FAKE NEWS: Nat Geo Retracts Unscientific Message in Viral Climate Change Video
Last December, National Geographic published a video of a starving, emaciated polar bear struggling to cling to life. The caption: "This is what climate change looks like." Eight months later, the magazine is issuing a retraction, while still clinging to the narrative that skeptics are "deniers."
In an article for the August 2018 edition of the magazine, photographer Cristina Mittermeier admitted that neither she nor anyone else could clearly pinpoint "climate change" as the reason why this particular polar bear was on the brink of death.
"I can't say that this bear was starving because of climate change," Mittermeier admitted, eight months after the video went viral. The video, "Heart-Wrenching Video: Starving Polar Bear on Iceless Land," became National Geographic's most watched video ever, and its opening text declared, "This is what climate change looks like."
Even in admitting that the basic message of the video was false, Mittermeier insisted that climate change is man-made and a direct threat to life.
"Climate change kills slowly and by proxy: through fire, drought, cold, and starvation. The connection between an individual animal's death and climate change is rarely clear — even when an animal is as emaciated as this polar bear," the photographer began in her retraction article.
While Mittermeier admitted that "National Geographic went too far with the caption," she oddly blamed audiences who "took it too literally."
"We had sent a 'gut-wrenching' image out into the world. We probably shouldn't have been surprised that people didn't pick up on the nuances we tried to send with it," the photographer wrote. She suggested that audiences were responsible for reading too much into the video.
She referenced an original Instagram post from her coworker Paul Nicklen. Nicklen wrote about this "soul-crushing scene" showing "what starvation looks like." He went on to predict the extinction of polar bears, noting that "if the Earth continues to warm, we will lose bears and entire polar ecosystems." Then he insisted, "We must reduce our carbon footprint, eat the right food, stop cutting down our forests, and begin putting the Earth—our home—first."
There seems little "nuance" even in Nicklen's first post. He clearly declared that this polar bear's death is related to climate change, and that human beings are causing climate change.
Even in Mittermeier's own article, the photographer laments "there were those who are still bent on maintaining the dangerous status quo by denying the existence of climate change." This is slightly veiled "climate denier" language.
No one denies that the climate is changing, and some years it gets warmer. This can be tragic for polar bears, but the science is not clear that human beings are responsible for this climate change. When Mittermeier attacks people for "denying the existence of climate change," she is attacking people for refusing to jump to the conclusion that human beings are the cause behind this change.