“The polar-bear capital of the world is simply getting too warm for polar bears,” the BBC claimed recently. But this is not true, says polar bear expert Susan Crockford.
From a BBC article on December 18th 2022, “Canada’s polar-bear capital Churchill warms too fast for bears”:
But as the polar bear becomes an icon of climate change, the bears’ plight in Churchill embodies the inextricable link between preserving the natural world and fighting global warming. The polar-bear capital of the world is simply getting too warm for polar bears.
“Looking over the last couple of decades, it forms later and later and it breaks up earlier and earlier in spring,” Dr. Flavio Lehner, of conservation charity Polar Bears International , says.
“So this season in between – where the bears are on land and can’t take advantage of those hunting opportunities – that is getting longer and longer, with warming.”
The simple fact is that sea ice in Western Hudson Bay, where Churchill is located, has not been declining more and more with rising CO2 emissions, according to data published by polar bear specialists (e.g. Castro de la Guardia et al. 2017).
Since 2015, there has been only one ‘late’ freeze-up year (2016) – but five very early ones – and at most one relatively early break-up year (with some bears ashore in June). This year (2022) freeze-up was about as early as it was in the 1980s, as was the case in 2017, 2018, 2019, and 2020, as the chart below indicates (dark blue is more ice than usual compared to 1991-2020). Break-up happened in July in 2022, so also not early.