By Clive Tesar
A new paper published in Nature magazine suggests that reductions in greenhouse gases would be effective in saving polar bear populations from the worst effects of climate change. The report says that the bears’ arctic sea ice habitat is most likely to decline in a linear fashion, showing a direct correlation between greenhouse gas levels, higher temperatures, and ice melting.
Some previous studies had suggested that there might be a tipping point in the arctic sea ice, leading it to suddenly disappear once a certain level of greenhouse gases and temperature rise had been reached. One of the report authors, Steve Amstrup of Polar Bears International says the new conclusion means there is still hope for polar bears.
“The absence of sea-ice tipping points indicates that saving polar bears is all about temperature. By minimising greenhouse-gas forced temperature rise, we will retain more sea ice. The more sea-ice habitat we retain, the more polar bears will survive.”
Learn more in this short video interview with Steve Amstrup of Polar Bears International:
WWF has partnered with Polar Bears International for the past few years to help in public education on the link between declining sea ice and the effects on polar bears.
“This finding is important not just for polar bears, but also for other ice-dependent animals including some seal species, walruses and narwhal”, says Geoff York, WWF’s arctic species expert. “The sea ice is directly connected to the health of the whole ecosystem, so whatever we can save is valuable, for the sake of the ecosystems, and the people who depend on them.”
The WWF report “Arctic Climate Feedbacks: Global Implications” also clearly shows that maintenance of arctic sea ice is globally significant in helping avoid severe climate impacts around the world.