Polar bears will likely be wiped out almost everywhere but Canada by 2100
Sad news, Canada: Climate change continues to threaten polar bears, and a new study shows that the beautiful animals could be wiped out almost everywhere but Canada by 2100.
With polar bears relying on shrinking sea ice to hunt seals, it's a distinct possibility that many could starve to death within the next century, scientists reported in Nature Climate Change.
And if that news wasn't bad enough, scientists are predicting that many polar bears will begin to experience reproductive failure by as early as 2040, leading to extinction in certain areas.
Not the findings anyone wanted to see—a new U of T Scarborough study says we can expect the collapse of most polar bear populations by the end of the century if global warming continues at the current pace. https://t.co/bu2HFfzcu3 #UTSC #UofT #ClimateChange #GlobalWarming pic.twitter.com/qQsez3IIKR— University of Toronto Scarborough (@UTSC) July 20, 2020
Researchers examined how polar bears will fare under two different greenhouse gas emissions scenarios, and honestly, neither scenario is particularly encouraging.
In the first scenario, with "business-as-usual" emissions, polar bears will likely only remain in the Queen Elizabeth Islands — a cluster of islands in Canada's Arctic archipelago — by 2100.
Even if greenhouse gases are somewhat mitigated, the second scenario still found that the majority of polar bear populations in the Arctic will experience reproductive failure by 2080.
And it's not all good news for Canada, either. Even if polar bears in the Queen Elizabeth Islands survive, scientists predict that polar bears in Canada's southern Hudson Bay and Davis Strait are "very likely" to experience reproductive failure by 2040 if emissions aren't mitigated.
Most polar bear populations are predicted to collapse by the end of the century unless we drastically reduce greenhouse gas emissions.— UTSC Biology (@UtscBiology) July 20, 2020
Study led by @UTSCBiology and @eebtoronto's Prof. Péter Molnár.https://t.co/HrtrK2Mfz2
So how many polar bears are there currently? At the last count, scientists estimate that there are fewer than 26,000 polar bears left, scattered across 19 different populations in Canada, Norway, the Arctic and other cold climates.
The study looked at 13 of those populations.
And lead author of the study Péter Molnár, a biologist at the University of Toronto Scarborough, warns that the findings of the study are a conservative estimate of the grim reality that could happen if things don't improve.
"While our projections for the future of polar bears seem dire, the unfortunate thing is they might even be too optimistic," said Molnár, per the University of Toronto.
"For example, we assumed that polar bears will use their available body energy in optimal ways when fasting. If that isn't the case, the reality could be worse than our projections."
Fortunately, global carbon emissions are set to experience the biggest drop this year since World War II, so there may be some hope yet. Hang in there, polar bears.
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