Charles Monnett Wildlife Biologist Suspended – Scientific Misconduct? Jim Inhofe Investigates Polar Bear Doomers

Charles Monnett Government Wildlife Biologist for the U.S. Department of Interior has been suspended pending review of his 2004 report of drowned polar bears in the Artic. Monnett’s “research” was cutting edge for Al Gore’s Inconvenient Truth where Gore quoted Monnett. The second part of this story is Senator James Inhofe (R-OK) received a letter from Department of Interior Inspector General Mary Kendall indicating there may have been “scientific misconduct involved in Monnett’s report.

Watts Up With That has the transcript of the Inspector General’s interview with Monnett concerning his “peer reviewed” work, and points out that Monnett has a hard time keeping his information straight. Here’s the rest of the story:

Acting Department of Interior Inspector General, Mary Kendall, intimated to Senator James Inhofe that something may be amiss in Monnett’s claim that he saw “four drowned polar bears.” Insiders called the investigation it a “witch hunt” to discredit Monnett, but the March 2010 letter Inhofe received from Kendall, indicates otherwise – not only was it not a witch hunt, but it was someone inside Interior that rang the bell. (Monnett’s ‘drowned polar bear’ finding at end of article).

U.S. Senate Environment and Public Works:

“In March 2010, the OIG received credible allegations from a seasoned, career [Department of the Interior] employee, that acts of scientific misconduct may have been committed by one or more DOI employees,” says the letter to Senator Inhofe, which is signed by Mary Kendall, acting inspector general for the Department of the Interior.

This means the original complaint apparently did not originate from an outside interest group trying to discredit climate change research or influence government decisions about Artic drilling, as some critics seem to have assumed.


Inhofe, the ranking member of the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works, wrote a letter to the Office of Inspector General on Aug. 16 requesting information about the Monnett investigation, saying that Monnett’s article had been important to the government’s decision to list the polar bear as a threatened species.

The Office of Inspector General typically does not comment on ongoing investigations, but the letter said in this case officials had decided to release background information because the investigation has been “subject to much public speculation” and the department hopes to “quell speculation and assure interested parties of the OIG’s objectivity, professionalism, and independence in investigating this matter.”

Alaska Dispatch, July 29, 2011 Lost Interview:

In July 2007, I sat down with wildlife biologist Charles Monnett and a spokesperson for the then-Minerals Management Service, the federal regulator of offshore oil development. Monnett — who is now in trouble with MMS’ successor, the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Regulation and Enforcement — had led the team of federal scientists who had spotted apparently dead polar bears floating in the Arctic Ocean in fall 2004, the causalities, some would later argue, of a warming climate. Or perhaps just a brutal storm.

That revelation, which was published in a journal at the time, galvanized environmentalists, who had long been saying the Arctic was melting. There was no ice for the bears, and now it seemed they had to swim farther than ever before. That was the implication of Monnett’s and his colleagues’ work at MMS….

This is part of Monnett’s story from the Alaska Dispatch linked above:

The Beaufort was so flat you could see the reflection of the airplane. In early September, we saw bears swimming. We’re flying along, with this remarkable weather. … They look so comfortable in the water when you see them. We were open to the idea that they probably could survive, they can swim a long distance. … We then started seeing all these bears swimming around the barrier islands, and a fair number offshore. …

We are up there looking at whales, and at the same time looking at polar bears. The bears are just white objects. When there is no ice out there, it could be a beluga or a polar bear. When it’s in close to shore, chances are it’s a polar bear. They drift along on their belly like a dog. … The difference that year was we were seeing a lot of bears. We moved over to another area to survey.

There was a storm that shut us down. We went back on our next rotation a couple weeks later and saw a white object in the water that looked weird and realized it was a drowned bear.

We saw another one on another flight. Another one on another flight. And over a period of several days — week — there’s scattered (dead) bears. A couple were pretty close to Kaktovik, another one was pretty far out. And we saw one that was really bloated. You could see it for miles. … We took a couple photos, but they were unrecognizable. …

These kinds of things you don’t know the significance until later.

What is Al Gore thinking these day, I wonder. Been there, done that. This gives a clue. Here is an interesting look at what the U.S. Senate knew about the demise of the polar bear population in June 2008.

Al Gore’s Polar Bear (video) Courtesy of Watts Up With That

Posted by Maggie @ Maggie’s Notebook

  • Rob Dekker

    Every day it seems scientific evidence emerges that global warming is underestimated, and that politics are twisting what we hear in the media.

    Take the case of Charles Monnett of the US Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Regulation and Enforcement. Monnett was interrogated by criminal investigators of the Inspector General, suspended by the DOI and stripped of his COR status, and Sen Inhofe (known for issuing criminal investigations of scientists that oppose his views) took the opportunity to take some political advantage of the IG investigation.

    Fellow CORs have filed requests to be trained on interpretation of the DOI aquisition manual, since they believe Monnett acted exactly as the Department of Interior tells CORs to act. And note that Monnett has not been officially charged with any wrongdoing at all.

    Monnett’s only crime was that he happened to be the first scientist documenting that polar bears can drown when ice recedes further and further from the coast. Something that has been confirmed many times since Monnett wrote his observational note in the peer-reviewed journal Polar Biology.

    And if there is any doubt in anyone’s mind that Monnett was correct when he mentioned that polar bears would face inceased risks of drowning due to receding sea ice, please check the distance they need to swim from sea ice to Alaskan coast now, versus 1980 (or 1990 or 2000), on Cryosphere Today :

    Note : Alaska is situated at the top in this image.
    1980 distance to sea ice boundary : some 50 km.
    2011 distance to sea ice boundary : about 700 km.

    Incidentally, Monnett’s interrogation by the DOI, and suspension of Monnett’s employer (the DOI) comes exactly at the time that the DOI signs the go-ahead of exploratory drilling in the Arctic under Chukchi lease sale 193, a $ 2.6 billion lease-sale which has been held-up in court for years because of questions on the environmental impact of drilling in the Arctic. Exactly the sort of environmental impact studies that Monnett was managing as a COR. And interestingly enough, Monnett’s interrogation by criminal investigators seems to be allowed under the new ‘scientific integrity’ rules set by the head of the DOI (Salazar) himself.

    Makes one wonder how far up the s..t tree this dirty game of “dismissing an Arctic scientist and spinning the story” originated.