Polar bears have evolved to living in the extreme conditions of the Arctic, and are dependent on sea ice for foraging, resting, and reproduction.
Over the past three decades of global warming, the oldest and thickest ice in the Arctic has declined by a stunning 95%, according the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s 2019 Arctic Report Card.
Melting sea ice has a particularly negative effect on polar bears, as it’s their prime habitat and they rely on it for shelter and food.
Yes, polar bears can swim but their main food source - seals - are losing their ice, too. As the Arctic sea ice continues to retreat every year, seals become harder to hunt and bears have to travel much further to find them.
The threats facing polar bears in this region are likely to worsen as climate change continues. According to Dr. Anthony M. Pagano, at the United States Geological Survey, says the concern is that as the ice breaks up earlier each year, the bears will be impacted in three ways:
“They’ll be less successful at catching seals because they’re being displaced from their primary foraging habitat earlier; they’re putting on less weight than they would have done historically; and then they’re also moving greater distances. If climate change continues, we would expect continued declines in reproductive success.”
To Dr. Anthony M. Pagano’s point, polar bears are appearing in places they’ve never been spotted before. Last summer, a bear made made his way up to the middle of the Greenland Ice Sheet — more than 200 miles from the nearest coast! At 10,500 feet high, this remote U.S. scientific research station was about the last place anyone expected one of these sea ice-dwelling animals to be.
In case you need a reminder of why every degree matters to polar bears, here’s National Geographic’s heart-wrenching video.
We’ve spent the past decade testing and developing methods to use safe materials as a thin reflective layer on Arctic ice. Once dispersed in limited, strategic locations our solution can restore the region’s natural heat shield and rebuild its wildlife habitats. Read more about our nontoxic microspheres.