Has Time Run Out For Polar Bears?

 By Jess, Lara and Amy

The number of polar bears are predicted to decrease by 30% by 2050. This is mostly due to climate change, created by humans.

Most of climate change is caused by man-made pollution coming from car exhausts and nuclear residue.  These are known as greenhouse gases which are released into the atmosphere. When the heat from the Sun rebounds from the Earth, a portion of the heat becomes trapped in the gases surrounding the planet. This is then re-emitted in all directions, therefore heating up the earth’s surface.

Polar bears live on ice, as well as using it to protect their cubs and hunt their prey. They can smell seals from long distances and once they spot one, they dive underneath the ice to catch it. Polar bears spend 50% of their time hunting but only 2% of the time, they are successful. Many mother polar bears face starvation when they have to stay inside of their maternity den for 4 months with their new-born cubs. This is because they cannot get enough food in the winter months to store up their body fat for the period that they stay inside the den.

Because the ice is melting quickly, the bears are often forced to swim to land with their cubs. This is problematic for many reasons: whilst the adult bears are excellent swimmers, the cubs struggle swimming the long distances. Many adult polar bears arrive on land without their cubs. Once they have reached land, they have to live off bone piles, left by humans.  As the bears venture into the human-inhabited land they often find themselves walking into villages to scavenge for food, and getting into conflict with people.

Polar bears are endangered animals and only 20,000-25,000 bears are still living in the wild. There are 19 polar bear populations across the globe, but 8 of these are in decline. Canada’s Hudson Bay polar bear population has fallen by 20% in under 20 years.

Many charities have scientists working to collect data and monitor Polar Bears to understand the threats and aim to reduce industrial pollution.

From our survey of 25 year seven students, the majority said that climate change is a global issue and most already do basic recycling and energy saving.

Another survey of older students and adults showed us that there is a mixed opinion of whether the world is doing enough to limit climate change.  A voter for ‘yes, it is doing enough’ said, “Progress needs to be faster in the next 20 years and western countries need to cut on coal use.” A voter for ‘no, it is not doing enough’ said, “Especially in western countries people don’t want change, they want to keep the energy levels and still be able to access technology.” Most people answered that yes, the world is heading in the right direction by creating new technology, even if it harms the natural world. This is a surprising result as the younger population thought that it should stop.

There are many small tasks everyone can do to help limit Climate Change, such as:

  • Reduce energy use – Turn off lights, and convert to LED bulbs. Switch off or unplug appliances when not in use.
  • Change the way you travel – Walk or cycle whenever possible and take public transport for longer distances.
  • Recycle your waste when appropriate, it helps to protect oceans worldwide from becoming polluted.