The dying of the polar bears

According to photographer Paul Nicklen, this is a picture of climate change. A dying polar bear.

My entire @Sea_Legacy team was pushing through their tears and emotions while documenting this dying polar bear. It’s a soul-crushing scene that still haunts me, but I know we need to share both the beautiful and the heartbreaking if we are going to break down the walls of apathy. This is what starvation looks like. The muscles atrophy. No energy. It’s a slow, painful death. When scientists say polar bears will be extinct in the next 100 years, I think of the global population of 25,000 bears dying in this manner. There is no band aid solution. There was no saving this individual bear. People think that we can put platforms in the ocean or we can feed the odd starving bear. The simple truth is this—if the Earth continues to warm, we will lose bears and entire polar ecosystems. This large male bear was not old, and he certainly died within hours or days of this moment. But there are solutions. We must reduce our carbon footprint, eat the right food, stop cutting down our forests, and begin putting the Earth—our home—first. Please join us at @sea_legacy as we search for and implement solutions for the oceans and the animals that rely on them—including us humans. Thank you your support in keeping my @sea_legacy team in the field. With @CristinaMittermeier #turningthetide with @Sea_Legacy #bethechange #nature #naturelovers This video is exclusively managed by Caters News. To license or use in a commercial player please contact or call +44 121 616 1100 / +1 646 380 1615”

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The U.S. Geological Survey says sea ice is declining because of a warming planet. It has forced polar bears, which feed on seals, onto land where they are dying of starvation, Nicklen says.

Polar bears and climate science are at the heart of a new ruckus between some climate scientists and blogger Susan Crockford, who writes the blog Polar Bear Science.

This is no different from Ian Stirling’s “bear that died of climate changeback in 2013, or several others since then: here, here, and here (one of these incidents also involved the same photographer as this incident, Paul Nicklen). I’ve called this practice of filming dead or dying bears and splashing the photos across the pages of newspapers and the internet “tragedy porn” — a kind of voyerism that leaves people open to emotional manipulation. The internet laps it up.

Meanwhile a paper published in the journal Bio Science, called Internet Blogs, Polar Bears, and the Climate Change Denial by Proxy said Crockford “has neither conducted any original research nor published any articles in the peer-reviewed literature on polar bears.”

“Crockford’s blog frequently extracts partial research outcomes and portrays them as contrary to the documented effects of [human-caused global warming] on sea ice or polar bears,” it said.

The report studied climate change blogs and found 80 percent of the posts dismissing climate change as a factor in the diminishing number of polar bears quoted Crockford’s blog.

Related: How to Talk to a Science Denier without Arguing (Scientific American)