The Beast and the Bear
We’re just recovering from the ‘Beast from the East’ part two and its icy consequences here in the UK. Meanwhile the Artic has been having a freakish heatwave. Everything seems to be melting there. Climate change seems to be kicking in.
Before Christmas, a video of a very skinny polar bear dying of starvation near Greenland went viral. The emaciated creature was videoed in Baffin Bay as it desperately sought something to eat in a trash can left over from an Inuit fishing trip. Social media users were quick to harangue the film-maker for not feeding the bear, but he pointed out:
“it's not like I walk around with a tranquilizer gun or 400 pounds of seal meat."
And besides it would have been illegal. But the bigger point he wanted to make with the video was that climate change had caused the bear’s death. Polar bears eat seals, which they catch on the ice. When the ice melts, the polar bears’ hunting grounds recede. The ice is melting because of climate change. And it’s almost too late to do anything about it. Soon it won’t just be polar bears at risk: in a strange image, some people described the polar bear as a canary in a coalmine.
The general scientific claims about climate change are now uncontroversial (except in parts of the White House where Donald Trump seems to think that colder than usual weather proves there’s no such thing as global warming). But the video triggered a debate amongst polar bear experts about whether that particular animal had died due to climate change or from some other cause. The bear could have been sick, or unable to hunt because of an old injury. …
This is the danger with arguing from a single emotive case. If the case isn’t correctly described, or, as here with the bear, there is a plausible alternative explanation of what was going on, then the argument can be weakened.
But the bigger picture is not looking good for us. Especially with a climate-change denier in the White House.
Ultimately it doesn’t really matter whether or not that particular polar bear was a canary; what matters is that we aren’t ostriches with our heads in the sand, denying what is going on all around us.