According to a report used by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in its programs to protect polar bears and their habitat, about two-thirds of polar bears may face extinction by 2050. By 2050, the entire sea ice is also expected to disappear thus leaving bears without their natural habitat and forcing them to survive inland.
But going inland is not a solution. Polar bears may survive in wintertime but during summer the high temperatures cannot benefit them at all. Additionally, food on dry land is scarce, so they may start looking for it where humans live leading to further decimation of the polar bear population in the Arctic.
Rebecca Noblin at the Center for Biological Diversity explained that the only long-term solution that may save the bears is curbing greenhouse gas emissions. Global warming, Ms. Noblin argues, is silently destroying the animals’ natural habitat at an alarming rate.
On the other hand, past studies had shown that even if we do manage to cut the emissions down polar bear populations would still dwindle.
Mike Runge from the U.S. Geological Survey also believes that tackling global warming may save polar bears on the long run.
“Addressing sea ice loss will require global policy solutions to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and likely be years in the making,”
He also explained that there will be a several-decade lag between the moment we start to curb emissions and the moment when the results of our efforts would pay off. That’s because carbon emissions usually accumulate in time and their effects are gradual.
The FWS currently tries to relocate the endangered polar bears to other habitats. But that is just a short-term solution, the group explained. Sea ice habitat is not the only one affected by the global meltdown. Barrier islands and terrestrial habitats are also about to disappear.
The recent report urged governments to adopt urgent measures of curbing greenhouse gas emissions and keeping them under 3.5 W/ m2. By doing that along with well-planned relocation programs of polar bears may save the species from extinction.
Worldwide, there are up to 25,000 polar bears, but nearly 80 percent of populations currently live in Canada. The U.S already listed the animals as “threatened” under the Endangered Species Act. But the rest of the countries consider them to be only “vulnerable.”
The report also warns against other threats that polar bears currently face including pollution from oil and gas exploration.
Image Source: The Week