ABC: Penguins are the Next 'Canaries in the Coal Mine'

     Now that environmentalists and the media have succeeded to getting polar bears – the global warming mascot of the northern hemisphere – listed as a “threatened species,” now they’re turning their eyes to another creature: the penguin.

     “World News with Charles Gibson” promoted a new study that found a decline in the penguin population on its July 1 broadcast. ABC correspondent Ned Potter described the penguin populace as a barometer of the Earth’s health. “World News” left out the potential good news about penguins and other research that argues sea ice is not exactly disappearing.

     “Penguins have very little to do with canaries,” said Potter. “But today, they’re being called canaries in the coal mine – animals whose health is a signal about the health of the world.”

     According to the study’s author, University of Washington biologist Dee Boersma, the decline of the penguin is evidence of “fundamental changes going on in the world’s oceans.” Boersma’s study blamed man-made global warming for the population decrease, but she admitted penguins are threatened by other factors.

      “[I]n the Antarctic, Boersma says they are threatened by climate change,” Potter said. “Off South America, there’s oil pollution. In the Pacific, they get caught in fishing nets.”

     Boersma’s study will be published in the July/August edition of the U.S. journal BioScience, according to a July 1 Bloomberg article by Jeremy van Loon.

     “As their life support is dwindling, our life support is dwindling too,” Sybille Klenzendorf of the environmental group World Wildlife Fund told “World News.”

     But back in February 2008, CBS reported penguins were adapting to the effects of climate change, calling rising temperatures “good” and the birds’ habitat a “penguin paradise.”

     “There’s good news and there’s bad news,” Jenn Pennycook of explained to CBS correspondent John Blackstone. “With the breakup of the sea ice, it makes many more places accessible for the penguins to build their nest, but it also reduces the number of places because the ice is so small that they can’t live on it anymore.”

     Claims that dwindling sea ice is causing the penguins’ demise may also be inaccurate, though “World News” didn’t mention it. In April 2008, scientist Steve McIntyre showed sea ice levels in the Southern Hemisphere are at 25-year highs.

     “On a global basis, world sea ice in April 2008 reached levels that were ‘unprecedented’ for the month of April in over 25 years,” Steve McIntyre wrote on on May 4. “Levels are the third highest (for April) since the commencement of records in 1979, exceeded only by levels in 1979 and 1982.”

     McIntyre, along with Ross McKitrick, debunked the validity of the infamous “hockey stick” graph used in a journal article by Michael Mann, which described the increase in Northern Hemisphere mean temperature. The two claimed Mann’s graph was based on flawed calculations and data defects.