The grave effects of human-caused climate change on these iconic animals are highlighted by a study published on Thursday that finds a connection between greenhouse gas emissions and the survival rate of polar bear babies.
“The Devastating Impact of Climate Change on Polar Bear Cubs: New Study Unveils the Link”
A new study published on Thursday found a direct correlation between greenhouse gas emissions and polar bear cub survival, providing insight on the terrible impact of human-caused climate change on these iconic animals. While scientists have long understood that sea ice loss constitutes a substantial threat to polar bears, assessing the exact impact of climate change on population decrease has proven difficult. However, this study, co-authored by Cecilia Bitz, an atmospheric sciences professor at the University of Washington, provides the first quantitative evidence of a link between greenhouse gas emissions and polar bear cub survival.
The study emphasizes the importance of greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide and methane, which are predominantly produced by the combustion of fossil fuels such as oil, gas, and coal. These gases have contributed to the warming of the Earth’s atmosphere and oceans, which has resulted in less Arctic sea ice. Polar bears rely heavily on sea ice for foraging, and when the ice melts, they are forced onto land, where they struggle to obtain food. Polar bears are forced to endure longer fasting periods as global temperatures increase and Arctic sea ice continues to disappear, putting their existence in jeopardy.
The study’s researchers calculated the association between polar bear fasting length and each gigatonne of cumulative greenhouse gas emissions. They warn that unless climate change mitigation measures are implemented, most polar bear populations may become extinct by the end of the century. The study’s findings have important policy implications as well, as they give a framework for assessing the impact of proposed actions on polar bears.
“From Policy to Action: Using Emissions Estimation to Drive Conservation Decisions for Polar Bears”
The work addresses a legal barrier under the Endangered Species Act, which is notable. Previously, the Act prohibited considering climate change when reviewing projects such as oil and gas extraction. This study, however, removes that barrier by estimating the impact of greenhouse gas emissions on polar bears. The study allows for a more comprehensive examination of the consequences of proposed changes on endangered species by focusing on emissions rather than air concentrations.
The study’s principal author and Polar Bear International representative, Steven Amstrup, considers this research to be the most important of his career. He underlines that it not only helps to explain recent population patterns, but it also provides a foundation for polar bear conservation through directing policy decisions. Furthermore, Amstrup believes that the methods used in this study can be applied to other species, such as sea turtles and coral reefs, allowing conservation efforts to benefit a larger range of endangered wildlife.
One of the co-authors, Cecilia Bitz, hopes that the United States will fulfill its legal commitment to conserve polar bears by decreasing greenhouse gas emissions. She pushes for investments in existing fossil fuel alternatives as well as the development of new emissions-reducing technology. The release of this study in the journal Science represents a big step forward in understanding the impact of climate change on polar bears and lays the groundwork for conservation efforts and policy-making.