The Plight of the Polar Bear

Wildlife experts say one of the first results of global warming is that polar bears may go extinct. Polar bears spend much of their lives on and around floating ice sheets in the Arctic region, where they hunt for seals and raise their young. Many of these ice sheets, however, have been rapidly melting due to global warming, sometimes leaving bears stranded on open sea waters. In fact, scientists have already documented multiple polar bear drown-ings. Following a fierce winter storm in September 2004, for example, researchers counted about forty dead polar bears in the ocean about sixty miles offshore from the coastline of Alaska. Polar bears can swim long distances, but they are believed to have tired and drowned in the rough waters during the storm because they were too far from an ice platform. In addition, researchers are seeing a change in the bears' habits, with many bears choosing to stay on or near land. This behavior change, however, may not help the bears, because most have not adapted to hunting for land animals and because they seem to require more fat intake than land animals can provide.

Polar bears may become extinct as a result of global warming.

Polar bears may become extinct as a result of global warming.

Temperture Range For Polar Bears

climate change could threaten nearly a million land species—a quarter of the plant and animal species living today—by the year 2050. The article discusses a study of six biodiversity-rich regions around the world representing 20 percent of the Earth's land area. In these regions, scientists used climate models designed to simulate the way that species' ranges might change in response to warming temperatures and climate conditions. The scientists found that 15 to 37 percent of the 1,103 plants, mammals, birds, reptiles, frogs, butterflies, and other invertebrates studied could be driven extinct. If this percentage is applied globally, it could mean a million species will go extinct due to global warming. The article's coauthor, Lee Hannah, a scientist at the nonprofit Conservation International, concluded, "This study makes clear that climate change is the biggest new extinction threat."27

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