Go Easy on the Polar Bear Fraud

The skeptic side of the blogosphere is all agog over the academic investigation into Charles Monnett, the man of drowning polar bear fame.  The speculation is that the investigation is about the original polar bear report in 2006.  A couple of thoughts

  1. If you read between the lines in the news articles, we really have no idea what is going on.  The guy could have falsified his travel expense reports
  2. The likelihood that an Obama Administration agency would be trying to root out academic fraud at all, or that if they did so they would start here, seems absurd to me.
  3. There is no room for fraud because the study was, on its face, facile and useless.  The authors basically extrapolated from a single data point.  As I tell folks all the time, if you have only one data point, you can draw virtually any trend line you want through it.  They had no evidence of what caused the bear deaths or if they were in any way typical or part of a trend — it was all pure speculation and crazy extrapolation.  How could there be fraud when there was not any data here in the first place?  The fraud was in the media, Al Gore, and ultimately the EPA treating this with any sort of gravitas.

28 thoughts on “Go Easy on the Polar Bear Fraud”

  1. The heck with the fraud. The news is how pathetic the study is. And what it tells us of the rigor of peer review.

    This paper would flunk a jr high science fair. This is what the consensus science consists of.

  2. No, they don’t seem to be focused on travel expenses but they do seem to be being asked by people with the sophistication of second graders.

  3. Rob

    And the answers to the questions appear to be of the sophistication of kindergartners. As did Al Gore’s presentation of the plight of polar bears. It seems they knew their audience.

  4. Totally agree with this post. The “fraud” aspect is incidental. The joy of this is that there is a renewed focus on the shoddy original science.
    What is not to like?

    Jumping to conclusions is best left to the alarmists.

    Some of the transcript released is eye-opening, though. I appreciate being grilled by criminal investigators would be pretty scary but some replies are…well….incoherent.

  5. Mind you, it appears that the chap now admits that his report of four dead polar bears was wrong – there were but three.

    You couldn’t make it up.

  6. Rob (July 29, 2011, 4:50 pm) wrote: “No, they don’t seem to be focused on travel expenses but they do seem to be being asked by people with the sophistication of second graders.”

    Don’t be taken in by the apparent simplicity of the questions, or of those asking them. It’s long-established investigative practice to ask lots of seemingly-simple questions that cover the same ground from slightly different angles. Afterward, investigators will analyze each answer in concert with all the others. It’s a remarkably effective way to uncover patterns of deception.

  7. There’s another facet of the global warming issue that’s based on a single ‘data’ point: the accusation that skeptic scientists are under a directive from fossil fuel companies comes from a solitary piece of evidence our AGW friends refuse to show in its full context. Please see my RedState article here: “Pt II: Is Gore’s Accusation of Skeptic Climate Scientists Still a Hoax?” http://www.redstate.com/russellc/2011/06/22/pt-ii-is-gores-accusation-of-skeptic-climate-scientists-still-a-hoax/

  8. I like when in the transcript he admits that he performed “sloppy science”, and then at another point he call the questioner “dude”. I agree with a comment on another blog – I doubt this scientist could pass a physical.

  9. I don’t see an issue with peer-revue here. He’s just reporting the observation of a few floating bears and hypothesising thereafter. This is part of the scientific process, the next step is to try to falsify the hypothesis. After failing to falsify we then have a scientifically established fact: some dead bears float.

    This can then be used as the basis for global economic and social planning. Really guys! This is all that is going on.

  10. Please note: A revue is a type of multi-act popular theatrical entertainment that combines music, dance and sketches (Wikipedia). Hence “Peer Revue”.

  11. Single data point? They reported on bear observations spanning 17 years. As always, it’s hard to tell if you’re a liar or a retard.

  12. Paper:



    “During aerial surveys in September 1987–2003, a total of 315 live polar bears were observed with 12 (3.8%) animals in open water, defined for purposes of this analysis as marine waters >2 km north of the Alaska Beaufort Sea coastline or associated barrier islands. No polar bear carcasses were observed. During aerial surveys in early September, 2004, 55 polar bears (Ursus maritimus) were seen, 51 were alive and of those 10 (19.9%) were in open water. In addition, four polar bear carcasses were seen floating in open water and had, presumably, drowned. Average distance from land and pack ice edge for live polar bears swimming in open water in 2004 (n=10) were 8.3±3.0 and 177.4±5.1 km, respectively. We speculate that mortalities due to off-shore swimming during late-ice (or mild ice) years may be an important and unaccounted source of natural mortality given energetic demands placed on individual bears engaged in long-distance swimming. We further suggest 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.”

    Of course, Dr Monnett now says that he didn’t really mean to argue anything related to global warming, and that the 25% figure he gives for the survival rate of swimming polar bears (read the article) is just napkin math, not statistics. What a pity it didn’t come to him to say that earlier, when the proponents of CAGW were shouting about dying polar bears left and right.

  13. If you google “Populations and sources of recruitment in polar bears” you will find the original AP article at a number of news outlets. In that article you will find The research project “Populations and sources of recruitment in polar bears” has been suspended which Monnett was the “Contracting Officer’s Representative”.


    On Friday, BOEMRE spokeswoman Melissa Schwartz sent an email to Alaska Dispatch saying:

    Although I cannot speak further regarding the Office of the Inspector General’s investigation, I feel it’s important to correct the inaccurate narrative that has been given to you (and is reported in your most recent article). This additional piece can only be attributed to a “source familiar with the administrative action,” given the nature of the ongoing investigation. I do not anticipate being able to further communicate on this ongoing issue, but will keep your contact info in case anything changes:

    The agency placed Mr. Monnett on administrative leave for reasons having nothing to do with scientific integrity, his 2006 journal article, or issues related to permitting, as has been alleged. Any suggestions or speculation to the contrary are wrong.

    By process of elimination it appears to me that Monnett is being investigated for his role as “Contracting Officer’s Representative” for the “Populations and sources of recruitment in polar bears” project. The “Contracting Officer Desk Guide”

    Specifically, they can not do any of the following:
    make any agreement with the contractor requiring the obligation of public funds (they can not sign any contract, including delivery orders, purchase orders, or modify a contract, or in any way obligate payment of funds by the Government); encourage the contractor by words, actions, or a failure to act to undertake new work or an extension of existing work beyond the contract period; interfere with the contractor’s management prerogative by “supervising” contractor employees or otherwise directing their work efforts; authorize a contractor to obtain property for use under a contract; allow government property accountable under one contract to be used in the performance of another contract; issue instructions to the contractor to start or stop work; order or accept goods or services not expressly required by the contract; and discuss acquisition plans or provide any advance information that might give one contractor an advantage over another contractor in forthcoming procurements.

  14. I read a transcript of an interview with Monnett and also reached the conclusion that fraud was an unlikely issue in the polar bear paper. He sounded to me like a complete amateur. He collected a small amount of data, subjected it to the analysis a third grader might do and called it science.

    Meanwhile, most reporters, unable to understand third grade math, were impressed with his rigor and overjoyed with his conclusions. So they gave him publicity.

    That’s all ridiculous but it’s not fraud.

  15. Sock puppet

    I find the claim that 97 % of climate scientists believe in CAGW to be amusing and misleading.

    This claim was based on 70 self selected people employed by the climate change industry who would have been unemployed if past warming was natural

    The 2 questions in the study were so innocuous that Drs Spencer and Lindzen and I would have been comfortable answering yes to them.

    The questions were:

    1. When compared with pre-1800s levels, do you think that mean global temperatures have generally risen, fallen, or remained relatively constant?

    [Even I would answer this one YES they have risen !]

    2. Do you think human activity is a significant contributing factor in changing mean global temperatures?

    [I would agree with this too, If you define significantly as 5 to 10 %. Watering your lawn causes some localized warming and in a place like Flagstaff everyone does it changes regional temperatures.]

    The unasked question is

    “Is a catastrophe imminent within the next 100 years if nothing is done ?” but they were too timid to ask it.

    Using these innocuous questions to find out if people believe in CAGW is ridiculous.

    “I have never made but one prayer to God, a very short one: “O Lord make my enemies ridiculous.” And God granted it. ” Voltaire
    CO2 causes
    Volcanoes [No joke, just after the Iceland volcano there were peer reviewed studies
    linking it to global warming]
    Earthquakes [Same thing after the Japan earthquake]
    More snow
    Less snow
    Heat waves
    Intense cold
    More extreme weather
    Less extreme weather
    Melting ice
    Freezing water
    More hurricanes
    Fewer hurricanes
    More cloud
    Fewer clouds
    Stratospheric warming
    Stratospheric cooling
    etc. etc. ad nauseum.
    The science is settled.
    How many of the above do real scientists believe in ?
    I’ll bet very few.

    Allowing the loonies to speak for them without setting the record straight discredits serious climatologists. When will they ever learn ?

  16. “Did We Jump the Gun a Bit Here…” You clearly didn’t read the blog post you are responding to.

  17. How so?

    Mr. Meyer wrote “The speculation is that the investigation is about the original polar bear report in 2006.”

    It turns out the suspension was not. Mr. Meyer, typical of the denialist mentality, leaps at any chance to denigrate a climate scientist. Truth is not necessarily important to him.

  18. sock puppet

    You clearly did not UNDERSTAND the article you were responding to.

    The article stated.

    “If you read between the lines in the news articles, we really have no idea what is going on. The guy could have falsified his travel expense reports”

    Perhaps you need a course in reading comprehension.

  19. Like all the fools gibbering on about denial their disassociation with reality is unprecedented.
    Being skeptical of a inevitable catastrophe in the climate system which is not fully understood is just being skeptical.
    Foolishly running around crying denial-ism is done by the clowns with faith so strong in their beliefs that they feel they have the right to accuse people of denying an event which is yet to take place.

  20. Jump the Gun Wrote: [quote]How so?

    Mr. Meyer wrote “The speculation is that the investigation is about the original polar bear report in 2006.”

    It turns out the suspension was not. Mr. Meyer, typical of the denialist mentality, leaps at any chance to denigrate a climate scientist. Truth is not necessarily important to him.[/quote]


    Are you really this inept?

    Yes he says that sentence and then what does he follow it up with? Oh lets see 3 bullet points where he demolishes that sentence into small bitty pieces of rubble.

    In other words he was making the point that the investigation wasn’t about the dead polar bears. But no … you assume he is argueing that is what the investigation is about. exactly how foolish are you?

  21. Oh and Jump the Gun a Bit you clearly wrote this in your reply to me.

    “The speculation is that the investigation is about the original polar bear report in 2006.”

    This clearly means that you support that position. Right?

    If not explain how what I did here is different than what you did in your reply to me.

  22. Holy Crap!

    Twenty five posts and not one from Renewable Guy? I hope he’s alright.

    His demise is no doubt due to anthropogenic CO2.

    Why, oh why didn’t we listen to him before it was too late.

    Sleep well my sweet prince.

  23. Warren, OT but

    You might enjoy this from Willis http://wattsupwiththat.com/2011/08/14/its-not-about-feedback/#more-45017

    “the idea that surface air temperature slavishly follows forcing goes against everything I know about complex natural flow systems. I cannot think of any complex natural flow system which is linear in that manner with respect to its input.”

    And “I think that the dominant climate paradigm is completely incorrect…. I say that there is no constant “climate sensitivity”. Instead, there are preferred states. I say, and have discussed elsewhere, that the temperature of the Earth is kept within a fairly narrow range through the action of a variety of natural homeostatic mechanisms.”

  24. Tim Blair recently posted this list of things that the media have trumpeted as being the “first casualties of climate change”.

    I thought it would be an interesting exercise to check the veracity of each story – but what I was not expecting is that every story up until 2010 (after which some of the claims are too recent to verify one way or another) has either been completely debunked, or has since had some serious doubts placed on it.

    So the following examples have not been cherry picked – it’s a quick analysis of every claim made about “the first casualty of global warming” up until 2010…..http://asiancorrespondent.com/62435/a-short-history-of-climate-science-hysteria/

  25. Thanks for posting this list, Dan. It is a great illustration of the degree of trust we can put into the predictions of future climate. The list does a great job of showing that those who claim they can make such predictions are simply delusional.

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