by Zale Thoronka, age 11 (With permission of the Simpson Street Free Press)
Did you know scientists estimate that there are currently only 25,000 polar bears left in the world? And, due to global warming, some scientists have predicted a large portion of the polar bear population will be gone by 2100. The increasing temperatures are melting arctic sea ice, which affects the polar bears in various ways. They are not great swimmers, so they rely on the ice in order to hunt seals for food and also to find their mates.
The life of polar bears, also known as ice bears, includes periods of feasts during the winter and periods without much food, in the summer. Normally polar bears will eat up to 100 pounds of meat to provide the energy needed to last them through the summer months. With rising temperatures and increased ice melting and therefore a shorter hunting season, they now find themselves hungry and on the verge of starvation during the summer months. These periods with a lack of food have been lasting longer than usual due to global warming. "Ultimately, the bears need food and in order to have food, they need ice," said Péter K. Molnár, an assistant professor at the University of Toronto Scarborough. "But in order for them to have ice, we need to control climate change."
Molnár recently published a study in Nature that suggests unless humans stop burning fossil fuels, fracking, and other climate destroying behaviors, there may not be enough ice in the lower Arctic region by 2040 to support polar bears. These practices warm the earth and will start to cause the extinction of polar bears due to the loss of most of their food. Only polar bears in the coldest places will survive. When there is no ice left, polar bears will be extinct.
Molnár's research suggests that if we don't reduce our rate of greenhouse gas production by 2100, polar bears will likely go extinct. It is a larger problem than just the bears. If they die out, this will cause major problems in the food system. If there are no more polar bears, the population of seals could grow to the point where there would be no more fish. Which could mean no more sharks or whales or other animals which eat fish.
The story is grim, but their is still room for hope. Molnár says that by reducing activities which cause climate change, we can help the polar bears thrive again.
"Polar bears are not completely doomed if we change our behavior" Molnár said.
[Sources: CNN; Associated Press; News for Kids]