No, 150,000 Antarctic penguins did not die because of global warming
You may have seen this article in the Guardian a few days ago reporting that 150,000 Antarctic penguins died because they had been trapped by a gigantic iceberg and were forced to walk 60 km to their feeding ground.
The article was based on an academic paper in the journal Antarctic Science.
As it turns out, the paper did not say that 150,000 penguins had died. In fact, most of the Guardian article based on the paper is false.
Major news outlets ran with a widely mischaracterized study from Australian and New Zealand researchers in Commonwealth Bay, Antarctica, saying enough penguins to fill three Yankee Stadiums had been trapped by an iceberg and, unable to fend for themselves, died.
The Guardian issued a death notice, saying “150,000 Penguins Die After Giant Iceberg Renders Colony Landlocked.” Other news sources issuing death certificates included theDaily Mail, The Telegraph, and CNN.
Bit of a problem: The research paper doesn’t—and never did—say that. Some penguins may have died, because penguins aren’t immortal. Others probably just moved.
“Maybe these birds moved. Maybe they died. There’s multiple scenarios that could’ve happened here,” Dr. Michelle LaRue, a research ecologist at the University of Minnesota, told The Daily Beast. “But nowhere in the paper said there was death and destruction.”
LaRue would know. She did the initial census on the Adelie penguins two years prior to the study done by University of New South Wales researchers that came out early this month.
“I doubt [widespread death and destruction], and the reason I doubt that is that the behavior of Adelie penguins has already been observed in similar circumstances,” she said.
Their migratory patterns were recorded in 2001m after the Iceberg B-15 caused them to move, she said.
“It caused them to move a lot more than they normally do. There’s no reason to believe a colony in a similar situation didn’t do the same thing,” she said. “It’s not as fun to report and I get that. At the same time, [the initial reports are] inaccurate. There wasn’t anything in the paper saying these animals died.”
LaRue made the rounds midweek to gently nudge some news outlets closer to reality, and then headlines appeared that made it seem like the 150,000 penguins had been hiding under rubble the whole time and there was a brand new development, or that the penguins had come back from the dead. (“Adélie Penguins May Have Survived Iceberg Grounding In Antarctica,” wrote Nature World News.)
The only thing The Daily Beast can confirm is that there are no zombie penguins, just zombie reporters.
We’ll know eventually from satellite photos just how dead the penguins are, but LaRue wants to make two things clear:
• The research paper never killed—or unkilled—a Tallahassee-size pride of penguins.
• Even if it did, the rush to link the so-called kill-off to climate change—which outlets then did—is equally nuts.
And global warming hysterics wonder why there are skeptics?
The Guardian is the pre-eminent booster of catastrophic climate change in Great Britain and probably Europe. From its standpoint, it obviously followed the first rule of agenda journalism: if it's too good to be true, run the story anyway.