A Future in Jeopardy Polar Bears in a Warming World:
The polar bear is the iconic symbol of the Arctic. Its Latin name is Ursus maritimus, which means sea bear.
Polar bears live in the circumpolar north in the U.S. (Alaska), Canada, Russia, Greenland, and Norway. Approximately 2/3 of the world’s polar bears are thought to occur in Canada.
Scientists have identified 19 subpopulations of polar bears throughout the Arctic. The bears are not evenly distributed. Instead, they’re found where the sea ice is most productive for hunting seals.
Polar bears are perfectly adapted for life in the Arctic. They’re able to survive in a harsh environment where temperatures can plunge to -60°F.
Polar bears are most at home on the sea ice surface.
They use ice for … Hunting seals Locating mates They use ice for … Hunting seals Locating mates Breeding Maternal dens (sometimes)* Caring for their young
Polar bears feed almost exclusively on ringed and bearded seals which they catch from the sea ice surface.
There is no evidence polar bears will be able to survive on terrestrial foods or routinely catch marine mammals on land.
Wild polar bears are the most mobile of non-aquatic mammals. As with other species, scientists have used GPS collars to track their movements in order to gather information that could be used to more effectively manage them.
If polar bears are so perfectly adapted to the Arctic, why is their future in jeopardy?
Quite simply: Their habitat literally melts away in a warming world.
Changes to the polar bear’s sea ice habitat due to global warming are the single biggest threat to the bears. The rapid arctic warming is caused by a build-up of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere.
What do habitat changes mean for polar bears? Reduced access to prey Drop in body condition Lower cub survival rates Drowning Cannibalism Loss of access to denning areas Declining population size
Why is this happening? For the last million years, the Earth’s CO 2 levels and the global mean temperature held fairly steady. Since the industrial age, however, rising GHG levels have caused a steadily rising global mean temperature.
Rising temperatures = decline in extent and quality of sea ice. No sea ice = no polar bears.
Two things… Individual actions can make a difference. You can make individual actions multiply when you inspire others to join your activity, particularly when you create change on a community level and influence the marketplace through your buying habits. We must understand the carbon cost of doing business—and corporations, industry, and governments must embark on initiatives that will solve this problem.
Here are some things you can do: Recycle Turn off lights and electronics Set up a no idle zone at school Use reusable bags Walk or bicycle Plant trees Grow your own vegetables Drink water from a reusable container Be a conservationist
Here are some things you can do: Complete an energy audit of your home Be a smart consumer Replace old appliances with Energy Star Combine errands or carpool to drive less Weather-proof your home Use a programmable thermostat to save energy Limit the time your vehicle idles Vote for candidates who support action on climate change