Goodbye Sea Ice = Goodbye Polar Bears

by JosieM on October 7, 2016 - 11:15am

Imagine being responsible for the extinction of the world’s largest bear species. A bear species that has adapted to surviving in the harshest environmental conditions, yet is threatened by the activities of humans. This article tells us that within the coming years, the human contribution to climate change and the effects of this environmental phenomenon may ultimately make this tragedy a reality for the polar bear.

An article published by The Guardian, titled “Polar bears losing crucial sea ice: study”, examines the impacts of anthropogenic activities on the future of the polar bear.  The author explains the polar bear’s dependence on Arctic sea ice, as a means of hunting, resting, and breeding. The presence of sea ice therefore influences polar bear abundance, productivity, body condition and distribution. Based on this dependency on sea ice, it is suggested that climate change and global warming have serious implications for the future of the polar bear.  Scientific investigation was used as evidence to determine that the Arctic is warming at nearly double the global rate, as a result of human activity contributing to the accumulation of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. This warming has led to an increased melting of Arctic sea ice, and has significantly decreased the number of ice-covered days in the Arctic. This loss of sea ice eliminates the landscape required for polar bears to thrive.  Additionally, it is suggested that as sea ice continues to melt, the Arctic will see an increase in shipping activities, oil and gas developments, and sea level rise - all factors contributing to the destruction of polar bear habitat.

See full article: https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2016/sep/14/polar-bears-losing-crucial-sea-ice-study-arctic

This topic is something I am extremely interested in, and is part of the reason I choose to study Geography. I find that learning about the relationship between humans and the environment is fascinating, and a higher understanding of the way our actions influence the success of ecosystems globally is significant. This article however, provides little to no new information on the influence of anthropogenic activities on climate change and its effect on Arctic ecosystems. We know climate change exists, we know it’s because of human-activities, we know sea ice is melting, and we know polar bears are suffering.  Though this is such an important topic of discussion, the impact of melting sea ice on polar bear populations is definitely on the gradual decline of public interest in terms of the issue-attention cycle. We have done our research and we have realized how complicated the issue with melting sea ice is, especially with positive feedback mechanisms such as the Albedo Effect constantly maintaining its ability to warm the poles. This realization has led to the loss of interest in the topic, which may only spark enthusiasm again in the event of further problems such as the extirpation of polar bears in the 19 regions of the Arctic they inhabit.  Value conflict also becomes a factor in this situation as some individuals hold a higher worth and importance to polar ecosystems than others.  At this point, it is acceptable to state that polar bears are faced with an inevitable demise. So, what are we going to do about it? We need to continue learning; it is unacceptable to throw every problem back into the issue-attention cycle when we see no positive fate. We need to continue researching and understanding how polar bears are dealing with their changing landscapes in order to derive different solutions for species protection. It is obvious we’re not going to be able to solve climate change over night, so let’s think of something more effective.

References:

Polar bears losing crucial sea ice: study (2016, September 14). The Guardian. Retrieved October 3, 2016, from https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2016/sep/14/polar-bears-losing-crucial-sea-ice-study-arctic

Image: Andy Rouse / Barcroft Images 

Comments

Hi Josie,

I first want to start off by saying great post, and excellent views. The topic of how humans are affecting the environment is also a huge interest of mine, and additionally part of the reason why I chose to study geography as well! :) I wrote another blog which comments on polar bears and their environment with climate change, so yours piqued my interest with some different points brought up!

As you have stated, the issue regarding the climate of the Arctic has gone through the issue-awareness cycle, with it being in the gradual decline of public interest stage, possibly the post-problem stage. Due to the vast problem and the importance of the Arctic, I believe that the issue is intimidating for many people, and so when there is not a simple or clear solution, they panic and believe that it is too hard and therefore they loose interest and the issue becomes a post-problem. I do not believe that this issue should be pushed to a post-problem stage or be ignored, because ultimately, what happens to the Arctic, effects us all at some point and therefore should be at the forefront of issue awareness. I do agree with you when you say that the issue shouldn't be pushed back into the cycle, however, I also believe that it should never have left the cycle either. It is true that we do need more research on the polar bears and the environment of the Arctic and all of its implications, but instead of loosing faith and giving up, pushing the problem to face at another time, I think it would be beneficial to have the severity of the issue always in an alarmed discovery mode and have enthusiasm with the topic because it is such an important issue. By constantly coming out with new studies, research and findings, the public wont loose interest and make the issue a problem of the past because it is always going to be a problem until we have a solution.
As you said, we are not going to solve climate change overnight, but I believe that we need to keep it at the forefront of our minds and constantly on the agenda in order to accomplish anything.
Do you think that this is a realistic request? That the issue of climate change, especially that of the Arctic and the effects of it to polar bears, and eventually us can sustain a long-term place in the interest, issue-awareness cycle if there re constant reports on it to keep awareness levels and hope of progress up?

Emily

Hi Emily,

Thanks so much for your insightful response! I definitely thinking that keeping climate change and the arctic at the forefront of our minds and media is a realistic request. The impact of climate change on the Arctic ultimately effects the lives of humans globally, with sea level rise, and the albedo effect creating a positive feedback mechanism for warming. If we are able to derive solutions for such impacts in the north, we will have a better opportunity to make a change in the global community as well.

In terms of the type of reporting that should be done, I personally think that stories of progress and advancement promote the highest degree of awareness and hope for individuals. As I said in my initial post, the story of climate change is well understood - we don't need the media to keep reiterating what's happening. We need encouragement in order to keep climate mitigation strategies in our conversations. We need stories of success, and we need an understanding of the research that is going on in the Arctic to give us hope that there is potential for change. When the global community is aware that we have the ability to make a difference in the environment for our generation and future generations, and actions are currently in place to see the outcome of mitigation strategies become a reality, we will see more interest in the topic.

Thanks!

Josie

This is a great post Josie! I thoroughly enjoyed reading it, as the topic of climate change is particularly interesting to me. The effects of climate change are much more extensive in the Arctic as a result of ‘Arctic amplification’. This refers to the positive feedback mechanism that occurs in the Arctic in which temperature increase causes sea ice to melt, which then reduces surface albedo, causing increased absorption of radiation which then further increases temperature change. From 1981 to 2012 the Earth has experienced a circumpolar rise of ~1.9°C and a global average rise of ~0.5°C. The topic of Arctic amplification is of particular interest to me because it means that people who live in this area such as Inuit communities must have very good adaptation and mitigation methods.

As you have clearly stated, with the decrease of sea ice there will be a decline in the polar bear species. You have mentioned that there has been a gradual decline of public interest in the issue of the impact of melting sea ice on polar bear populations. This is step 4 in the issue-attention cycle. I believe that this is a huge issue because the Arctic is a developing place, thus it does not have the funds to adapt to and mitigate climate change. It must receive help from developed nations such as the United States because they have the means to resolve the issue of climate change. However, without public awareness and interest in the issue this transfer of funds will not happen. Public interest and aid from developed countries are very important for ensuring that the polar bear species will have a chance of surviving in the Arctic.

Hey!

Fantastic post! really enjoyed reading it, despite all the negative consequences that are coming to the polar bears due to our human impacts. What captured my attention was the fact that we don't usually think about our everyday actions influencing polar bears. Probably, because this is more of an indirect impact that doesn't appear to affect us as humans. However, I still agree with the idea that we should do what we can to lessen the impact on these creatures since it could ultimately come back and hurt us in the future. We can't immediately solve this problem overnight, but what are some smaller goals that we can work towards in order to help fix this problem? Since this is a really big problem (that many people don't seem to care about). I think the best solution would be to tackle smaller issues that lead to the melting sea ice. This way we aren't confronting climate change head on, but we are still working to make a difference on this planet.

Once again great post! look forward to seeing what you post in the future!

[Opening song: Take it all back instrumental – Judah & The Lion]

Hey everyone, welcome to todays show! As most of you know I’m a current college student at SUNY Brockport and I’m doing this podcast show for my TV and writing class. The topic of discussion for today involves climate change. But more specifically, how climate change is affecting the polar bears habitat in the arctic.

We were lucky enough to interview a fellow student at the University of Guelph, Josie Mielhausen. She’s been kind enough to share some of her thoughts on the matter and she is the sole purpose for me to do a show on this topic today after reading an article she wrote on Polar bears habitat.

Where I want to begin with all of this first and foremost, climate change is a serious issue, and for those of you who don’t believe in it, you better start. Significant evidence has shown that Arctic sea ice is declining at 13.3% per decade while sea levels continue to rise 3.4 millimeters per year. These statics are found right on NASA's website!

Seeing how the arctic sea ice is rapidly declining, what’s this mean for polar bears? Polar Bears depend on the sea ice for a number of things including hunting, resting, and even breeding. What will happen if we completely lose the arctic ice? Lets face it; polar bears probably won’t be a species.

So what can we do to help out the beautiful species? Well first off, we need to do more convincing that there’s a problem with climate change. There are too many people that have a hard time believing in the concept but we need to do more educating.

When interviewing Josie, she gave some great insight to her personal opinions on what could be done to help out, at first she said, “We can do small things, like taking public transportation to cut greenhouse gas emissions, being more cautious when it comes to purchasing produce and making sure its local/sustainably harvested/avoiding excess packaging/minimizing consumption/etc., but how much does that really change, and on what scale? Who knows if we are going notice the impacts of such actions in the next 10 years, or in the next 100 years.” Josie is 100% right. I mean really, these are the most basic things we could do to try and help. What we really need are more drastic measures to be taken, measures that will take science to the next level and will require countries to invest time and money into helping the environment.

Then Josie offered this, “Whether it's designating northern protected areas as polar bear sanctuaries, or using captivity as a measure of preserving species, we DO have the knowledge and technologies needed to create that positive future.” To go off what she says, there are options on what we can do for this species to save them even if we can’t save their home. But drastic measures need to be taken.

I appreciate Josie for taking the time for my interview and for all those that tuned into this weeks episode. Please join us next week as we discuss Star Wars, and why it’s the greatest movie series ever. Thanks for tuning in, see ya next week!

[Venice – Adam Snow Bootleg] Fades in the background.

Hi there,
I really enjoyed reading your radio podcast, great job! I strongly agree with your points. It can be hard to believe that there are some people in the world today who still do not believe that climate change is an issue, especially with the amount of studies and evidence found to support the severity and existence of the issue. Although the first step in helping the polar bears is to accept this fact that climate change is occurring and is the reason behind the struggle of the polar bears, I feel that if you have not already accepted this fact then you are a lost cause. If we continue to spend energy convincing people that climate change is real, we will never get anywhere. I think the main mode of action is to work with the scientists and people that agree with and understand the issues of climate change in order to work out a solution to the polar bears' problem. At the rate our greenhouse gas emissions are increasing, it may seem that the only way to save the polar bears is to keep them in captivity. But if we only work to help keep the polar bear population from declining by keeping them in captivity, are we really helping to save them? In a way, we are not, because instead of helping the polar bears to become stronger and allowing them to adapt to the changing environment, we instead allow the polar bears to become more reliant on humans for their survival. I'm not saying that preserving the species in captivity is a terrible thing, at least in this way we can ensure the species does not go extinct. However, I am looking forward to seeing what action and what ideas can be made to help the polar bears while having them remain in the wild as well instead of pretending to fix the problem by hiding them all in glass cases.
Cheers!

Hi Zach!

So great to read your finished product! You have definitely captured the main aspects of what I believe is the most important part of this topic - what we can do to help the future of the Arctic and the species who rely on its landscape. In a number of my geography classes we discuss the idea of how humans look at the environment and think "what can we do to the environment to help us", "how can we manipulate these resources in order to benefit us", or "how can we change the environment to accommodate our well-being?" However, your radio podcast effectively illustrates a paradigm shift from the typical relationship between humans and the environment, to a more sustainable one. You pose the questions "what can we do the environment to help protect the polar bears", "how can we manipulate ecological resources in order to reverse anthropogenic damage and benefit natural ecosystems", and finally, "how can we change the environment to accommodate the well-being and future of the polar bear species?" It is refreshing to see a more positive perspective towards climate change in the Arctic - a perspective that believes change is possible - and I believe it is discussions like these that will ultimately motivate the global community to focus on promoting a sustainable future for the great white north and all of its associated entities.

Again, great podcast! It was a pleasure working with you!

Hi Zach,

Great job on the podcast! I thought that you did a great job in capturing the essence of Josie’s discussion. You clearly illustrated the problem in which we are facing in regards to climate change and how it is affecting the Arctic, and consequently the polar bears that inhabit the area. What I particularly liked about your podcast was that you gave the dyer situation a positive turn. Instead of going on about all the consequences of the situation, you incorporated Josie’s personal thoughts on how we can protect the polar bears and their Arctic habitat. What is important to know is that climate change in which we are in part responsible for contributing to, not only affects the polar bears, but in the end us as well. The polar bears are some of the first to experience the negative consequences of our actions and it gives us a prelude for what could be in store for us. By putting forth possible suggestions to mitigate our negative actions, we are not only taking action towards polar bears, but the rest of the world too. With bringing forth possible suggestions to prevent the further decay of the arctic and the polar bear, you are allowing for hope for the future. Some of Josie’s suggestions you incorporated could spark other people’s imaginations and result in a whole other slew of possible ideas to aid in the prevention of further climate change and its negative effects on the Arctic and polar bear.
Thanks for the thought provoking podcast!
Emily

Hi Zach,

I enjoyed reading the transcript of your podcast. I am glad that you used Josie's discussion often in your podcast, other podcasts from your class I thought failed to incorporate enough of the interviewee's discussion. I am also very happy that you chose to include Josie's suggestions to reduce the impact on northern sea ice. You mention that climate change is a serious issue and not enough people believe in it or know it is a thing. What do you think the media could change / do better to educate citizens about climate change?

Riley

Hi Zach!
First things first, I enjoyed reading your podcast! I thought you did an amazing job incorporating Josie’s opinions and information on how climate change is affecting the polar bears in the Arctic. You truly emphasized the cause and effect of climate change by highlighting the declining rate of Arctic sea ice in response to warming. One aspect I liked most about this post as well as the topic, was how well you back up the issue of Arctic sea ice melting due to climate change and incorporating the magnitude of its effects onto the impact it is having on polar bears. I further admired how after you highlighted the issue, you incorporated with Josie on what we can do to help fix the problem.

Now that the melting of Arctic sea ice is an issue, I am curious to know what measures now need to be taken. Since the Arctic ice is melting, it is from my understanding that polar bears are moving inland where they can continue to survive. I am now curious to see what measures can be taken to ensure their survival on land, since we cannot replenish their natural habitat on the Arctic Sea Ice. Perhaps measures such as restricting human interactions with there new migration can aid in their survival as they will be able to establish new homes on land.

Katherine Shirriff

Hi Zach,
Your podcast discussion on Josie’s blog on how climate change is affecting the polar bears in the Arctic was very compelling and passionate for your audience, including myself to read and reflect about this issue. What I felt made your podcast stand out for me was your well structured and concise reiterations of Josie’s blog. This established a strong follow up by incorporating Josie’s thoughts from you interview with her, as well contributing your own viewpoint to simulate the listener’s thoughts on the issue as well. It was nice to see Zach that the focal point of your podcast was on understanding the issue to be able to present and relate positive solutions or mitigation efforts towards climate change affecting polar bears.

In my own personal thoughts and reflections on your podcast and Josie’s blog about this issue is a sense of greater hope our society can adapt and manage this prevalent issue facing the polar bears in the Arctic. Though, I feel our efforts of incorporating all our resources is absent as Indigenous people’s knowledge is still being overshadowed by scientific based knowledge and that our society does not put equal consideration of appreciating Indigenous or local knowledge. Therefore, I hope our society can incorporate and acknowledge different viewpoints in hope to further resolving/adapting to this issue.

Thanks for comprehensive and compelling podcast Zach, great job!

Jeremy

Hi Zach

I would like to start off by saying great podcast! I really enjoyed reading it and I think you did an excellent job at capturing some of the points Josie discussed. I really like how you focused on the solutions and what we can do at a local scale and at a larger scale as well. You did a great job at incorporating climate change into the issue and demonstrated a chain reaction where one thing leads to another.

I personally believe that something at a larger scale needs to be done in order for our actions to actually make a difference. As Josie mentions and you cover, " we have the knowledge for all of this, but don't use it". I agree with this and I strongly believe that if we try we can try to fix this problem. You do a great job at discussing how not many people actually care about the issue in your podcast and I agree with that. I feel like not many people see it as their problem. Hence they don't feel obligated to make any changes to their lifestyle to help with the problem. But I think if we want to try to decrease the impact climate change has on the Arctic sea and the polar bears, we all need to start doing our part along with better government regulation of greenhouse gases and management for the issue.

Hi Zach.
Thanks for your intrest in such an important topic. I found your blog to be very digestible. That's so important when we talk about things like this. So often we see high impact documents that seek to scare readers into action. That can be dismissed. They way you have presented this information has a similar impact but is much more approachable. I like that you included things that can be done no and hinted at future action that could be done.

Thanks for your post!

Hi Josie,
This is a great discussion post! I found it to be very informative and insightful. I too am very passionate about the environment, particularly polar bears. It saddens me too as it is very unfortunate that a magnificent creature like the polar bear has become endangered due to anthropocentric actions. I have to agree, the article you referenced has not spoken about intervention plans, rather it is more of an awareness article. There needs to be more involvement with the government in regards to environmental policy for a substantial change to occur. Like you mentioned, it is much more difficult for a problem like this to progress when markets such as the trading industry could heavily benefit from the added water ways. Unfortunately, it seems that society is caught in a feedback loop in regards to climate change. The actions we have entailed onto the environment have progressed negatively and continue to get worse the more we take from it. However, some sort of intervention plan needs to be implemented. Like I mentioned earlier, involving the government and possibly community involvement could potentially be the best method of implementing an environmental action plan. From my current studies, I have learned on the significant dependence that Inuit people have on this same environment. The Inuit people rely on the environmental resources, particularly for hunting seals, fish, and other northern animals. Evidently, like the polar, there are several other species at risk here also. When their environment changes at a rapid pace, it makes it much more difficult to adapt to these changes. Ultimately, it leads to death and an incline on species becoming endangered. Perhaps the Inuit people who are very familiar with this environment can provide traditional environmental knowledge to the government and together they can create potential environmental action plans. Perhaps environmental regulations or instruments need to be implemented to control these examples. In my opinion, I feel like the government needs to be stricter on implementing a carbon tax on those industries who are emitting fossil fuels into the environment. As I have learned from my schooling, regardless of where you are polluting, the pollution you emit is connected to the environment. The earth is an endless circulating system, whether that be in the atmosphere or water ways; it is connected everywhere. That being said, I think it is important that all areas of the world come together and invest in combating climate change. Obviously, this is easier said than done, however, the governments should take it upon themselves to enable some sort of invention plan. We all know it is happening, so why are we need intervening?

I agree with every point you have brought out. I find it difficult because I feel like I have no control over what happens. Ultimately, our only chance as of right now is to leave these issues in the hands of our representatives. However, perhaps seeing how climate change is becoming more prevalent this can influence people like us to take charge of these situations pursue careers to combat the problem. What do you think the next steps could be for polar intervention?

Again, thank you for the great post!

Well I'm agree with all comments for save the polar bears, we can make their habitat much better and don't invading their places and respect them, because like us. They need life in their own habits without any troubles and we have to learn than many polar bears now they are in danger of extinction and only we could make something to avoid any disaster.

Well I'm agree with all comments for save the polar bears, we can make their habitat much better and don't invading their places and respect them, because like us. They need life in their own habits without any troubles and we have to learn than many polar bears now they are in danger of extinction and only we could make something to avoid any disaster.

Well I'm agree with all comments for save the polar bears, we can make their habitat much better and don't invading their places and respect them, because like us. They need life in their own habits without any troubles and we have to learn than many polar bears now they are in danger of extinction and only we could make something to avoid any disaster.

Well I'm agree with all comments for save the polar bears, we can make their habitat much better and don't invading their places and respect them, because like us. They need life in their own habits without any troubles and we have to learn than many polar bears now they are in danger of extinction and only we could make something to avoid any disaster.

Well I'm agree with all comments for save the polar bears, we can make their habitat much better and don't invading their places and respect them, because like us. They need life in their own habits without any troubles and we have to learn than many polar bears now they are in danger of extinction and only we could make something to avoid any disaster.

Well I'm agree with all comments for save the polar bears, we can make their habitat much better and don't invading their places and respect them, because like us. They need life in their own habits without any troubles and we have to learn than many polar bears now they are in danger of extinction and only we could make something to avoid any disaster.