OK, technically, the exclusive I have is an internal email from the head of the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Regulation and Enforcement that was sent to his entire staff on Friday about the actions being taken against polar bear researcher Charles Monnett. I will repost that below, but the bottom line is that the decision to place him on administrative leave “had nothing to do with his scientific work , or anything relating to a five-year old journal article” on polar bears.
This whole story is Kafkaesque. Let’s take it from the beginning. Here’s the lede from NYT blogger Andy Revkin:
There’s been a rush to all manner of judgments over the strange case of Charles Monnett, the biologist for the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Regulation and Enforcement who provided a powerful talking point for climate campaigners, including former Vice President Al Gore, with his description of several drowned polar bears spotted during an aerial marine-mammals survey in 2004 — an observation enshrined in a short paper published in Polar Biology in 2006.
Hmm, I guess that isn’t really the beginning, since Monnett’s work didn’t provide a talking point, powerful or otherwise, for Gore’s movie, An Inconvenient Truth.
The fact is that the scientific community had already come to the conclusion that the polar bear would not survive an ice-free arctic. The 2004 Arctic Climate Impact Assessment, by leading scientists from the eight Arctic nations, including the United States, summarized the state of scientific understanding:
Changes in the extent and type of sea ice affect the distribution and foraging success of polar bears (Ferguson et al., 2000a,b; Mauritzen et al., 2001; Stirling et al., 1993). The earliest impacts of warming will occur at their southern limits of distribution, such as at James and Hudson Bays; and this has already been documented by Stirling et al. (1999)….
The survival of polar bears as a species is difficult to envisage under conditions of zero summer sea-ice cover.
In short, there was a broad scientific understanding by the leading experts on the Arctic that unrestricted emissions of greenhouse gases would be catastrophic if not fatal to polar bears — back in 2004.