Climate at a Glance: Polar Bears

Big polar bear on drift ice edge with snow a water in Arctic Svalbard. Licensed from 123RF

View this page in our printable booklet (PDF) here:

Key Takeaways:

  • Polar bear populations have increased dramatically during recent decades, despite the modest global warming that has occurred over the same period.
  • The estimated polar bear population has quadrupled since 1950, rising from 10,000 bears in 1950 to 39,000 bears today.
  • Polar bears evolved between 6 million years ago and 350,000 years ago, and they survived and even thrived, in much warmer climates than what we’re seeing today.

Short Summary:

Climate activists often speculate that even a modest amount of warming would reduce Arctic ice and food availability by so much that it would push polar bears to extinction. The evidence suggests this is false, however. Polar bears evolved hundreds of thousands of years ago and have thrived under much warmer climatic conditions than those that exist today,1 including during the Mid-Holocene Warm Period, which lasted for 2,000 years and occurred between 5,000 to 7,000 years ago.2

After dropping to a low of 10,000 bears in 1950, during the middle of a global cooling period, polar bear numbers have quadrupled to as many as 39,000 today. Further, polar bear experts, such as Susan Crockford, have documented at length how polar bear populations have managed to increase despite a modestly warming world.3 (See Figure 1.)

Contrary to the many dire claims made by climate activists about polar bears, proof of declining polar bear populations essentially vanishes when all of the available data are considered.4

Figure 1: Global polar bear population size estimates to 2018.

Figure 1. Global polar bear population. Source: Susan J. Crockford, The Polar Bear Catastrophe
That Never Happened, Chapter 10 (London, U.K.: The Global Warming Policy Foundation, 2019).


  1. Polar Bears International, “The Evolution of the Polar Bear,” polarbearsinternational.
    org, accessed August 15, 2021,
  2. National Centers for Environmental Information, “Mid-Holocene Warm Period,”
    National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, accessed August 15, 2021, https://
  3. Susan J. Crockford, State of the Polar Bear Report 2018, The Global Warming Policy
    Foundation, February 2019, accessed August 15, 2021,
  4. Susan J. Crockford, The Polar Bear Catastrophe That Never Happened, Chapter 10
    (London, U.K.: The Global Warming Policy Foundation, 2019),

Climate At A Glance is a Project of The Heartland Institute

© Copyright – The Heartland Institute