The future does not look very bright for polar bears and climate change is to blame. Already these magnificent predators are suffering and declining in the southern portion of their range.
It all really boils down to a simple equation: sea ice + seals on the sea ice = healthy polar bear populations. Take away the ice and polar bears can't hunt seals and their populations decline.
The decline in sea ice due to climate change is happening without a doubt. Consider this bad news for polar bears from just this past year alone:
- Arctic sea ice extent for January 2011 was the lowest in the satellite record for that month.
- In February, the LA Times reported that a female polar bear swam for nine days -- nonstop -- across the Beaufort Sea, before reaching an ice floe. The swim cost the bear 22 percent of her weight and her 1 year old cub.
- In April, the National Snow and Ice Data Center (NSIDC) reported that this winter's maximum Arctic sea ice extent tied for the lowest on record.
- Summer analysis of sea ice in Hudson Bay showed that the Hudson Bay area had about 18 percent ice cover, compared with an average of 43 percent for that time of year.
- In July, a new study showed that melting sea ice in the Arctic is forcing polar bears to swim longer distances, causing many to lose their cubs.
- Last month, NSIDC announced that 2011 saw the second lowest Arctic ice levels since 1979 when satellite observations began.
- An online series from Nature this month points out that the Arctic is "warming roughly twice as fast as the rest of the globe" and facing a whole set of challenges from industrial development that it has never before experienced.
We need to take action now to stop this from happening. The clock is already ticking for polar bears.
Learn more about polar bears and help save them with the National Wildlife Federation: