis’
Climate change doomsayers have for years claimed that declining polar bear populations in the Arctic are a consequence of manmade global warming.
But a new study has found that the bear population in part of Canada is larger than many scientists thought and might actually be growing.
In 2004, Environment Canada researchers concluded that the number of bears along the western shore of Hudson Bay had dropped 22 percent since 1984, to 935 bears, and they estimated that by 2011, a continuing decrease would bring the number down to 610.
The Hudson Bay region is considered a bellwether for how polar bears are faring elsewhere in the Arctic, according to Canadian newspaper The Globe and Mail.
The decrease, the scientists asserted, was due to warming temperatures that melt ice faster and ruin the bears’ ability to hunt.
“That sparked worldwide concern about the future of the bears and prompted the Canadian and American governments to introduce legislation to protect them,” The Globe and Mail reported.
The World Wildlife Fund even stated in 2008: "If current warming trends continue unabated, scientists believe that polar bears will be vulnerable to extinction within the next century."
But a survey released on April 4 by the Government of Nunavut — a federal territory of Canada — shows that the number of bears is now 1,013 and could be higher.
“The bear population is not in crisis as people believed,” said Drikus Gissing, Nunavut’s director of wildlife management. “There is no doom and gloom.”
He added that the media in Canada have led people to believe that polar bears are endangered, but “they are not.”
He estimated that there are about 25,000 polar bears in Canada’s Arctic region, and “that’s likely the highest [number] there has ever been.”
Nunavut, which is the size of Western Europe, is home to only about 32,000 people.

Susan PaterackiApr 22 2012 02:54 PM

Obama Administration, stay strong on banning international trade of polar bear products. Our world is losing more and more of our wildlife. Some countries have already banned polar bear products.

We need to do what is necessary to save wildlife. It seems people will use any wildlife for financial gain. Once they are gone, they are gone. The same goes for products made from seals.

The only way to stop the extinction of wildlife is to not buy products. Our country needs to follow through with the ban.

Thank You
Susan Pateracki

BSApr 23 2012 08:26 AM


I take it you have no evidence to show that the climate models are accurate?

Christine SenchesenApr 25 2012 06:55 PM

Please save these beautiful animals!!!! Polar
Bears are vital to our lives!!!!

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