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Is Global Warming Driving Polar Bears Towards Extinction?
Researchers believe that by the end of the century polar bears could become nearly extinct as a result of shrinking sea ice in the Arctic.
The loss of sea ice, caused by climate change, could wipe out nearly all of the 19 subpopulations of polar bears, from the Beaufort Sea off Alaska to the Siberian Arctic. This loss of sea ice would force the animals onto land and away from their food supplies for longer periods of time. Prolonged fasting, and reduced nursing of cubs, would lead to a swift decline in reproduction and survival.
There are roughly 25,000 polar bears in the arctic. Their main habitat is sea ice where they hunt seals by waiting for them to surface through holes in the ice. In some areas, polar bears remain on the ice all year, but in others, the melting ice in spring and summer forces them ashore.
Not Enough Food
Arctic ice grows in the winter and melts and retreats in the spring and summer. However, due to the rapid warming of the region, ice in the summer has declined by around 13 per cent per decade when compared to the 1981 – 2010 average. In fact, some parts of the Arctic that previously had ice all year round now have ice-free periods during the summer while other parts are now free of ice for longer periods.
There isn’t enough food on land to sustain a polar bear population but bears can fast for months, surviving on fat stores that they have built up from their seal diet.
If greenhouse gas emissions continue to rise, the time that the polar bears will be forced to fast will exceed the time that they are capable of fasting and they will starve. Not only this, but the time they have to feed will be reduced too, making it harder for them to accumulate the energy they need to fast.
Researchers say that there is little chance that polar bears would persist anywhere else in the world if greenhouse gas emissions continue to rise as they are. Even if greenhouse gas emissions are reduced, they predict that we will still lose some of the polar bear population.
We Are All Responsible
This is just one example of a species already affected by climate change. If we don’t all make a conscious effort to reduce our carbon footprint and reduce the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, more and more species will suffer.
We can all play a part in preserving the planet and its habitats. Whether at home or in the office, if we all make an effort to be more energy conscious, reduce waste, recycle more and consume less plastic, we can make a difference.
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