Our climate is changing and as a result, critical ecosystems like the Arctic are causing detrimental impacts to wildlife. In fact, the Arctic is warming two times faster than anywhere else on Earth. Here, warmer temperatures lessen sea ice formation and this is bad news for the iconic polar bear which needs the sea ice to hunt for food and survive. Already listed as vulnerable on the IUCN Red List, polar bears use the ice as a means of hunting their main food source: seals.
As the Arctic Ocean became more ice-free during the summer in 2004 and 2005 breeding and survival declined.
No ice, no bears.
We have already started to see the repercussions of ice loss on polar bears with population declines and bear encroachments into human settlements. Just look at this video of a starving, dying polar bear taken by photographer Paul Nicklen.
Ice melting shapes more than just hunting grounds and habitat. With the ice gone, commercial ship activity will increase. Less ice will create greater and stronger currents that will not only move the remaining ice faster, but will spread deadly pollution and toxins.
Steven Kazlowski / WWF
The story of the polar bear, however, is about to get much, much worse.
The current administration is paving the way for oil and gas drilling by authorizing seismic airgun blasting to search for oil and gas deposits under the sea ice in the Arctic. Eight times louder than a jet engine, these disruptive and dangerous sound blasts will cause mother bears to flee the den, before her cubs are ready to be exposed to the extreme conditions of the Arctic, resulting in abandonment and even death.
Polar bears will be impacted, even killed, by this new threat. An analysis by Polar Bears International states, “the proposed seismic testing could disturb over 96% of undetected denning bears on the Coastal Plain. In addition, there is a 23% probability that heavy vehicles could drive right over one or more dens with fatal consequences for polar bear mothers and cubs.”
Celebrate #InternationalPolarBearDay and sign this petition from World Wildlife Fund to protect polar bears from seismic testing. The future of the polar bear might be a slippery, icy, slope, but it’s not too late for humankind to take action.