We are driving polar bears extinct—but these 5 groups are fighting to save them

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Scientists are sounding the alarm as wildlife lovers face one of their biggest fears: polar bears going extinct. Scientists are blaming the climate crisis and say it could happen by 2100.

A study published Monday in the journal Nature Climate Change describes how critical sea ice is to polar bears’ survival. Sea ice loss is happening at a rate polar bears cannot keep up with. The melting of sea ice is forcing the species onto land, prolonging fasting periods, and declining reproduction rates.

“You need the sea ice to capture your food,” Peter K. Molnar, lead author of the study and a researcher at the University of Toronto Scarborough said, according to The New York Times. “There’s not enough food on land to sustain a polar bear population.”

Bears can fast for months after a season of consuming built up fat from their seal diet. The problem is, sea ice loss is causing a prolonged fasting period, therefore starvation risks increase.

“There is very little chance that polar bears would persist anywhere in the world, Dr. Molnar said. “Except perhaps in the very high Arctic in one small subpopulation.”

Dr. Molnar added that even if global emissions were reduced, “we still are unfortunately [still] going to lose some.” Polar bears in the southernmost populations are at the highest risk.

Anyone can participate in climate action that will help the imperiled species.

Climate action is proven to mitigate the worst implications of the climate crisis, therefore humans can work together to help stop polar bears extinction.

This is the first time scientists have predicted exactly when nearly all polar bears will become extinct, Polar Bears International (PBI) said in a press release Monday. “Previously, we knew that polar bears would ultimately disappear unless we halt greenhouse gas rise. But knowing when they will begin to disappear in different areas is critical for informing management and policy—and inspiring action,” Dr. Steven Amstrup, who conceived the project and is a co-author on the study said.

“Polar bears have long been considered messengers of the climate change symptoms that will impact all life, including humans,” Dr. Amstrup said. “We know that floods, droughts, and wildfires will become more frequent and severe as the world continues to warm, but timelines for such events are hard to predict.   The coronavirus pandemic is a reminder of how vital it is for our governments to take the actions needed, even when the timeline of the threat feels uncertain. Showing how imminent the threat is for different polar bear populations is another reminder that we must act now to head off the worst of future problems faced by us all.”

Many people are wondering how they can save polar bears from imminent extinction. Front Page Live has gathered a list of conservation publications and nonprofits that have resources for saving the species.

 

Polar Bears International serves as a hub for scientists and educators who strive to save polar bears.

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PBI believes everyone can help save polar bears. As they describe, “change can’t happen overnight, and it won’t happen without support from around the world.”

They break down the best ways for people to take action based on their job, passion, or network.

PBI recommends that:

  • Teachers engage students and coworkers to make a change.
  • Community members leverage their buying power and networks.
  • Small or medium business owners be a platform for change within communities.
  • Students make a difference by becoming a leader at school.
  • Scientists, researchers, zoos, or aquariums partner with them on conservation.

Anyone can visit the PBI site to find out more information on how to get involved.

The World Wildlife Fund advocates that governments recognize and mitigate the effects of the climate crisis on polar bears.

The World Wildlife Fund (WWF) fights for changes in policy to stave off the chances of polar bears going extinct.

WWF recommends that people sign petitions, send messages to elected officials, call local representatives, and act as a voice for the planet. In doing so, one can “help create and support policies that recognize and respect the importance of nature,” as WWF says.

Anyone can sign their current petition which is a pledge to commit to the following:

Reducing my carbon footprint by monitoring the electricity I use and switching to clean energy options where available.

Improving my daily commute to work or school by walking, riding my bike, carpooling, or using public transportation. This reduces our fossil fuel use per person and helps us all become more energy efficient.

Reducing the food waste in my home from its current levels and only purchasing what I need—knowing that I’ll also save money.

Buying products that help protect forests like those with the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) label, or seafood that comes from sustainable fishing practices like that with the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) label. And, when possible, looking for products that use sustainable palm oil and have the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSP) label.

Natural Resources Defense Council is fighting to raise awareness on polar bears’ demise and to ban the trade of their body parts.

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The Natural Resources Defence Council (NRDC) is fighting to safeguard wild animals like polar bears from going extinct. Their focus is on the earth, its people, its plants and animals, and the natural systems.

NRDC’s work includes more than three million members and online activists. They combine the expertise of some global 700 scientists, lawyers, and policy advocates to ensure the rights to air, water, and the wild.

Over the years they have worked to ban the trade of polar bear body parts. In addition, they are working to secure permanent protections for the species.

They report on how climate change is only one of the factors rising risks for polar bears going extinct.

“It’s not just climate change that’s killing this iconic endangered species. Hunting is on the rise, too,” Alexandra Zissu wrote for NRDC in 2015.

Hunting polar bears is regulated at the international level through treaties and agreements. It happens legally and illegally. Hunting provides food for Native people of the north and is rooted in their traditions, however, Canada allows non-natives to hunt.

Polar bears were severely over-hunted in some areas over the past 50 years, therefore, welcoming the need for protection. Trophy hunters began utilizing light aircraft and large motorized vessels to catch polar bears in large numbers, according to PBI. Natives also began killing the species at increasing rates. New technologies such as high-powered rifles and snowmobiles, made hunting easier. International agreements banned aerial and ship-based trophy hunting in the mid 1970s. Advocates like those at NRDC continue to work today to ban the trophy hunting of polar bears.

More recently, NRDC has reported on the links of the KeystoneXL pipeline project on wildlife and polar bears going extinct.

The proposed pipeline would carry 830 million barrels of tar sands oil per day from Canada to oil refineries on the Gulf Coast. In addition to threatening water, wildlife, and public health along its route, the fossil fuel infrastructure would also lock in more climate-devastating carbon pollution.

 

The Center for Biological Diversity is leading the charge in helping to stop species extinction.

The Center for Biological Diversity is fighting to stop bolar bears extinction.

Here’s a detailed timeline of their work:

We wrote the 2005 scientific petition calling for the bear’s protection under the Endangered Species Act, and we filed suit twice with our partners to force the administration to take action on that petition. In May 2008, our work paid off when the bear was finally listed as threatened under the Act. In 2010, our work spurred the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to protect 120 million acres of the species’ habitat, the largest critical habitat designation in Endangered Species Act history. Big Oil and the state of Alaska brought a suit challenging the polar bear’s critical habitat decision — forcing the Fish and Wildlife Service to rethink its landmark designation — but in February 2016 the bear won back its habitat protections in a momentous victory. The U.S. Supreme Court, in May 2017, refused to hear a challenge to the critical habitat designation, preserving the polar bear’s 120 million protected acres.

Today, drilling in the Alaskan Arctic is one of the biggest contributors to polar bears’ demise. It threatens the entire Arctic ecosystem.

As the Center points out, polar bears still do not have complete federal protection. The Center’s work has helped the polar bear keep its protected status so far. They are still working to win the highest polar bear protections available to “save this majestic bear from the deadly jaws of oil exploration and catastrophic climate change.” They have managed to help uphold protections under the Endangered Species Act so far and do not appear to stop the fight any time soon.

 

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