How much can a Polar bear?
There has been increasing concern over what may happen to the polar bear as climate change reduces the ice on which it lives. Now some notes of optimism are being sounded but that optimism is laced with warnings that things cannot be allowed to get any worse.
Researchers from the Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory in New York believe that sea ice will continue to build up on the northern side of Canada and Greenland. Although the rate of summer ice melt is increasing some ice will be formed locally in winter and some will drift in from Siberia. The researchers estimate that around half a million square kilometres of ice will persist into the 22nd century.
Another report from the US Geological Survey in Anchorage, Alaska has looked at future models of ice circulation and predicts that there will not be a â€œtipping pointâ€ at which the ice will disappear permanently. The report does warn however, that greenhouse gas emissions need to be brought under control so that polar bear habitat can be preserved.
Audubon Alaska has compiled an atlas of Arctic Waters and says that there are two spots, Hanna Shoal and Herald Shoal, that are protected from warm currents which stops the ice there from melting until late summer each year. That makes these two shoals areas that should be kept free of activity. However, the oil company Shell, based in the Netherlands, has applied to drill in the Hanna Shoal area in 2010. It was a request that was refused by the Obama administration which has clamped down on offshore oil drilling since the Deepwater Horizon spill in April 2010. All oil drilling need not be stopped but in sensitive and vital areas like the Hanna Shoal we need to be showing caution and respect.
The situation with the polar bears and Arctic ice is iconic of the current state of play as regards climate change. Things are bad but with action now we can make changes that can avoid the worst of possible outcomes. Time spent arguing with climate change sceptics could be vital. Itâ€™s not a difficult call to be made; respecting the earth, becoming a partner with it, living within our environmental means, and reducing our toxic impact is a far better way to go ahead for human beings even if for a moment we accept that climate change is not happening. We know the problems, we know what we can do; perhaps we should get on and do it.