Google Street View published a project today that lets you hang out with polar bears. I mean, not in real life, but there is this nice video:

If you want to get a sense of how much more fun it is to actually travel to Canada and see polar bears IRL than to look at Google Street View photos of polar bears, we recommend this PopSci feature that has a lot of reporting about polar bears and not all that much about the Google project. But there is this helpful bit about what Google is hoping to accomplish:

Reader support helps sustain our work. Donate today to keep our climate news free. All donations DOUBLED!

“This is the first Street View project that has really involved climate-change science,” [the project lead for Arctic Street View] tells me. “But even though I believe climate change is happening, I’m also someone who lets data and imagery speak for itself. I want to bring this up a year from now, five years from now, ten years from now, because I do believe it’ll look very different in ten years. And if [Polar Bears International] wants to take it to a completely different area in the future, that’s great. I feel like I’m an enabler for access to technology that could the change way they map an ecosystem.”

Which sounds great. But we’re not totally convinced this wasn’t just a corporate-sponsored junket that allowed a select few people to hang out with polar bears in exchange for telling the rest of us how great it is to pretend to hang out with polar bears. Not that we blame anyone for wanting to do that.

Grist thanks its sponsors. Become one.