Ethan A. Huff
Aug 19, 2011
Images of periled polar bears sinking into arctic seas because of melting polar ice caps have become an iconic symbol of the devastating consequences of so-called global warming. But a new government investigation into the supposed science surrounding this now-infamous urban legend has revealed that it was likely nothing more than a pseudoscientific hoax propagated by faulty math and perfunctory observations.
According to a recent report by Human Events, special investigators from the US government’s Interior Department (ID) have found that a scientific paper published in a 2006 issue of the journal Polar Biology is filled with baseless assumptions about four specific polar bear deaths — and this eventually became the foundational argument for the fight against global warming. But in reality, the deaths may have had nothing to do with melting ice caps, and everything to do with a simple windstorm.
It all stems from an unusual air observation of what appeared to be four dead polar bears floating in the sea. From 1,500 feet (457 meters) in the air, observers reported to study author and biologist Charles Monnett, as well as contributor Jeffrey Gleason, that dead polar bears had been observed, which the duo later used to make various statements, including that “drowning-related deaths of polar bears may increase in the future if the observed trend of regression of pack ice and/or longer open-water periods continues.”
According to investigators, Monnett’s calculations concerning polar bears’ rate of survival, however, are flawed because he not only failed to verify that the four dead polar bears he witnessed were the same ones that he saw a week prior, but he also allegedly used faulty percentages in the process. As a result, polar bears ended up getting listed as a protected species under the Endangered Species Act, even though they are likely not endangered, and are not dying at the rates to which Monnett had implied.
Worse, the observed polar bear carcasses were never actually recovered and properly examined to determine their cause of death. So paper statements implying that ice caps were to blame are grounded in baseless assumption, not scientific observation.
Gleason denies that his and Monnett’s paper intended to link the deaths to global warming, having told investigators that they were likely caused by a simple windstorm rather. However, Eric May, an ID investigator, responded by saying that the link to global warming was “inferred” in the paper, which tends to make logical sense in light of the paper’s strong verbiage concerning ice packs and complete lack of reference to a potential windstorm.
Peer review process for polar bear paper may have been skewed; study data was not even aimed at polar bears
Monnett, who currently works as a wildlife biologist for ID’s Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Regulation, and Enforcement, and who also manages 50 million in research studies there, is currently the primary target of the investigation. Disclosure of Monnett’s “personal relationships and preparation of scope of work,” is also of primary concern because the peer review process used in publishing his landmark polar bear study appears to have been fraudulent as well.
According to Human Events, Monnett’s wife, Lisa Rotterman, as well as lead researcher of another questionable polar bear study, Andrew Derocher from the University of Alberta in Canada, both peer reviewed Monnett’s polar bear study. Having one’s wife review a study is, of course, an obvious conflict of interest. And Derocher, whose own polar bear study is currently under review, also happens to have been acquired by Monnett, which calls into question the integrity of his review as well.
After vehemently defending his work, Monnett eventually admitted that miscalculations and other errors were likely made in his paper, but he referred to such controversy as “sloppy” rather than “scientific misconduct.” He also admitted that he and Gleason did not have any proper documentation to back up claims made about observed polar bear trends — instead, they simply made the “best case” they could with the data they had obtained.
Another important fact is that the duo assembled their paper using data acquired for the purpose of bowhead whale observation and study, not for polar bears. Consequently, the quality of such data for polar bear research is cursory at best, and careless pseudoscience at worst.
“The paper gives the appearance that rigorous surveying was done for polar bears, when it was not. They did not know if the polar bears actually drowned — they assumed that they had drowned,” said Dr. Rob Roy Ramey, a biologist who specializes in endangered species scientific issues for Wildlife Science International, Inc., to Human Events. “There were no statistical tests, just extrapolations made with no accounting for measurement error.”
Besides achieving for Monnett and his research endeavors a significant gain in “power, money, authority and recognition,” according to Ramey, the acceptance of Monnett’s paper and subsequent listing of polar bears as an endangered species due to global warming has, at least until now, represented a foundational pillar of so-called evidence in global warming hysterics. The crumbling of this scientific facade, though, just might spur the much-needed shift in climate change science towards actual evidence-based based research rather than mere scientific semblance.
Sources for this story include:
This article was posted: Friday, August 19, 2011 at 3:07 am