It is no secret that the sea ice in the Arctic has been shrinking. Since the 1970s, the loss has been about 13% per decade, which is significant, to say the least. We feel the impact of it from thousands of miles away, but for the animals living in the Arctic, it is as if their home is disappearing.
One of the animals that rely on the ice to hunt for seals is the polar bear. As the caps are breaking up, however, the bears need to travel further or perhaps even go on-shore to keep their young from starving.
The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) has listed the polar bear as vulnerable for extinction. According to a doctor from the University of Toronto in Ontario, Canada, Peter Molnar, the polar bear is now the poster child for climate change. According to a BBC News report, he said that “polar bears are already sitting at the top of the world; if the ice goes, they have no place to go.”
According to a new study published in Nature Climate Change, the bears may only have decades left in the wild. Considering the fact that sea ice impacts their ability to survive, the loss of the ice is devastating.
One of the chief scientists of Polar Bears International, Dr. Steven Amstrup, told BBC News: “What we’ve shown is that, first, we’ll lose the survival of cubs, so cubs will be born but the females won’t have enough body fat to produce milk to bring them along through the ice-free season. Any of us know that we can only go without food for so long… that’s a biological reality for all species.”
The study shows that there may be very little left to the polar bear population by 2100, some groups are already seeing the limits of their areas in the Arctic. Some populations are likely to vanish, even if greenhouse gas emissions are reduced substantially.
Amstrup added: “Showing how imminent the threat is for different polar bear populations is another reminder that we must act now to head off the worst of future problems faced by us all. The trajectory we’re on now is not a good one, but if society gets its act together, we have time to save polar bears.”
Fighting climate change will do more than help polar bears, the rest of life on earth will benefit, including humanity.
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