07 September 2007

Global Climate Change: Polar Bears Could Be Gone by 2050?

This news just in: Two-thirds of the world's current polar bear population could be gone by midcentury if predictions of melting sea ice hold true, the U.S. Geological Survey reported on Friday.

The fate of polar bears might be even more imperiled than that estimate, because sea ice in the Arctic might be vanishing faster than the available computer models predict, the geological survey said in a report aimed at determining whether the arctic bear should be classified as a threatened species.

"Projected changes in future sea ice conditions, if realized, will result in loss of approximately two-thirds of the world's current polar bear population by the mid 21st century," the report's executive summary said.

"Because the observed trajectory of Arctic sea ice decline appears to be underestimated by currently available models, this assessment of future polar bear status may be conservative."

In January, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service proposed listing the polar bear as a threatened species under the Endangered Species Act, noting polar bears depended on sea ice as a platform to hunt seals. Projected sea ice loss due to global climate change was believed to jeopardize the bears' range. (Reuters)

Here's my son on the situation (he'll be 54 then; I won't say how old I'll be...yikes): "People aren't doing enough to stop this. This is not good." I agree. I can't imagine a world without polar bears.


Anonymous said...

Pure crap. Environmentalists are using a cute and cuddly creature to try and advance their regulation-creating agendas. Fact of the matter is that polar bears numbered around 5000 in the 1970s but number well over 25000 today. The only population that is declining is the western Hudson Bay population, other populations are stable or increasing. Sea ice is always variable. What is gone today will be back in the future. I agree that we need to get off of oil for our national security, but global warming is a hoax. However, I do believe the holocaust happened and the earth is round, so do not try and pigeonhole me as backwards. How big is Al Gore's house again?

The Green Skeptic said...

Not sure where you're getting your figures, dear Anonymous, but polar bear populations in the 1970s were estimated to be about 18,000, not 5,000. (According to some sources, the 5,000 estimate came from now discredited Soviet scientists.)

The current number is estimated to be between 22K-25K, not "well-over 25000 today."

18K-25K does represent an increase over the past two decades. Much of this increase is attributed to the US Marine Mammal Protection Act, which banned the trophy hunting of big bears.

Interested readers can have a look at the following, from CNN's SciTechBlog: http://tinyurl.com/6kg2hb

Sea ice is indeed variable; massive sea ice loss is not. And dramatic changes in sea ice will have an impact on polar bear populations. Polar bears need ice as a platform to hunt for seals, their main source of food.

U.S. Geological Survey scientists, studying affects of sea ice loss on polar bears from 2001 to 2005, concluded that melting Arctic ice is a critical threat to the bears' survival.

As the Arctic Ocean became more ice-free over more summer days in 2004 and 2005, polar bear breeding and survival declined below the point needed to maintain the population.

The population can withstand occasional bad-ice years, but not a steady diet of them.

Some climate studies project that summer Arctic ice may disappear by mid-century. If it does, the polar bear will follow soon after, the USGS scientists concluded, with two-thirds of polar bears disappearing throughout their entire range.

Thanks for taking the time to comment, whoever you are.