Is the polar bear global warming's canary in a coalmine?

Author:Scheer, Roddy
Position::THIS WEEK
 
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The accelerating effects of global warming--which are rapidly melting Arctic sea ice--have forced scientists to conclude that polar bears will be extinct in the U.S. by 2050.

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"There is a definite link between changes in the sea ice and the welfare of polar bears," says U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) scientist Steven Amstrup, who helped coordinate the research. "As the sea ice goes, so goes the polar bear," he said, adding that 84 percent of the scientific variables affecting the polar bear's fate were tied to changes in sea ice.

Over the last two years, 350,000 square miles of Arctic sea ice has melted as a result of our warming climate. The National Snow and Ice Data Center reports that this year's reading--Arctic sea ice covering 1.7 million square miles--represents a new record low (the 2005 reading, at 2.05 million square miles, was the previous record low).

"This grim news about polar bears and sea ice decline is horrifying, but it is a call to action, not despair," said Kassie Siegel of the Arizona-based Center for Biological Diversity (CBD). "The good news is that there is still time to save polar bears. Our hope lies in a rapid response, including both deep and immediate carbon dioxide reductions and a full-court press on other greenhouse pollutants such as methane."

CBD is mobilizing sympathizers to tell Congress and the White House to grant polar bears the fullest protection...

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