As I’m sure you’ve probably heard, we’re not doing so well when it comes to greenhouse gas emissions. Yet, suddenly the problem just became a touch more palpable, as global warming means goodbye to polar bears.
At the moment of writing, biologists are working with an estimate of 20 to 25 thousand polar bears remaining worldwide. That may seem like not such a small number, but when you consider that it encompass every single polar bear habitat in the world, than it begins to appear shockingly low.
Besides the above, there are also many alarming predictions which believe that our not-so-little white friend will be extinct by 2050, or maybe a few decades after that, if we’re lucky.
In this context, the U.S. is leading the efforts to save the disappearing polar bears, with a number of proposed courses of action and measures to be taken. It all started in 2008 with the including of the bears in the Endangered Species Act. It was the first species to be included with global warming being overtly specified as the leading cause for why it is endangered.
That same year, a research model was drafted so as to predict what changes will occur in the population of polar bears in the near future. In 2010, two years later, the model was updated to include the latest numbers in greenhouse gas emissions.
The results were sad, to say the least. The scientists created two scenarios: in the first, greenhouse emissions would level off and decline, and in the second they would increase (as they are currently doing); in both cases, the number of bears would show a dramatic decrease by mid-century. Current predictions see greenhouse gas emissions to peak in 2040.
Under these grim scenarios, the desperation of the situation has prompted actions on all fronts. An action plan already underway is being developed by Norway, Canada, Denmark and the Russian Federation. The US has joined this call for action with the Fish and Wildlife Service having announced last Thursday a plan for the salvation of polar bears (The Polar Bear Conservation Management Plan – CMP).
The agency says that the melting of their habitat is not the only problem polar bears face, but also the disappearance of their favorite prey – the ringed seals. This has prompted bears to search for food further and face unforeseen dangers.
The plan proposes the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions and of man-made air pollution, preventing the exposure of polar bears to oil spill contamination, and limiting human contact, which often results in conflicts.
The plan by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is more than welcome, and with the grim predictions in showcases, we can only be hopeful that progress will be made.
Image source: wikimedia.org