According to a new study published in the Nature Climate Change journal, polar bears could be extinct by 2100 due to climatic changes that are driving the loss of sea ice. This potentially disastrous consequence of the planet’s warming temperatures could wipe out major subpopulations of polar bears living across Earth’s coldest snow beds. It is a direct result of human intervention in the environment, whether it’s pollution, degradation or climatic change. In a normal evolutionary time, extinction would take about 10,000 years. However, they are now occurring every century.
The loss of sea ice results in polar bears fasting for longer durations because they’re dependent on the frozen surfaces to hunt their main food source – seals. The study’s authors further added that excessive emissions of greenhouse gases could result in the loss of ice by the end of this century; outlasting the ability of bears’ fasting and mother’s nursing their cubs. Even if we managed to moderate these emissions, the author suggests that bear populations at the South Pole are most likely to be lost.
One of the largest types of bears, and about 25,000 of them on the planet, polar bears weigh approximately 1,600 pounds, meaning – they require a lot of food for survival. The lead author of this study, Peter Molnar, says that there isn’t enough food on land for their survival.
Due to the melting of Arctic Sea ice, the study suggests that by 2040, many sub-populations will be facing reproductive failure and starvation, a majority of them by 2080, worsening with each passing day. We’ve about 26,000 polar bears in the Arctic region, further divided into 19 sub-populations. Climate change is warming up this region faster than any place on Earth, with the ice melting 14% per decade.
During the summer months, the ice breaks up sooner, compelling bears to burn all their stored fats and energy for walking or swimming long distances in search of their prey. Not only do they lose their muscles, but also risk their chances of finding their meal, which can ultimately lead to a downward spiral. Increased swimming could reduce reproduction rates, smaller polar bears, and risk of death.
Its funny how until a while ago, extinction meant animals being hunted excessively for their skin, fur etc., and it is today we have a warning from our friends at the coldest regions of this planet, warning that they may or may not make it through this century, simply because we couldn’t keep a hold on our greenhouse gas emissions.