Global Warming's Threat to Bears Mounts as Arctic Sea Ice Declines
SAN FRANCISCO-- As world leaders convene in New York for the U.N. Climate Summit, the polar bear was named one of 10 American species our children may never see in a report released today by the Endangered Species Coalition. The report, titled Vanishing, highlights the decline of some of our country’s most treasured and formerly common species and the need for stronger action to save them.
The polar bear illustrates the heavy toll global warming is taking on our nation’s wildlife. Scientists predict that all of Alaska’s polar bears could be gone by 2050 if greenhouse gas-fueled global warming keeps melting their Arctic sea-ice habitat.
“It saddens me that my daughter may live in a world where polar bears have been driven to extinction because our leaders failed to take decisive action against carbon pollution,” said Shaye Wolf, the Center for Biological Diversity’s climate science director. “President Obama and other leaders need to move much faster to cut planet-warming emissions. If they don’t act quickly, our kids will inherit a dangerously unstable climate and a world without polar bears and so many other amazing animals.”
Polar bears depend on sea ice for hunting, raising their cubs and finding mates, but summer sea-ice extent and thickness have plummeted by half in recent decades because of global warming. Arctic summer sea ice is predicted to disappear almost entirely by mid-century and perhaps as early as 2020. Scientists have documented increasing incidence of drowning and starvation of Alaskan polar bears as they struggle to find food in increasingly iceless waters.
Polar bears were protected under the Endangered Species Act in 2008 specifically because of global warming in response to a scientific petition by the Center for Biological Diversity, but the government is moving slowly to give the bears the full protections of the Act. Because of a Center court challenge, polar bears will finally get a draft recovery plan this year with concrete steps to help them survive and recover.
As highlighted by today’s report, steep reductions in greenhouse gas pollution are critical for the survival of polar bears. Earlier this month the World Meteorological Association announced that the level of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere rose by a record rate in 2013. Today U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon is hosting a climate summit for world leaders in New York City to galvanize commitments to meaningful reductions in carbon pollution.
The report can be viewed and downloaded from the website vanishingwildlife.org.