Oslo, Norway – A new report on the fate of polar bears in a world of climate change predicts disaster for one of the world's most charismatic species, says WWF.
The report by the US Geological Survey predicts that changes in sea ice will result in the loss of about two-thirds of the world’s polar bear population by 2050.
Scientists estimate that there are 20,000–25,000 polar bears living in the Arctic, including Canada, the United States (Alaska), Russia, Norway (Svalbard) and Greenland (Denmark).
Many scientists characterise the report’s conclusions as conservative because even the best available models are believed to underestimate the actual decline in arctic sea ice.
“We now have official confirmation that the largest living land predator is going to go extinct in our lifetime,” said Dr Neil Hamilton, Director of the WWF Arctic Programme.
During a six-month period of intensive analysis of both existing and new data, the USGS team, consisting of US and Canadian researchers, documented the direct relationship between the presence of arctic sea ice and the survival and health of polar bears. Models used by the USGS team project a 42% loss of optimal polar bear habitat from the Polar Basin during summer, a vital hunting and breeding period, by mid-century.
Polar bears depend on sea ice as a platform to hunt seals, their primary food. But sea ice is decreasing throughout their arctic range due to climate change.
“The world is still discussing whether or not to take rapid action against climate change," added Dr Hamilton.
“Politicians are fiddling at the edges while the Arctic wilderness succumbs to global warming; but in the meantime, they are sending one of the world’s greatest species on its way to extinction.”
For further information:
Martin Hiller, Communications Manager
WWF Global Climate Change Programme
Tel: +41 79 347 2256