Cult of the Climate Change Polar Bear: Knut is Dead, Long Live Knut

20 Pages Posted: 7 Dec 2017

Date Written: December 6, 2017


Harvey et al (2017) evaluate public commentary on internet web diaries (blogs) about polar bear science as a proxy to measure climate change ‘denial,’ a term used to delegitimize dissenting views on Anthropogenic Global Warming (AGW) and climate change. Greenpeace has long employed the polar bear in its advocacy advertising for climate change action. The animal achieved cult status in 2005 when a polar bear cub nicknamed Knut, was rejected by its mother at the Berlin zoo. He was adopted and raised by a German zookeeper, to the delight of the public world-wide. Knut’s appearance on the world stage coincided with the release of the climate change movie “An Inconvenient Truth,” billed as “By far the most terrifying film you will ever see.” Knut’s rise to fame overshadowed the work of a National Academies Press report that questioned the validity of the radiative forcing/greenhouse gas theory of human-caused global warming. Knut died in public on March 19, 2011, drowning in the waters of his enclosure. This paper deconstructs Harvey et al (2017) and the framing of climate change in relation to polar bears and Knut, addressing influences in financial markets and the value of the internet public forum.

Keywords: Polar Bears, Advocacy, Communication, Contrarian, Global Warming, Skeptic, Denier, Social Media, Lewandowsky

Suggested Citation

Stirling, Michelle, Cult of the Climate Change Polar Bear: Knut is Dead, Long Live Knut (December 6, 2017). Available at SSRN: or

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