by Anshul Dash
According to a study, polar bears could be wiped out by the end of the century if action isn’t taken to combat climate change. As arctic ice continues to shrink, scientists claim that polar bears in that region have reached their survival limit. Polar bears rely on the ice to hunt for their main prey, seals. However, as the ice sheets continue to melt and give in, polar bears are forced to go long distances and stay on the shore, thus struggling to catch prey and feed their cubs.
Polar bears are now currently listed as vulnerable by the IUCN (International Union for Conservation of Nature), with climate change listed as a key factor in their decline. Nature Climate Change published a study that describes a timeline of how climate change will cause the polar bear population to shrink. The researchers were able to determine the current endurance level of polar bears based on the relationship between climate change rates and mortality rates. According to Polar Bears International lead scientist Steven Armstrup, “What we’ve shown is that, first, we’ll lose the survival of cubs, so cubs will be born but the females won’t have enough body fat to produce milk to bring them along through the ice-free season. Any of us know that we can only go without food for so long. That’s a biological reality for all species.”
In addition to calculating endurance level, the researchers also calculated when certain thresholds would be met in different regions of the Arctic. It is highly likely that almost all of the polar bear population will be wiped out by the end of the century due to high greenhouse gas emissions. The findings, however, show that few polar bear populations in the north could survive past 2100 since the effects of climate change there are less. Sea ice in the Arctic has been decreasing at a rate of 13% since the 1970s. That means that by 2100, there will be very little sea ice for polar bears to roam on. It is important to contribute to the fight against climate change to make sure that these magnificent animals do not go extinct.