Quantcast
Environmental News for a Healthier Planet and Life

Help Support EcoWatch

Shocking Polar Bear Photos Show Stark Reality of Climate Change

Climate
Shocking Polar Bear Photos Show Stark Reality of Climate Change

The polar bears in Svalbard, a remote group of islands in the Arctic, are not doing well, according to photographer Kerstin Langenberger.

Langenberger posted on her Facebook:

I see the summers being so pleasant (and warm) as never before. I see the glaciers calving, retreating dozens to hundreds of metres every year. I see the pack ice disappearing in record speed. Yes, I have seen bears in good shape—but I have also seen dead and starving polar bears. Bears walking on the shores, looking for food, bears trying to hunt reindeer, eating bird's eggs, moss and seaweed. And I realized that the fat bears are nearly exclusively males which stay on the pack ice all year long. The females, on the other hand, which den on land to give birth to their young, are often slim. With the pack ice retreating further and further north every year, they tend to be stuck on land where there's not much food. In the first year, they lose their first cub. In the second year, they lose their second (and last) cub. Only once I have seen a mother with a nearly independent cub. Only few times I have seen beautifully fat mothers with beautifully fat young. Many times I have seen horribly thin bears, and those were exclusively females—like this one here. A mere skeleton, hurt on her front leg, possibly by a desperate attempt to hunt a walrus while she was stuck on land.

Experts claim the Svalbard population is stable, even rising. Well, here comes my question: how can a population be stable if it consists of less and less females and cubs? How can a population be doing good if most bear will score a body index of two to three out of five? Only once I have seen a bear getting a big fat five, but several times I have seen dead bears and bears like this one: a mere one on the scale, doomed to death.

And while some, such as Iain Stirling from the University of Alberta, have cautioned against using this one photo as proof that all polar bears are starving in a warmer world, Langenberger is not the only one to sound the alarm.

"You have to be a little bit careful about drawing conclusions immediately," Stirling told Mashable. "[The bear] may be starving, but it may just be old. A difficulty hunting could be involved." Stirling noted that the bear appears to have an injury to one of its hind legs, which could have played a role in its weight loss. "I don't think you can tie that one to starvation because of lack of sea ice."

Read page 1

Still, others such as National Geographic photographer Paul Nicklen, who has been to the Arctic on multiple occasions, was struck in a recent visit by the rapidly dwindling sea ice and the number of dead polar bears—something he had never seen before.

Last summer I traveled with a group of friends to Svalbard, Norway in search of polar bears. We went to my favorite spot where I have always been able to find bears roaming around on sea ice throughout the summer. On this occasion, however, we didn't find any sea ice and we never found any bears alive. We did find two dead bears in this location and other groups found more dead bears. These bears were so skinny, they appeared to have died of starvation, as in the absence of sea ice, they were not able to hunt seals. In all of my years of growing up in the Arctic and later, working as a biologist, I had never found a dead polar bear. It is now becoming much more common. Through @sea_legacy and @natgeo we will continue to shine a light on our changing planet to convince the unconvinced. Please follow me on @paulnicklen to learn more about the effects of climate change. #polarbear #nature #wildlife #arctic #seaice @thephotosociety

A photo posted by Paul Nicklen (@paulnicklen) on

And all of this anecdotal evidence is supported by scientific data. The International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources (IUCN) currently lists polar bears as "vulnerable"—one step above "endangered"—because it's believed that their numbers have been reduced by more than 30 percent in the last 45 years.

"Global climate change posses a substantial threat to the habitat of polar bears," says the IUCN. "Recent modeling of the trends for sea ice extent, thickness and timing of coverage predicts dramatic reductions in sea ice coverage over the next 50-100 years."

There's an ongoing campaign to save the polar bears by the Center for Biological Diversity, Natural Resources Defense Council, Greenpeace, Earthjustice and other groups.

YOU MIGHT ALSO LIKE

Attention Jeb Bush: America’s Transition to a Renewable Energy Economy Is Already Underway

Audubon and Toyota Team Up to Empower People to Take Action to Restore Habitats

4 States Likely to See the Hottest Year Ever

54% of parents with school-age children expressed concern that their children could fall behind academically, according to a poll conducted over the summer of 2020. Maria Symchych-Navrotska / Getty Images

By Pamela Davis-Kean

With in-person instruction becoming the exception rather than the norm, 54% of parents with school-age children expressed concern that their children could fall behind academically, according to a poll conducted over the summer of 2020. Initial projections from the Northwest Evaluation Association, which conducts research and creates commonly used standardized tests, suggest that these fears are well-grounded, especially for children from low-income families.

Read More Show Less

EcoWatch Daily Newsletter

A teenager reads a school English assignment at home after her school shut down because of the COVID-19 pandemic on March 22, 2020 in Brooklyn, New York. Andrew Lichtenstein / Corbis via Getty Images

The pandemic has affected everyone, but mental health experts warn that youth and teens are suffering disproportionately and that depression and suicide rates are increasing.

Read More Show Less

Trending

In an ad released by Republican Voters Against Trump, former coronavirus task force member Olivia Troye roasted the president for his response. Republican Voters Against Trump / YouTube

Yet another former Trump administration staffer has come out with an endorsement for former Vice President Joe Biden, this time in response to President Donald Trump's handling of the coronavirus pandemic.

Read More Show Less
Climate Group

Every September for the past 11 years, non-profit the Climate Group has hosted Climate Week NYC, a chance for business, government, activist and community leaders to come together and discuss solutions to the climate crisis.

Read More Show Less
A field of sunflowers near the Mehrum coal-fired power station, wind turbines and high-voltage lines in the Peine district of Germany on Aug. 3, 2020. Julian Stratenschulte / picture alliance via Getty Images

By Elliot Douglas

The coronavirus pandemic has altered economic priorities for governments around the world. But as wildfires tear up the west coast of the United States and Europe reels after one of its hottest summers on record, tackling climate change remains at the forefront of economic policy.

Read More Show Less

Support Ecowatch