'Stranded Polar Bear' Photo Taken Out of Context Says Photographer

Crossposted from Notes in the Margin
The "stranded polar bear" photo continues to grab headlines, even after yet another thorough debunking. In what has become the furry, cuddly symbol of all that is wrong with the climate change debate, the now ubiquitous photo was splashed across news pages worldwide, with captions such as this from the Daily Mail (click for article and image):

They cling precariously to the top of what is left of the ice floe, their fragile grip the perfect symbol of the tragedy of global warming.

See more articles with the same specious claims here, here, and the NYTimes version with photo caption correction appended here.

There was just one problem: the photograph was taken not of polar bears "stranded" on ice - far from it. Rather, the bears were wandering around their natural environment as they do every day. Read the first-round debunking here and here.

But now there is more. Spiked.com has investigated further by going straight to the source to get the full story from the original photographer. As explained in Rob Lyons' The bear necessities of climate change politics on Friday (emphasis mine):

The student who took the photograph, however, gives a slightly different account: ‘They were on the ice when we found them and on the ice when we left. They were healthy, fat and seemed comfortable on their iceberg.’

Amanda Byrd, an Australian graduate student at the University of Alaska Fairbanks (UAF), says she took the picture around three years ago - in the summer. The photograph was not ‘taken by environmentalists’ but as part of a field trip with the university.

Furthermore, the photographer wasn't even asked permission:

Byrd is clearly a little miffed that ‘the image you have seen around the world was distributed without my consent, and [with] the wrong byline’.

And logic and reason (aka science) is all but lost when cuddly polar bears are brought into this debate:

For all the polar bear stories, it is far from clear that these bears are an endangered species. Even if a warming world did make things more difficult for them, Arctic temperatures have been considerably warmer in the past – and polar bears survived those periods. It’s not even clear that polar bear numbers are in decline.

How many of the mainstream media outlets that used this photograph in stories on the new IPCC report or other climate change stories will publish a correction? How many will reveal that the photograph was not only incorrectly captioned, but also incorrectly attributed as portraying yet another direct impact of man-made global warming? I'm not holding my breath.

So why is this important? After all, it is just a photo, right? Not quite. It just so happens that it is a photo that has been viewed by thousands of people worldwide who now (incorrectly) associate it with global warming. It is part of a larger picture of alarmism that is continually supported by the mainstream media.

Even with this most recent thorough debunking, the myth carries on. The polar bear is now the mascot of yet another global warming alarmist website. Al Gore couldn't find any struggling polar bears, so he had to animate them. The US government is now researching their status as an endangered species. But they are not doing so based on the usual protocol set by the endangered species legislation, but instead in response to a lawsuit by environmentalists such as Greenpeace alleging as much. This story is far from over.