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  • Writer's pictureJemma Page

Polar bears: the raw impact climate change is having on these majestic bears

Updated: May 31, 2023

A polar bear stranded on ice. An image that most likely pops into the minds of us all when

we are talking about the devastating impact that climate change is having on our planet.

These magnificent bears are in danger of having their normal world turned upside down due

Why is climate change a problem for polar bears?

Globally, we are experiencing hotter and drier summers as a result of global warming, but the impact of climate change is most visible in polar regions, where ice sheets and glaciers are melting at an alarming rate. Polar bears, infamously known as the ‘poster child’ of climate change, live in the Arctic, where they are feeling the effects of climate change first and worst.

Polar bears are the only bear species to be considered as a marine mammal, spending much of their lives near water and ice. Consequently, this makes them incredibly vulnerable to global warming, which is destroying the Arctic sea ice in which they depend on to hunt, mate and breed. They are classified as vulnerable on the International Union for the Conservation of Nature’s Red List, meaning they are facing a high risk of extinction in the wild, and this is largely due to climate change.

Although polar bears have shown some ability to adapt to climate change, such as foraging for food on land and swimming to catch their prey, scientists still predict that polar bear populations will decline as they become more food-stressed as sea ice vanishes. As a result of climate change, polar bear behaviours are changing, and they are being forced to spend more time on land in search of food, raising the likelihood of dangerous human-polar bear interactions.

The polar bear diet could also change, and they could start to eat the grass and other rare greens found in the Arctic to survive as their usual food sources become more difficult to hunt. This could cause problems for Arctic herbivores as they will no longer have a reliable food source and could vanish entirely from the ecosystem.

Why are polar bears so important?

Polar bears play a vital role in the functioning of our world and the species that inhabit it. As an apex predator, polar bears are known as a keystone species, keeping biological populations in balance, which is critical to a functioning ecosystem . When an animal group loses its natural predators, it can result in overpopulation, sickness, and mass die-offs.

If polar bears went extinct, the Arctic ecosystem would be thrown out of balance. Seal, walrus, and whale populations, as well as reindeer populations, would spiral out of control. Seal populations would increase as polar bears struggle to hunt them, affecting the availability of fish for both human consumption and other arctic wildlife consumption. Scavengers, such as the Arctic fox and snowy owl, would also be in trouble if polar bears disappeared, as they thrive on eating scraps from the large predators' food.

Healthy polar bears are a sign of a healthy ecosystem. If a keystone species is unhealthy, it is a sign that the entire ecosystem is in trouble. Therefore, the health of the ecosystem in the Arctic is indicative of what’s in store for the rest of the world .

Polar bears are the early victims of a global crisis that requires attention and action today. Polar bears and people share the same planet and, ultimately, the same fate. The choices we make today have the power to help polar bears and other endangered species. Although our everyday actions may feel insignificant due to the majority of us living so far away from polar bears, some of our actions are negatively impacting the planet and thus, polar bears. Every single human hand can help save polar bears, even if you live miles away from them. The single most important factor to conserve polar bears and their habitat is by reducing greenhouse gas emissions . It is therefore important that we as a community reduce greenhouse gas emissions in order to save the polar bear.

How we can help save these amazing bears:

Live a more eco-friendly lifestyle:

Living a more eco-friendly lifestyle involves walking, cycling, or using public transport instead of driving, as it can reduce greenhouse emissions. You can also reduce energy usage by lowering your heating, switching to energy-efficient electrical appliances, and turning off electric devices and switches when they are not in use. Washing your laundry with cold water or hanging things to dry instead of using a dryer are also great ways to reduce energy consumption.

Raise money for an environmental charity:

Several charities support the environment and polar bear conservation, such as World Wildlife Fund, Conservation International, and Polar Bears International. Consider raising money for them.

Best Polar Bear charities to donate to

  • Polar Bears International is the only charity dedicated solely to wild polar bear conservation. They work to protect polar bears through research, education, and advocacy.

  • Born Free Foundation works to protect all animals in the wild, including polar bears. They work to end the illegal wildlife trade, protect habitats, and educate the public about animal welfare.

  • Alaska Wilderness League works to protect the Arctic environment, including polar bears. They work to stop oil drilling and other development in the Arctic, and to protect wildlife habitat.

  • Defenders of Wildlife works to protect all wildlife, including polar bears. They work to pass laws that protect wildlife, and to stop the killing of wildlife for sport or profit.

  • World Wildlife Fund is a global conservation organisation that works to protect polar bears and other wildlife. They work to reduce climate change, protect habitats, and educate the public about the importance of conservation.

Reduce your consumption of animal products:

Eating fewer meat and dairy products and consuming more fruits and vegetables can significantly lower your environmental impact.

Reduce, Reuse, Recycle:

Recycling more and avoiding products with unnecessary packaging are great ways to reduce waste. Buying fewer things and shopping second-hand are also effective ways to contribute to the cause.

Spend your money consciously:

When purchasing products, choose companies that use resources responsibly and are committed to cutting their gas emissions and waste.

Speak up:

It's crucial to talk to your family and friends about climate change and encourage them to take action. Voting for politicians who support measures to reduce the impact of climate change is also essential


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