Climate change: Polar bear experts warn of irreversible ice loss – ‘Impossible to survive’

Climate change and the effects of global warming have reduced the Arctic sea ice minimum to the second-lowest level on record. The drastic loss of ice has reduced natural habitats for polar wildlife and is contributing to global sea levels rising. Satellite scans of the Arctic suggest the minimum plummeted to its lowest on September 18. Some of the ice will return through autumn and winter but late-season melts and winds between now and October could further have an impact on the region.

The conservation group Polar Bears International (PBI) told inaction over climate change will wipe out entire communities of wild polar bears.

The news comes after the United Nation’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) warned in its latest report climate change will spare no one.

Dr Steven Armstrup, PBI’s chief scientist, said: “The latest IPCC report makes it clear that policy leaders and monied interests can no longer crank up the volume on the car’s radio to cover up the troubling noise coming from the engine.

“That noise – including a meltdown in the Arctic, record heat, and devastating storms – has become too loud to ignore.

“To preserve a world where polar bears and humans continue to flourish, we must demand our leaders listen to the science and take action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions before it is too late.”

We must demand our leaders listen to the science and take action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions

Dr Steven Armstrup, Polar Bears International

The Arctic sea ice minimum has reached a level of just 1.6 million square miles (4.15 million square kilometres) this month.

According to US space agency NASA, the September sea ice is declining at a rate of 12.8 percent per decade, compared to the 1981 to 2012 average.

The US National Snow and Ice Data Center (NSIDC) said the latest figures confirm a downward trend in the Arctic ice extent.

The Arctic ice extent is the total area of the ocean covered in ice, that grows and melts away over the year in response to the climate.

According to PBI staff scientist Dr Thea Bechshoft, the low ice minimum is directly linked to greenhouse gas emissions and global warming.

If action is not taken now to limit carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions, the scientist argued populations of polar bears are likely to disappear even before the ice does.

She said: “This year’s sea ice extent is tied for the second-lowest in the satellite record and will negatively impact polar bear populations in many areas.

“While the impacts may not be immediately visible, we need to focus on how this really bad ice year and record warm summer are symbols of what the future will bring.

“Bad years like this will be increasingly frequent and get worse – as long as we allow CO2 levels to continue to rise. Of course, this is not inevitable.

“We must slow greenhouse gas pollution and prioritise the future of our planet.

“Otherwise, the frequency of these bad ice years will make it impossible for polar bears to survive until another good year comes along.

“That means that polar bears may disappear from some subpopulations, even before sea ice is gone every year.”

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