Help the Polar Bear: Reduce Greenhouse Gases and Reclassify to Endangered
A new study published in Nature indicates that if we reduce greenhouse gas emissions, polar bears have a better chance of avoiding extinction.
Previous studies from the USGS, which examined the effect “business as usual” carbon emissions would have on Arctic sea ice and polar bear population levels, painted a pretty grim picture for the polar bear.
If we continue on our current path (of carbon emissions), based upon projected changes in Arctic sea ice conditions, U.S. Geological Survey studies indicate that the polar bear will lose approximately 2/3 of its world-wide population by the mid 21st century, with severe population declines in the Southern Beaufort Sea (northern Alaska).
This new study doesn’t change the conclusion of the previous work, but does offers hope for the polar bear. If we reduce greenhouse gas emissions, the study shows that less Arctic sea ice will be lost and polar bear populations have a better chance at survival.
This study highlights the importance of reducing greenhouse gas emissions, and the opportunity that Congress lost when it failed to pass comprehensive greenhouse gas legislation.
Right now, as the result of a long court battle, the U.S. government is deciding whether to reclassify the polar bear from “threatened” to “endangered” status under the Endangered Species Act. This Act declares that a species is endangered if it could die-out through all or a significant portion of its range.
Based upon the best science we have, it is clear the polar bear should be reclassified as endangered.
Giving polar bears “endangered” status is important because it will require greater scrutiny of proposed actions, such as oil and gas development, to ensure that there is no harm to polar bears if such activities are allowed in polar bear habitat.
Reclassifying the polar bear as endangered isn’t the magic solution that will solve all of the polar bear’s problems, given the need to make significant reductions in greenhouse gases , but it will ensure that other potential disturbances to polar bears are not allowed (or are modified) to avoid further impacts to polar bears.
National Wildlife Federation believes that listing the polar bear as endangered is an important step.
Speak up for Polar Bears!
To learn more about the polar bear and global warming visit these NWF links: