Arctic Warming puts polar bears at risk


Three months before world leaders meet in Johannesburg, South Africa, to discuss the environment and sustainable development, a study from the World Wildlife Federation is offering more evidence that global warming is a major threat to polar bears.

The report, called Polar Bears at Risk, says climate change is the “number one long-term threat” to the world’s 22,000 polar bears, 60 per cent of which live in Canada.

The report found evidence that rising Arctic temperatures and reduced sea ice are already affecting polar bears around Hudson Bay, causing them to become skinnier and less sturdy.

Studies show that for every week early the ice breaks up, bears are 10 kilograms lighter. If current trends continue, by 2050 the summer ice-free season in Hudson Bay could increase by 12 weeks.

Among female bears, a lower body weight reduces lactation, which leads to higher mortality among their cubs.

“It is likely that populations of polar bears dividing their time between land and sea will be severely reduced and local extinctions may occur as greenhouse gas emissions continue to rise and sea ice melts,” according to the study, written by scientists with the WWF International Arctic Program in Oslo, Norway.

Although the study focuses on polar bears, the WWF wants it to draw attention to the need for Canada and other countries to ratify the Kyoto Accord on climate change.

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