The story of the Harvey et al smear paper (previous posts here and here and here) continues to grow rapidly. It’s hard to keep up.

The latest news is from a new blog post by Susan Crockford that includes two points of considerable interest – her letter of complaint to the journal, and a release of emails (Polar-Bear-Gate?) between polar bear scientists. Here I’ll discuss these two issues separately.

“Grab your popcorn”, Susan says. This brand might be appropriate.



Crockford’s complaint letter

Susan Crockford’s letter was sent to Scott Collins and James Verdier, editor in chief and senior editor of the journal Bioscience. The journal is published by Oxford Academic, which is part of OUP. They have an ethics policy here, which states that

“Whilst striving to promote freedom of expression wherever possible, OUP aims to avoid publishing anything that harms the reputation of an individual, business, group, or organization unless it can be proven to be true. We take all possible measures to ensure that published work is free of any text that is, or may be considered to be libellous, slanderous, or defamatory.”

It will be interesting to see whether Collins and Verdier adhere to this policy.

The letter is quite detailed and carefully written. It deals with the false and misleading claims of her lack of expertise in the paper, and some specific lies in the paper, such as the unsubstantiated claim that “Crockford vigorously criticizes, without supporting evidence, the findings of several leading researchers who have studied polar bears in the field for decades”. She points to her preprint paper, which is full of evidence. Look at her other posts, for example this recent one, and you can see there is plenty of supporting evidence. She gives several other examples where her criticism is backed up by detailed evidence.

The letter ends with

These allegations are untrue, defamatory and malicious, but in addition, the failure to mention my Ph.D. and my recent scientific critique constitute a falsification of my expertise and work output. In addition, the purported scientific analysis is shoddy and the language used is reprehensible.

I formally request that you retract this paper.


The Polar-Bear-Gate emails

In her letter, Crockford discusses a set of emails from 2012 and 2014 between polar bear scientists. These were acquired via a FOIA request (submitted by someone else, and then passed on to her). The emails have been transcribed and the email addresses removed.

A key point in the emails is that they show another lie in the Harvey et al story. We’ve already established that the claim of a bunch of AGW denier blogs is a lie. But the emails show that the other side of the picture, of a happy family of scientists all in agreement, is also a lie.

Some of the emails involve Dr. Resit Akçakaya, one of the scientists responsible for the IUCN Red List of endangered species. Other participants include polar bear researcher Øystein Wiig.  Steven Amstrup (“Steve”) is the polar bear academic who is regularly criticised by Crockford and who lied about her in a recent press interview. Kristin Laidre works on polar bears and other arctic mammals and has worked with Wiig. “BN” models are Bayesian Network models, if that helps. SPSC is a committee within IUCN. PBSG is the Polar Bear Specialist Group, including Dag Vongraven, Amstrup, Laidre and Wiig.

Here are some excerpts from the emails, in date order.

Wiig to Akcakaya, 12/3/2012

I understood from Dag that you at the outset are a bit skeptical to the use of Bayesian methods in such an assessment.

What, skeptical? Surely not? Is he a denier?

Akcakaya to Wiig, 20/3/2012

I did voice some concerns. But these were not about Bayesian methods in general, but rather about the specific paper (Amstrup et al. 2008). After reading the paper again, and soliciting other opinions, here is a summary of my concerns…

So my first concern is that this approach will make the assessment too much dependent on expert opinion…

Furthermore, I am concerned about the degree to which uncertainty would be compounded through the model with so many uncertain parameters…

Thus, it seems like this is mostly a probability based on expert opinion, and not what is meant by “quantitative analysis” in criterion E.

I think that this paper is Amstrup et al 2008. It makes dramatic claims of ‘extirpation’ of polar bears by mid-century, which is one of the claims that Crockford is critical of on her blog. Criterion E is presumably one of the conditions that must be fulfilled for red-listing. This guy Akcakaya is sounding a bit like Crockford, in his scepticism of Amstrup’s work!

Akcakaya to Wiig, 20/10/2012, replying to an email enquiring about the red-listing procedure:

Then, the crucial issue is the population reduction that will result from that amount of habitat loss. If there are not data on this, and therefore it has to be based on expert opinion, I would think that it would be more appropriate to call the population reduction “suspected” instead of “inferred.”

Akcakaya to Wiig again, 20/10/2012

Hi Øystein,
I wanted to remind you that the SPSC had a large number of reservations about the BN modeling of Amstrup et al.
I would therefore recommend against relying heavily on that paper.

Wiig to Laidre, 7/5/2014

I discussed all this with Steve and he was not very happy about Resit’s view.

Laidre to Wiig, 8/5/2014

I wanted you to know I had lunch with Resit today. It was very informative and we had good talks about the polar bear Red List issues…

– Overall he is very negative to the Amstrup et al. model and says it has very little value for anything, or the Red List.
– He said it is difficult to fill out just one conditional probability table, but having thousands all merged together in the BN is just crazy and tells you nothing (he actually said “only Bayesians would accept ‘a belief’ to be a “probability!”)
– He said he felt if PBSG used the BN model again this time for the new Red List it would very likely NOT be accepted and the polar bear would be listed as “Data Deficient”, which he felt would be a shame and also not a good thing politically.

Ouch! Amstrup’s model has very little value for anything. Just crazy. And if we admitted that data was deficient that would not be “a good thing politically”.

Between the 3 of us, this is a difficult thing to navigate in the PBSG because Amstrup plays a big role and is very sensitive about his model.

He’s very sensitive about his model. Is this starting to sound familiar at all?

We as a group will have to decide what we put forward for polar bears .. even if some are not happy.

But surely, all the top scientists in the field are in agreement aren’t they? Fig 2 of Harvey et al showed that. There’s a 97% consensus! Surely it couldn’t be the case that climate scientists are telling us in public that they all agree with each other when in reality they disagree? Again, does this seem familiar?

There’s more. Resit suggests to Kirstin, over a second lunch,  that if they want to show that polar bears are declining, they need to get some data. This almost seems to be a new concept to Kristin and Øystein.

We need to find some population rate data that can be related to change in population size.

What? Really? We need to find some data? Why can’t we just rely on our expert opinion and computer models?






  1. Between the 3 of us, this is a difficult thing to navigate in the PBSG because Amstrup plays a big role and is very sensitive about his model.

    He’s not the only one. Geoff Chambers recently revealed to ATTP that the Cliscep team “are even now perfecting our predictive model as to when the great climate blancmange will finally slither down the wastepipe”. These emails will I fear mean a major adjustment to our own model. That blancmange is on the way.


  2. If Amstrup is sensitive about how his model looks, why does he not favour images of fat and healthy polar bears?


  3. Are those crunchy thingmies like those very expensive coffee beans which have gone through a civit’s gut? What’s the collector’s attrition rate?”


  4. ‘We slaved for years over hot computers to give you catastrophic decline of Ursus Maritimus precipitated by catastrophic sea-ice loss due to catastrophic anthropogenic global-warming, Our magnificent models shone a light into a dark and perilous future. We gave the world hope; if only you would build more windmills, if only you would tear down forests, cover green fields in shiny glass panels, tear up the sea bed in order to harvest free wind offshore, if only you would do that, you could save the Arctic and save the cuddly white bears which roam its pristine white landscape.

    What did you do? You threw it back in our faces and threatened our greatest achievements with catastrophic “data deficiency”.- just because the world didn’t warm as much as we predicted, just because the ice didn’t melt away as fast as we said it would and just because polar bears got fat and healthy and more numerous and didn’t die of hunger!’

    Liked by 5 people

  5. If the status of the polar bear population is data deficient, how can Crockford be so confident in her assessment?

    Also, note that C uses the decline graph for the Arctic as a whole in her preprint, but what is important to bears is the decline in the region they live in. The carbon brief article someone linked to shows no precipitous decline in the 19 regions.

    Btw, C is misnamed Crawford once, above.

    [More typical dishonesty from you Len. What “assessment” of Crockford are you talking about and where is she “so confident” about it? Typo fixed.]


  6. Most animals’ conservation status is listed as ‘data deficient’ which simply means that there is not enough information to list them as at risk. In the particular case of polar bears, listing them as data deficient would be due less to a lack of data (polar bears are very intensively studied in the field) more a stinging vote of no confidence in Amstrup’s model of catastrophic future decline based on sea-ice loss projections. That’s why an IUCN “data deficient” listing would be such a catastrophe for Amstrup et al.

    Liked by 4 people

  7. Len, the fundamental issue is that polar bears don’t care about summer ice extent, it’s the spring extent that counts. Thick spring fast ice is not good for hunting seals.

    [Typos cleaned up Hans. Hope I got it right. – Richard Drake]

    Liked by 3 people

  8. Nice additional post, PM. This Harvey paper Is a skeptical gift that keeps on giving. Not what Harvey, Mann, et. al. imagined. But then that explains much about them, as you continue to point out. Well played.


  9. In all this discussion, why is there no mention of the WWF advertising almost daily on TV channels, exhorting us to adopt a polar bear? Why should I adopt a polar bear when there is no evidence of threat of extinction, and in fact they are thriving. Surely this is fraudulent. I can not conceive of any way the WWF can spend money to save polar bears, so is it obtaining money by false pretences?

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Len,
    You are a valiant wannabe gang member.
    The issue us a paper printed with deliberate untruths.But you know that.
    The issue is a paper printed designed to maliciously attack another scientist in violation of publisher’s written policy. But you know that.
    The issue is not the absolute knowledge of polar bears….
    Even though you lie by inference with your pathetic deceotive framing of the question.
    The paper you still defend, like a dog hoping to get sloppy scraps, doesn’t allege she is,wrong on polar bear census.
    It ignores the best known empirical evidence to in irder to defend the models.
    And of course attack skeptics and others who annoy the gang.

    Liked by 1 person

  11. Richard Tol,
    Polar bear-gate sounds better.
    Trump had nothing to do with this.


  12. The gates
    They keep multiplying
    We shall soon need
    A bloody great
    Gate house
    In which
    To store them.

    But why bother
    Most gates lead nowhere
    or become smothered.
    But, Polar bear gate
    Squeaks to high heaven,
    and may open to
    A recrimination blizzard
    Before its put away.

    Singer beneath Bridges

    Liked by 1 person

  13. Good article by Corcoran. I like the image of Susan Crockford drilling holes, not in the Arctic sea ice, but in “many of the claims and predictions of mainstream climate scientists”.


  14. Susan will enjoy this.

    Sent: 26 January 2011 09:55
    To: [log in to unmask]
    Subject: Re: Extraordinary bear swim

    Dear John,

    Many thanks for this interesting message. I didn’t see the news item,
    but if the interviewee who “ducked” the question was a scientist, I can
    understand why.

    Climate change is about long-term trends, and single events and
    anecdotal information are not really very good indicators of the
    presence or absence of any trend.

    The story of one polar bear found swimming for a long time is not really
    very good evidence about the impact of retreating Arctic sea ice. A
    large population of bears shown to have changed their behaviour over
    many years might be more convincing. This story might be illustrative of
    a trend, or it might just be about a bear that got lost.

    The fate of the polar bear has become a pawn in the highly politicized
    debate about climate change, particularly in the United States. It is
    not hard to conclude that retreating Arctic ice must be having an impact
    on the polar bear population – but whether you can yet detect that
    impact yet is another question entirely. I think it would be much better
    to find some solid research papers which have looked at impacts on polar
    bear populations and use that as the basis for any campaign.

    Bob Ward

    Policy and Communications Director
    Grantham Research Institute on Climate Change and the Environment
    London School of Economics and Political Science
    Houghton Street
    London WC2A 2AE

    Liked by 1 person

  15. As Harvey et al 2017 has not been retracted, would it be appropriate to conduct a survey of the same blogs surveyed by Harvey et al 2017, to identify whether opinions/judgements are the same about Harvey et al?

    Such a survey about confirmation bias in Harvey et al 2017, about Harvey et al 2017, could be a handy reference guide for polititions, policy makers and research funders. Gergis 2016 could also be thrown in, because Climate Science has not thrown it out.

    In this way, money wasted on Lewandowsky’s techniques can be recycled positively.


  16. I wonder what syndrome focusses in on climate change as being the cause of a polar bear’s death. Mann or Lew will know, each having now been identified as a polar bear expert by virtue of having a gen-u-ine, bono fide peer- reviewed paper under their belt. Pity the word “polar- bear” wasn’t in the title.

    Liked by 1 person

  17. Alan Kendall, because it was Peer Reviewed, the authors of Harvey et al have determined that Climate Scientists can define expertise, on any subject, based on the Blogs that favour their work.

    Nine out of seven Climate Scientists prefer Harvey et al, and they have the statistics to prove it.


  18. Alan Kendall, in the era of Global Warming, the world’s populations of both Polar Bears and humans have increased. In Climate Science logic, Global Warming has therefore increased the number of Polar Bears and humans dying, and must be the cause.


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