Home Ice bergs Scientists predict the year polar bears will disappear from this part of the world

Scientists predict the year polar bears will disappear from this part of the world

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The year 2100 It may seem distant and hazy, but scientists say it’s easier than ever to imagine the grim future that lies ahead if we don’t act to end the climate crisis.

Human activity accelerates extinctions. Climate change specifically endangers about one in five animals on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species, increasing the likelihood of them going extinct.

And according to recent research, some ice-dependent animals, like the polar bear, are even more vulnerable than previously thought.

The study links the disappearance of the animal by 2100 in arctic regions and the complete melting of summer ice in a scenario of high greenhouse gas emissions, making survival of bears almost impossible. polar dependent on ice by the end of the century.

“If the year-round ice disappears, entire ice-dependent ecosystems will collapse and something new will begin,” said Robert Newton, research co-author and principal investigator at the Lamont Earth Observatory. Doherty of Columbia University. in a report.

This discovery was published in September in the journal The future of the Earth.

How important is arctic ice?

We all know the images of vast icebergs floating in the Arctic Sea, but this pack ice is not only beautiful, it is essential to all life on Earth.

Arctic sea ice reflects sunlight away from the Earth’s surface, keeping temperatures cool. But when it melts in summer, the Arctic oceans absorb sunlight instead, causing the oceans to warm and temperatures to rise.

Sea ice is thinnest in September, but the ice begins to thicken again as the winter months approach.

In parts of the Arctic, such as the “last ice zone” – a large area north of Canada and Greenland – sea ice has always thrived year round instead of melting in the summer, providing a vital habitat for ice-dependent animals such as seals and polar bears.

However, summer ice is in decline. A report released by NASA in September found that the 2021 summer ice is the 12th lowest in the satellite record.

Why is Arctic summer ice melting?

Global warming could clear much of the Arctic sea ice by the end of the century, researchers warn. Getty

A 2018 study suggests that if we put an additional 800 gigatonnes of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, it’s likely that summer sea ice will eventually disappear from the Arctic during the months of August and September.

Another report from 2018 suggests that to dramatically reduce the likelihood that the Arctic Ocean will be ice-free – to less than five percent – we need to keep future total carbon dioxide emissions below 500 gigatons. Humans emitted 9.3 gigatonnes of carbon dioxide alone in 2020, although researchers suggest it was likely below normal due to a global pandemic restricting production and manufacturing.

Recent research published in The future of the Earth goes even further, arguing that the Arctic sea ice could disappear completely by 2100 if we do not curb global warming.

Specifically, the researchers are focusing on a region of the Arctic known as the “last ice zone,” an area in northern Canada and Greenland where summer sea ice is expected to last the longest in the face of global warming.

Scientists are examining the impact of two global warming scenarios on the Arctic Sea:

  • Low warming below 2 degrees Celsius
  • Strong warming above 2 degrees Celsius

(According to a report released by the United Nations in August, we are on the path to higher warming.)

The two scenarios are not perfect for the melting arctic ice, as ice levels thin considerably by the 2050s. But in the lower warming scenario, the ice basins stabilize in the latter part of the world. 21st century, ice levels in the 2090s resembling levels in the 2050s.

In the higher warming scenario, the summer ice melt will completely disappear by 2100.

This melting summer arctic ice is not only a problem for humans, like the local indigenous groups who depend on sea ice for hunting, but also for animals like polar bears and seals, on which their survival depends. keeping the ice intact.

How do polar bears survive in the Arctic?

Arctic sea ice is crucial for polar bears, but it is melting more and more.Getty

Arctic summer ice is essential for supporting large mammals, such as seals and polar bears, which need year-round ice cover to maintain their way of life.

The researchers write: “Ringed seals and polar bears, for example, have relied on their dens in the surface of ridged, wavy sea ice to stay roughly in one place. “

According to the National Wildlife Foundation, polar bears are particularly dependent on permanent sea ice to hunt seals, their main source of food.

Due to human threats ranging from global warming to oil and gas drilling, this habitat and food sources are threatened. The IUCN Red List notes that the polar bear is vulnerable – the last step before it officially becomes endangered.

It is not known exactly how many polar bears remain in the wild, although a 2018 study estimated that there were just over 23,000 polar bears in the world.

While some animals are able to adapt to a changing climate, it is less certain whether the polar bear can or cannot.

In a study published in April of this year, researchers found that polar bears evolved to consume a soft diet of fat and meat and are less able to consume harder foods. It makes it difficult to live elsewhere.

There is a chance that they can survive, for a while, by feeding. But their highly specialized bodies probably mean they don’t have enough time to evolve: Like Neanderthals, their genetic inheritance can most likely be secured by mating with other types of bears.

How to save the Arctic?

Can we save the arctic ice from melting and preserve the polar bears? Scientists say there is still hope.Getty

We must reduce our greenhouse gas emissions immediately if we are to save the summer ice in the Arctic and preserve polar bear habitat.

As the The future of the earth the researchers point out that there is a big difference between the ice melt trajectories in a low warming scenario versus a warming scenario above 2 degrees Celsius. They suggest that it may still be possible for sea ice to recover if “the global warming trend reverses”, thereby saving ice-dependent creatures like the polar bear.

Their results are consistent with other recent studies, which suggest that we can reduce the likelihood of Arctic sea ice disappearing by 70% if we prevent global temperatures from rising more than 1.5 degrees Celsius above levels. pre-industrial.

We can also take steps to protect these areas from pollutants such as oil and gas drilling, which also pose a threat to sea ice. In 2019, the Canadian government created the Tuvaijuittuq Marine Protected Area, which protects a third of the LIA from oil and gas development while allowing local Indigenous groups to hunt for needed resources in the area.

But researchers argue it’s not up to one government to protect this vital region, especially as arctic ice helps moderate temperatures around the world.

“Obviously, governance structures to preserve, and hopefully one day restore, sea ice ecologies must extend to international cooperation …”, the researchers conclude.