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A Vulnerable Bear in the Arctic

Mississauga, ON

environment, environmental science, climate change, artic, science, education, global warming, polar bear

Global warming continues to worsen over the years. It has become a crisis for many animals and ecosystems. Polar bears, scientifically known as Ursus maritimus, are just one example of this disaster. They occupy the Arctic lands near the North Pole, but before we know it, these majestic sea bears might stop roaming these lands. The continuous change of the environment can only ravage them until their extinction. It is important to know how global warming works to understand the correlation between global warming and polar bear extinction.

It is a natural phenomenon caused by the emission of green gasses such as carbon dioxide, the most dangerous and considerable greenhouse gas. Solar energy absorbed at the Earth's surface is returned to the atmosphere in the form of heat. The heat emitted cannot leave the Earth as it should because these gasses are specifically known to absorb and reflect heat back to the surface of the Earth The heat is thus trapped. But it is in fact a natural process since without the greenhouse effect, the Earth would be abnormally frozen. The problem lies in the increase in human activity greenhouse gas emissions, thus increasing heat retention. Too much heat is becoming a severe threat to the environment, and we can see its effects on these bears.

Polar bears rely heavily on sea ice for various activities like hunting, resting, roaming, mating, and sometimes denning. The Arctic sea ice is melting more than ever under the effect of global warming, limiting these activities. The ice helps reflect some of the heat back into the atmosphere but melts as a result. Polar bears hunt sea-ice-dependent prey such as ringed and bearded seals to survive, but because of the high melting rate, there is not much they can do.

But climate change is not the only factor in their impending extinction. Commercial activity, as well as, pollution have become more prevalent in the Arctic. These activities involve maritime transport, oil and gas exploitation and development, tourism, etc. For example, oil and gas development can lead to unintended leaks, endangering polar bear dens under the snow. Polar bear mothers use dens to nurse their cubs, which poses a problem.

With all of this, we can only wonder if it's too late to save these bears. Studies show that polar bears could be extinct by the end of the century if no serious action is taken. We cannot directly prevent the melting of the Arctic, but greenhouse gas emissions are in our control (e.g by using renewable energy instead of fossil fuels). This will indirectly prevent the Arctic from melting excessively and save those bears.

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