The Myth About Global Warming Killing Off Ocean Life
By Vijay Jayaraj
Europeans are getting ready for what is expected to be a tough winter, with some likely to be choosing between paying heating bills or having food on their plates. The major drivers of this dismal energy situation are so-called green policies that weakened the energy sector by replacing significant amounts of dependable energy sources like oil, coal, and natural gas with expensive, intermittent wind and solar technologies.
Justification of green energy is often made with fearmongering about impending wildlife extinctions. Al Gore set the ball rolling with false claims about polar bears in his 2007 documentary. Since then, it has become a trademark of the climate hysteria perpetuated by mainstream media.
However, these claims are often dubious, sometimes backed by cherry-picked data about regional populations but no serious analysis.
Polar bear populations have remained largely stable for the past few decades and even are rising in some regions. Bengal tigers in India have doubled in population in recent decades.
Similarly, some sea life has increased in numbers. Whales across the world’s oceans have made a comeback after conservation efforts began in the 1970s. It turns out that hunting and not climate has been the biggest influence on the animal’s population.
Blue whales, the largest of the behemoths, were hunted down to near extinction in the last century. More than 95 percent of the 350,000 individual whales were hunted down to nearly nothing between 1904 and 1967.
However, since the 1970s the blue whale population has recovered partially to between 10,000 and 25,000, increasing by 7-8 percent each year. In a recent 23-day survey around the U.K.’s sub-Antarctic island of South Georgia, 55 blue whales were sighted.
Talking about the sightings, Dr Trevor Branch from the University of Washington says, “To think that in a period of 40 or 50 years, I only had records for two sightings of blue whales around South Georgia. So, to go from basically nothing to 55 in one year is astonishing.”
Humpback whales – a favorite of whale watchers – have registered an incredible population growth, rising from around 8,000 to about 50,000 in the last five decades.
It turns out that a number of whale types are thriving. “All of the Southern Hemisphere whale species, the populations for which we have data, are increasing,” says Dr. Branch.
The good news is surprising given a popular notion that whale food is decreasing across the globe. Some media and scientists speak of climate change leading to declining numbers of krill – a shrimp-like crustacean that is a particular favorite of blue whales. Nevertheless, scientists who survey blue whale populations say that an increase in numbers has occurred despite no significant increase in krill.
Ironically, hunting pressure on whales decreased after petroleum oil replaced whale oil for lighting.
Robert McNamara, in his A Brief History of Whaling, notes that “the 19th-century whaling industry was one of the most prominent businesses in America…With oil extracted from the ground being refined into kerosene for lamps, the demand for whale oil plummeted. And while whaling continued, as whalebone could still be used for a number of household products, the era of the great whaling ships faded into history.”
The same is true with polar bears and tigers: Over-hunting in the past, not climate change, has been the dominant factor in determining their population trajectory. Polar bears are increasing to levels where the Inuit people in Canada are asking for an increase in hunting quotas. In Asia, recent warming and conservation efforts have increased forest cover in tiger habitats.
This commentary was first published at Real Clear Markets, October 28, 2022, and can be accessed here.
Vijay Jayaraj is a Research Associate at the CO2 Coalition, Arlington, Virginia. He holds a master’s degree in environmental sciences from the University of East Anglia, UK, and resides in India.