A study has just reported that polar bears in northern Alaska are turning to cannibalism because a decline in ice has left them unable to reach their normal sources of food. This is just the latest consequence of global warming on the massive animals.
Polar bears use ice floes to reach ringed seals and other sources of food and to travel. But with the rise in temperatures caused by fuel emissions, ice is diminishing and ice seasons are becoming shorter, causing the bears to swim longer distances or to return to land in search of food. They’re also having fewer cubs, and the ones that do survive aren’t growing as large as they once did.
As early as 1999, scientists in Canada reported that bears were coming into towns to look for food. Many of them appeared to be starving. While this was linked to global warming, in 2001, President Bush refused to sign the Kyoto Protocol, which requires a reduction in emissions, making the U.S. the only member of the G-8 to refuse to ratify the agreement.
So the decline continued. In 2004, four dead bears were seen floating in Alaska. Prior to then, drowning had been so rare that it had never been documented in studies.
A report that same year predicted the extinction of polar bears by the end of the century if global warming was not stopped. In response, in December 2005, NRDC, the Center for Biological Diversity, and Greenpeace sued the U.S. government in an effort to force them to list polar bears as threatened under the Endangered Species Act. The outcome of the suit is still uncertain.
What is certain is that if global warming is allowed to continue, the polar bears—and eventually, the rest of us—will not survive. So do something to help save these majestic bears. Sign a petition. Make a donation. Join a virtual march. And for those of you who haven’t done so already, go vegan—or at least vegetarian—and persuade the people around you to do the same.
The bears are counting on us.