Wednesday, April 17, 2019

GWPF Newsletter: Did David Attenborough’s Film Crew Drive Walruses Over The Cliff?

Climate Sceptics Now Second Largest Party In Finland

In this newsletter:

1) Did David Attenborough’s film crew drive walruses over the cliff?
Global Warming Policy Forum, 15 April 2019
2) Andrew Montford: What we don’t know about walruses
Global Warming Policy Forum, 15 April 2019 

3) Susan Crockford: ‘Our Planet’ film crew is still lying about walrus cliff deaths: here’s how we know
Polar Bear Science, 14 April 2019 
4) Climate sceptics now second largest party in Finland
The New York Times, 15 April 2019 
5) Tilak Doshi: The World Bank’s misguided green energy policies to persist
Forbes, 12 April 2019
6) Dominic Lawson: Deluded middle-class climate warriors can’t see the real danger of their bright idea
Daily Mail, 15 April 2019 

Full details:

1) Did David Attenborough’s film crew drive walruses over the cliff?
Global Warming Policy Forum, 15 April 2019

The mystery of what really caused the tragic deaths of hundreds of walruses filmed by David Attenborough’s Netflix team is deepening as the filmmakers respond to Susan Crockford’s initial criticism.

David Attenborough’s film crew flies over a colony of walruses where hundreds of animals jump to their deaths; source: Netflix

As Susan Crockford has pointed out, an attack of polar bears in the autumn of 2017 on a colony of walruses drove hundreds of animals over the cliff in what appears to be the same location (Ryrkapiy) and during the same time of year as the events documented by Attenborough’s team.

In response to Dr Crockford’s criticism Sophie Lanfear, the filmmaker whose team was at the scene to film the walruses falling to their deaths, claims that polar bears were not to blame because they were not approaching them:

‘They were not being driven off the cliffs by polar bears. We know this because we had two team members watching the cliffs from afar, who could see the polar bears and were in radio communications with us to warn us about any approaching,’ she said in a statement, released this week. 

But if nearby polar bears are not to blame, what or who else may have caused the walruses to panic and jump off the cliff? David Attenborough and his team have blamed climate change and reduced sea ice, despite the fact that walrus haulouts have happened at Ryrkapiy long before any significant reduction in sea ice. After all, the name of the Russian town where the events took place means ‘Place of the Walrus’ in Chukchi for a reason.

Whatever the case, climate blogger Paul Homewood thinks the film crew itself may have contributed to the tragedy by being far too close, flying drones over the colony and thus scaring the walruses to death:

Why Attenborough’s Walrus Claims Are Fake.

Last week, the new Netflix series, Our Planet, was launched with great fanfare. Narrated by David Attenborough, however, one segment made headlines around the world, showcasing hundreds of walruses falling off a 260ft cliff to a slow, agonising death in heartbreaking scenes.

Narrating the disturbing scene in the second episode, Attenborough began:

“They do so out of desperation not choice.

“Their natural home is out on the sea ice, but the ice has retreated away to the north and this is the closest place to their feeding grounds.

“Every square inch is occupied, climbing over the tightly packed bodies is the only way across the crowd – those beneath can get crushed to death.

“In a desperate bid to avoid the crush they try to head towards the cliffs.

“But walruses’ eyesight out of the water is poor, but they can sense the others down below, as they get hungry they need to return to the sea.

“In their desperation to do so, hundreds fall from heights they should never have scaled.”

But the story quickly began to unravel.

Zoologist, Dr Susan Crockford, suspected that the event was actually a well publicised incident in October 2017, at Ryrkaypiy in NE Russia, when a group of polar bears drove several hundred walruses over the cliffs to their deaths, before feasting on the corpses.

Then a couple of days later, Andrew Montford was able to positively identify Ryrkaypiy as the location in the Our Planet film. The Netflix producers denied seeing any polar bears, but this does not alter the fact that many bears were in the area at that time.

There is however another rather more sinister possible explanation for the stampede. According to the US Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS):

Walruses often flee haulouts en masse in response to the sight, sound, and especially odours from humans and machines.

So it is perfectly possible that it was the filmmakers themselves who caused the stampede up the cliffs.

Indeed, as this aerial shot showed, there must have been some sort of helicopter or drone flying immediately above the walrus, which seems to me to be an utterly irresponsible thing to do.

Full post

2) Andrew Montford: What we don’t know about walruses
Global Warming Policy Forum, 15 April 2019 

Last week, Netflix’s Our Planet series featured a segment in which walruses plunged to their deaths over cliffs. This was said to be as a result of global warming. Many media outlets subsequently reported Susan Crockford’s comments that the claims were ‘tragedy porn’ and highly contrived, and that it was probably actually a documented occasion when polar bears drove walruses over cliffs near the village of Ryrkaypiy in eastern Siberia.

Subsequently, by matching rock shapes in the footage to archive images of Ryrkaypiy, I was able to show that this obscure corner of Russia was indeed the source (see the image below and my article here).

The producers are now tacitly admitting – they could hardly deny it – that although they were in Ryrkaypiy, and polar bears had indeed been driving walruses over the cliffs there, on the particular occasion captured by their cameras, bears were at a safe distance. This is remarkable, because at no point in the footage is the presence of polar bears mentioned.

However, their story is not impossible. As I documented in the article linked above, walruses have a tendency to fall from cliffs, even without the attentions of polar bears. There is video footage from the 1980s. I came across someone who said she had spent several months working at the Round Island walrus sanctuary in Alaska, where her only job had been to keep her charges away from the cliffs. Another sanctuary had tried to build a fence. A record of a trip to Ryrkaypiy in 2007 reports that there were hundreds of walrus deaths from natural causes. I’ve also found photos of what appear to be dead walrus at Ryrkaypiy from 2016. Walrus brains, it seems, are not in proportion to their brawn.

But what of the chain of logic that is being used to claim that these deaths are being caused by global warming? We know that walrus hauled out on land long before global warming was thought of, so global warming can at worst be only an exacerbating factor: “cause” is not a word that should be used therefore.

And it turns out that even the idea that global warming is increasing the number of fatal falls rests on shaky ground. While walruses undoubtedly prefer hauling out on ice, they want broken ice, both because it allows them to feed and because it protects them from predators. In years when ice is thick in the western Chukchi Sea, walrus apparently tend to move to clearer waters around Alaska. In other words, the feeding grounds on the Russian side are lost.

So global warming and the concurrent loss of sea ice is a cloud with a considerable silver lining. Walrus may need to haul out on land, with the concurrent problems of predation and cliff-diving, but the feeding grounds of the western Chukchi remain open, and for longer.

And if you are trying to demonstrate a correlation between land haulouts and sea ice, you have a problem. The records of haulouts are very thin: the recently published Pacific Walrus Haulout Database project has got as far as documenting places where walruses are known to haul out from time to time, but there is little detail of how many walruses hauled out at which locations and when. (Interestingly, however, there is a record of a haulout at Ryrkaypiy in the 1930s.)

And even then, as Susan Crockford has pointed out, there is no obvious correlation between land haulouts and sea ice levels. There are years with very low ice in which no haulouts are observed and years with lots of ice when walrus choose to haul out on land anyway. Beach haulouts seem to have more to do with population explosions than sea ice. As Crockford puts it:

The notion that females and calves are never found hauled out anywhere except the sea ice in late summer and autumn and never use beaches as foraging platforms in late summer/autumn – except when sea ice is low – is simply not true.

So what you are left with is supposition and anecdote. Scientists imagine that the lack of sea ice is having an adverse effect, and call for further monitoring. But they are not able to demonstrate these problems through data.

Full post
3) Susan Crockford: ‘Our Planet’ film crew is still lying about walrus cliff deaths: here’s how we know
Polar Bear Science, 14 April 2019 

Last week, I called “contrived nonsense” on the claim by David Attenborough and the production crew of Netflix’s ‘Our Planet’ that the walruses they showed falling to their deaths were victims of global warming.

After unbelieveable media attention since then, newly-revealed details only solidify my assertion. Something stinks, and it’s not just the bad acting of director Sophie Lanfear in the ‘Behind the Scenes‘ trailer as she delivers her WWF-approved message: “This is the sad reality of climate change”.

Despite many statements to the press, the film crew have steadfastly refused to reveal precisely where and when they filmed the walrus deaths shown in this film in relation to the walrus deaths initiated by polar bears reported by The Siberian Times in the fall of 2017.

I can only conclude, therefore, that the two incidents are indeed essentially one and the same: that the filmmakers, probably alerted by resident WWF employees at Ryrkaipiy, moved in after polar bears caused hundreds of walrus to fall to their deaths. The crew then captured on film the last few falls over the cliff as the walrus herd moved away from the haulout.

The lie being told by Attenborough and the film crew is that 200-300 walruses fell during the time they were filming, while in fact they filmed only a few: polar bears were responsible for the majority of the carcasses shown on the beach below the cliff. This is, of course, in addition to the bigger lie that lack of sea ice is to blame for walrus herds being onshore in the first place.

See my point-by-point analysis below and make up your own mind.


Walruses dying in large numbers due to falls from cliff tops is not a new phenomenon associated exclusively with reduced sea ice and neither are enormous land haulouts of walrus mothers and calves. Historical documents recorded prior to the decline of sea ice prove this is true (Crockford 2014 and references therein; Fischbach et al. 2016; Lowry 1985) and the US government does not consider them ‘threatened’ with extinction (MacCracken et al. 2017; US Fish & Wildlife 2017a,b).

As I’ve noted previously, there were disturbing similarities between the event they filmed in 2017 somewhere in “eastern Siberia” and one reported by The Siberian Times at Cape Kozhevnikov near the village of Ryrkaipiy (see photo below) sometime in early to mid-September 2017 in which several dozen polar bears spooked a small herd of about 5,000 walruses so badly that hundreds fell off the cliff to their deaths.

Locations mentioned in this post:


Details on these points in the footnotes:
The location of the incident where hundreds of walrus fell to their deaths after a herd of about 5,000 walrus was spooked by polar bears, as reported in The Siberian Times, was Cape Kozhevnikov near the village of Ryrkaipiy in Chukotka. A similar incident involving polar bears and somewhat fewer walrus occurred in 2011 (see footnote 1). In 2007, a herd of about 40,000 walrus spent time here in the early fall and left behind an unknown number of dead that attracted polar bears, see WWF account here (pdf here).

The location of the Netflix cliff shoot was Cape Kozhevnikov near the village of Ryrkaipiy and the date was 19 September 2017, see footnote 2.
According to tweets made by cameraman Jamie McPherson, the crew of ‘Our Planet’ arrived in Chukotka to film walrus on 14 September 2017 and left on 26 October 2017.

The location in the ‘Our Planet’ film of a beach where more than 100,000 walrus were hauled out was not Cape Kozhevnikov near the village of Ryrkaipiy, see footnote 3:  it may have been Cape Serdtse-Kamen, several hundred km east of Cape Kozhevnikov (map above), a known haulout area for super-herds of >100,000 walrus, see footnote 1.

Full post

4) Climate sceptics now second largest party in Finland
The New York Times, 15 April 2019 

A Finnish political party that campaigned against ambitious climate change policies won the second-highest number of seats in parliamentary elections on Sunday, in a vote in which global warming became a polarizing issue.

The Finns Party did even better than predicted by recent polls during the campaign. It was almost tied in the popular vote with the winning party.

Although the Finns, a right-wing populist party, is unlikely to be part of a new government, its performance Sunday may give it more of a voice in the country’s politics.

The vote reflected a growing fragmentation among voters.

While the other eight parties running for office endorse strong measures to fight climate change, the Finns Party seized on the issue as a new front in culture wars. It argued that aggressive climate change policies are an elitist approach that hurts the working class.

A similar dynamic set off the “Yellow Vest” protests against a fuel tax increase in France. And Germany’s far-right party, Alternative for Germany, has assailed the science behind clean-air policy.

The Finns Party, which has long put forward an anti-immigration agenda, won 39 seats, just one seat fewer than the top vote getters, the Social Democrats. The Finns claimed during the campaign that Finland had been overtaken by climate hysteria and that the country has done more than its fair share on the issue.

Yet parties that support environmental action also made significant gains in Sunday’s vote. The environmentally focused Greens party secured 20 seats — its highest number ever. And the Left Alliance, which also backs an ambitious climate agenda, had its first win since 1995, securing 16 seats.

The vote brought mixed results for the parties that have led the country in a coalition government for the past four years. The Center Party, a centrist agrarian party that led the previous government, slipped to fourth place, losing 18 seats. But the center-right National Coalition Party, which was also part of the coalition, gained one seat, for a total of 38.

Full story

5) Tilak Doshi: The World Bank’s misguided green energy policies to persist
Forbes, 12 April 2019

In a news conference held on his first day in office, Malpass signalled no fundamental changes in the bank’s green energy priorities.

President Donald Trump congratulates David Malpass, under secretary of the Treasury for international affairs, after announcing his nomination to head the World Bank, during an event in the Rosevelt Room of the White House, Wednesday, Feb. 6, 2019, in Washington. (AP Photo/ Evan Vucci)

President Trump’s nominee to head the World Bank, David Malpass, was formally approved by a unanimous vote of its board of executive directors last week. When Malpass, an outspoken critic of the bank, was nominated in February, there were hopes that his successful appointment would represent a chance for the institution to break from its green policy orientation of the past three decades to return to its original charter of reducing global poverty.

Yet, in a news conference held on his first day in office, Malpass signaled no fundamental changes in the bank’s energy policy priorities. As part of the World Bank’s efforts to mitigate climate change, he said it would support policies which continue its ban on the financing of coal-fueled power plants. “With regard to coal, the board and its governors have established a policy on that and I don’t expect a change in that policy”, he said.

The World Bank imposed its ban on coal power project financing in 2013, followed by a stop to all new investments in oil and gas resource development projects shortly after. Its objections to fossil fuels development despite their importance to economic growth and poverty alleviation can be traced to the intellectual evolution of the institution’s management under the long tenure of James Wolfensohn during his decade as president (1995 – 2005).

If the ancien regime at the bank emphasized the classical liberalism of Adam Smith with its policy package supporting free trade, competitive markets, entrepreneurship and sound money, the new focused on dirigiste economics that saw a critical government role in attending to the theoretical failures of free markets.

And if the “old” World Bank policy advisers consisted of the likes of Lawrence Summers (Clinton’s Treasury Secretary and previous Chief Economist of the World Bank) who promoted free enterprise and human capital development, the new consisted of a melange of interests including social and environmental non-governmental organizations, the left-leaning UN specialized agencies and development aid groups.

The intellectual environment of the bank that gestated during Wolfensohn’s reign is personified by economists and political philosophers such as Joseph Stiglitz and President Barack Obama. Stiglitz, a Nobel Prize winner for economics and Chief Economist of the World Bank (1997 – 2000), wrote in a 2015 court brief for a climate lawsuit brought on behalf of a group of children against the US Federal government that “fossil fuel-based economies imposed ‘incalculable’ costs on society and shifting to clean energy will pay off.” As for President Obama, his noted flights of oratory include his hubristic 2008 speech that promised that the future would look to that moment (on his winning the primaries) “when the rise of the oceans began to slow and our planet began to heal.”

In an assessment of the role of the World Bank in the late 1990s when global capital markets had expanded tremendously and the development role of the Bank was by no means obvious, the notable economist Anne Krueger (then Vice President of Research at the Bank) elaborated on three possible outcomes. First, shut the bank down given the tremendous progress in reducing world poverty already becoming apparent by then; second, continue to exist but with a sharply narrowed focus on only the poorest of nations (primarily in Sub-Saharan Africa); or third,  serve a wider set of “societal issues” that include the panoply of “civil society” concerns with gender, social justice and climate change that we have become so familiar with.

As history would have it, the third option was the one chosen. Rupert Darwall, a former adviser to the United Kingdom’s Chancellor of the Exchequer put it as follows:

“The World Bank’s mission has been subverted by green ideologues who assert that a low-carbon world benefits the world’s poor but fail to acknowledge that making energy much more costly increases poverty. The World Bank tags itself as ‘working for a world free of poverty’. Its prioritization of renewable investment and its embargo on coal investments demonstrate this is no longer the case. In making its choice between development and sustainability, the World Bank has decided it is going to try and save the planet on the backs of the poor.”

Environmental activists rarely acknowledge that there has not been a single instance of a poor country successfully developing to middle income status without the extensive use of fossil fuels. Indeed, universal access to affordable energy based on fossil fuels is a defining feature of modern life and its comforts. The cities of Western Europe, North America and Japan have been rid of urban smog while ensuring clean, reliable and affordable energy with improved fossil-fueled power generating technologies and cleaner transport and cooking fuels.

But, as Darwall and other development professionals have noted, the World Bank has taken a lead role in denying poorer countries the pattern of economic growth and environmental improvement that the now-rich countries had taken so successfully since the 1970s. The bank’s enthusiastic support for intermittent, low-yield renewable energy such as solar and wind power comes at the cost of its central charter to help reduce the remaining pockets of global poverty afflicting an estimated one billion people.

Full post

6) Dominic Lawson: Deluded middle-class climate warriors can’t see the real danger of their bright idea
Daily Mail, 15 April 2019 

Getting to see a government minister isn’t easy. I’d challenge any reader to see how long it takes to persuade the civil servants manning the bureaucratic barricades to let you bend a minister’s ear about whatever concerns you.

Yet somehow they found a space in the diary for a group called Extinction Rebellion (XR) to lobby the Minister of State for Energy, Claire Perry.

Ms Perry told the Mail on Sunday that her encounter with this (until now) obscure group had been ‘good and productive’.

Really? Extinction Rebellion is this week launching mass protests designed to shut down or obstruct transport links, causing (more) misery to commuters and business. If that’s the result of ‘productive’ talks, I wonder what would happen if they had gone badly.

But making Britain hell for business (and anyone who drives a car) is what Extinction Rebellion stands for. As the Energy Minister must know, its mission is to ‘save the planet’ by eliminating Britain’s CO2 emissions entirely by 2025.


Or in other words, to reduce us to a state of mere subsistence, last seen in the pre-industrial age when life was (for the great majority) nasty, brutish and short.

As if to emphasise the primitiveness to which they wish us to return, this is the group which on April Fool’s Day performed a naked protest in the public gallery of the House of Commons.

Actually, this is the only way people with such views could take part (so to speak) in parliamentary debate. Because any party which tried to get MPs elected on a policy of mass immiseration would not win a single seat. There might be some thousands of middle-class students and drop-outs sufficiently aesthetically offended by mass consumerism to vote for such a manifesto, but that would be it.

Unsurprisingly, the leaders of this movement tend to come from well-to-do homes, which have never experienced scarcity or privation. The figures behind the demonstrations planned for this week include Tamsin Omond, granddaughter of the Dorset baronet Sir Thomas Lees; Stuart Basden (who said his week in prison after an earlier action was ‘a bit like boarding school’); and George Barda, son of the distinguished stage and music photographer Clive Barda OBE FRSA and a 43-year-old postgraduate student at King’s College London.

I am distantly related to one of the inspirations for this movement, the environmentalist author and journalist George Monbiot (we are both scions of the family which created the J Lyons catering and food manufacturing empire). Monbiot is anything but a hypocrite. He leads the life he preaches to others: he doesn’t own a car, never flies and, so far as I know, survives on a purely plant-based diet.

Last week, Monbiot appeared on Frankie Boyle’s television show, New World Order, and was cheered by the youthful audience when he demanded action to end economic growth, adding that this meant ‘we’ve got to go straight to the heart of capitalism and overthrow it’.

Monbiot has been consistent in this: in 2007 he wrote an article for the Guardian welcoming the prospect of a recession, even though, as he acknowledged, ‘it would cause some people to lose their jobs and homes’. (He got his wish: it turned out not to be popular).

But if it’s the planet you want to save, and you believe its very existence is threatened by excessive emissions of CO2, then what happens in this country is almost beside the point.

The UK contributes little more than one per cent of global CO2 emissions. Even if the inhabitants of these islands were reduced by an environmentalist version of the Cambodian dictator Pol Pot to a state of pre-industrial and self-sufficient subsistence farming — no wicked imports of food via boat or plane — it would have a minuscule effect on the planet’s future.

In fact, the UK — chiefly through the steady closure of the domestic coal industry — has been in the vanguard of reducing CO2 emissions: in 2018, our emissions were at their lowest levels in 120 years.

It’s not British politicians that groups such as Extinction Rebellion should be haranguing and demonstrating against, but those in the People’s Republic of China. That is the nation responsible for 60 per cent of the growth in global CO2 emissions over the past decade.

And China is currently building almost 260 gigawatts of new coal-fired power generating capacity — in itself almost the size of the entire U.S. coal-fired capacity.

The trouble is the Chinese state would treat rather robustly any Extinction Rebellion activists who attempted to demonstrate on its busiest streets, or to mount a naked protest in the Great Hall of the People in Beijing. I don’t recommend they try that.


Nor should we be so critical of the Chinese. They, as we in the West did before them, are using cheap energy wrenched from the Earth’s resources to escape from lives of almost unimaginable poverty. And it was economic growth which ultimately created the circumstances in which peace rather than conflict became the normal state of human affairs: nations could prosper and enrich themselves through trade rather than the plunder of neighbours in a zero-sum world.

Full post

The London-based Global Warming Policy Forum is a world leading think tank on global warming policy issues. The GWPF newsletter is prepared by Director Dr Benny Peiser - for more information, please visit the website at

1 comment:

Geralddownunder said...

Barry Brill -- No warming in NZ over the last 100 years.
Man Made Global Warming.

Sat, May 12, 2018, 7:33 PM

Temperature stability in New Zealand is not just a recent phenomenon. The Alexander Turnbull library has the original of a research report by the Dominion Meteorologist in 1868 which finds the New Zealand average temperature over the preceding 8 years to be 13.1°C – slightly higher than today.

This historic view further aligns with De Freitas et al (2014)[1] which is the only relevant science that appears in the international peer-reviewed literature. That study shows that the average 7SS temperature trend has been only 0.28°C ± 0.3°C since 2009. As the error bars exceed the trend, the range of temperature changes include zero – ie there has been no detectable warming in this country for over a hundred years.

So, New Zealand hasn’t yet experienced even the slightest twinge of “climate change” (as defined by the UN), despite the noisy alarm fostered by groups such as the Green Party and the Royal Society. So why is the Government spending millions of dollars in research grants to study the effect of alleged New Zealand warming on dozens of different plants, insects, coastlines, etc?

Will global warming eventually reach our shores? Or will we remain immune? Nobody knows – but it has been well said that past experience is the best (only?) indicator of future events.

Personal postscript

Given all this, I was more than somewhat taken aback to hear One News at Six declare on 8 January that “climate change is increasing the number and intensity of extreme events….” . I promptly lodged a formal complaint of breaches of the Broadcasting Standards requiring accuracy and balance. A month later, TVNZ came back with three very dogmatic assertions:

Thanks to Barry Brill.