By Amelia Lipcsei
As climate change continues to melt sea ice in the Arctic Ocean at unprecedented rates, polar bears are struggling to adapt to the harsh change in their environment. Each year, the sea ice melts earlier and forms later, continuously making it more challenging for pregnant female bears to reach land in autumn to den and return back to the ice in the spring to feed. Elongating the time period polar bears are required to fast increases their risk of death in the summer as it dangerously reduces their body weight and overall health. Mentions World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF), “Every week earlier that the ice breaks up in Hudson Bay, bears come ashore roughly 22 pounds lighter and in poorer condition.”
Furthermore, the rise in the Arctic Ocean’s temperature despairingly impacts polar bears main food source: seals. With the loss of sea ice, seals face difficulties in raising their young; seal pups often become separated from mothers prematurely, and the failure to build dens induces high mortality rates in pups. This drastic decline in the seal population prompts appalling conditions for polar bears. Unable to rely on their main food source, the bears face malnutrition, an extensive decline in health, and in extreme cases starvation.
A study conducted by researchers from the University of Toronto from Canada claimed that with the exponential rise in yearly temperatures, “severe cuts to the greenhouse gases are needed for the survival of living creatures in the icy cold regions.” Likewise, IUCN (International Union for Conservation of Nature) predicts that unless conservation efforts are improved, by 2100 polar bears may face a devastating global extinction.