Amidst New York Governor Andrew Cuomo’s repeated cries of “climate change is real!” and growing certainty in the present and imminent dangers of global warming, big oil’s best friend, Fox News, ran on their Fox Nation Website a December 2012 article from Smithsonian.com that was titled, “Most Arctic Animals Should Deal With Climate Change Just Fine.”
Fox Nation ran the first four paragraphs of the story verbatim, and then linked to the Smithsonian site so readers could read the entire narrative.
Except Fox Nation wasn’t overly thrilled with Smithsonian.com’s not-provocative-enough title. So they changed “Most Arctic Animals Should Deal With Climate Change Just Fine” to “Study: Global Warming Helps Polar Bears,” which is admittedly far more alluring. It is also absolutely, entirely, and outright wrong (at best); at worst, it is unethical and immorally damaging.
Even before Fox News covered the story, Forbes.com ran an op-ed based on the same study featured in the Smithsonian article, but the Forbes title was “News Alert To Climate Alarmists: Most Arctic Species Will Benefit From Global Warming.” Beneath the article’s title is a picture of a polar bear.
Okay, the sardonic and patronizing tone of the title was enough to get my goat and raise my hackles. Firstly, ‘alarmist’ is defined by Merriam-Webster as “unwarranted exciting of fears or warning of danger.” Anyone who isn’t at least a little alarmed about the climate is either living under a rock or isn’t listening to concerned and informed climate scientists, who aren’t alarmists, but rather harbingers of the very real dangers we are all facing.
Secondly, despite being an environmentalist (a vanishing species within the Republican party, I know), far down on the list of climate change concerns are how it will affect animals in the Arctic – speaking for myself, I’m far more concerned about how it will affect my daughter, and her children, and her children’s children, and the hopefully long line of my descendants. The effects of climate change on Arctic animals is of dire importance because of the ecological indicator factor. They are just a few of the dying canaries in the coal mines, if you will – of the threats we’re facing in the relatively near future. And alarmingly, these indicators are increasing daily, making it more and more difficult for climate deniers to keep pushing their denial.
IMPORTANT NOTE TO FOX NEWS AND FORBES: The study in question referenced by both articles did n0t once mention polar bears. Not once! As far as bears go, it spoke only of brown bears (Ursus arctos), which are a wholly separate species from polar bears (Ursus maritimus), though they have been known to hybridize. Besides the obvious physical difference between the two bears, polar bears are specifically designed for cold arctic living – they are the only bear that spends more time at sea than on land. The polar bear is dependent on its sea ice habitat to survive, and because it is not well adapted to hunting on land, its survival is threatened by the growing disappearance of the sea’s ice. If you like, you can read all about how polar bears are already being seriously harmed by climate change at the National Wildlife Federation’s Website.
Also, it’s painfully obvious neither the geniuses at Fox News, nor the ignorant Forbes contributor even read the study their articles were about (or if they did, they’re being deliberately unethical). Both articles referenced “benefits” to arctic animals. The study’s title was “Future Climate Change Will Favour Non-Specialist Mammals in the (Sub)Arctic”
If they did read the title, I gather they don’t understand the difference between “specialist” and “non-specialist” (or “generalist”) species, or the difference between “arctic” and “subarctic” regions. For instance, the polar bear is a specialist species that lives in the arctic. In fact, almost every single species that has adapted to survive the harsher arctic climate is a specialist species, or a species specially adapted to a very limited range of environmental conditions. What the study actually discusses is how global warming will cause arctic territory to become increasingly comparable to the more temperate subarctic territory, which will allow subarctic species to expand their range. While some species will have expanded ranges, the “losers” include the arctic fox, the wolverine, and the Norway lemming. Polar bears, while not one of the assessed species in the study, are already being affected.
The Forbes contributor concluded in his piece that “no species are expected to go extinct.” The study actually intoned:
“Although none of the species assessed is predicted to go regionally extinct based upon our models, we provide evidence that the vulnerability of already threatened species may increase due to the introduction of new competing/predatory species in their geographic range.”
Again, polar bears were not among the species assessed.
The Forbes contributor opined:
“The findings deliver a sharp jab to global warming activists arguing Arctic warming justifies costly, government imposed economic restrictions.”
Nice try, but I doubt global warming activists are paying much attention to distortions by Forbes and Fox News. I guess the only comfort I can derive from the appalling reporting above is that at least there are a couple people at Fox News and Forbes who occasionally peruse the wisdom at the Smithsonian site. Maybe they’ll visit today, where they’ll find a couple articles of prominence on the Smithsonian home page, the first titled, “Is Climate Change Strengthening El Niño?” and the second: “Australia is Burning, And It’s Only Going to Get Worse as the World Warms.”