Polar Bears Could Be Extinct In 80 Years, Scientists Warn
Polar bears could be wiped out by the end of the century if we don’t take urgent action on climate change, researchers have warned.
The Arctic’s sea ice has been shrinking decade after decade at rate of around 13% since the late 1970s. For polar bears, seals, walruses, these areas provide a natural, essential habitat – one that keeps on melting, thanks to global warming.
Specifically, the bears also rely on the ice to hunt for seals. However, as the caps break up, the carnivores are forced to travel longer distances or even onto shore, where it becomes harder to feed their young.
Polar bears have since been listed as vulnerable for extinction by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN). Dr Peter Molnar of the University of Toronto in Ontario, Canada, has dubbed them the ‘poster child for climate change… polar bears are already sitting at the top of the world; if the ice goes, they have no place to go,’ BBC News reports.
A new, rather harrowing study published in Nature Climate Change estimated the timeline of the bears’ endurance in the coming decades, looking at the impact of declining sea ice versus their capability to survive.
Dr Steven Amstrup, a chief scientist of Polar Bears International who was also involved in the study, explained:
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.
While the study posits that barely any polar bear populations will be left by the turn of 2100, some groups may have already reached their limits in areas of the Arctic. It’s likely that several populations will vanish, regardless of even moderate progress on reducing greenhouse gas emissions.
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.
As Amstrup noted, efforts to fight climate change won’t just help polar bears – they ‘will benefit the rest of life on Earth, including ourselves’.
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