Goodbye Sea Ice = Goodbye Polar Bears

by JosieM on Octobre 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.

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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.


Polar bears losing crucial sea ice: study (2016, September 14). The Guardian. Retrieved October 3, 2016, from

Image: Andy Rouse / Barcroft Images