It’s February 27th, and that means it’s International Polar Bear Day!
Most of us have never seen a polar bear in the wild, and for some, they may seem like nothing more than a cuddly face on a poster or soda can. But as International Polar Bear Day hopes to remind us every year, our fate and that of the polar bear is more connected than many realize.
Global climate change, exacerbated by human fossil fuel consumption and deforestation, is destroying the sea ice on which polar bears depend for survival. Although we humans spend a lot of our time trying to stay a toasty 98.6 degrees, polar bears are so adapted to cold that they can’t take temperatures above 50 degrees. As global temperatures increase due to greenhouse gas production, sea ice melts rapidly, leaving the polar bears with no way to hunt for food.
Skeptical? There’s actually scientific data that confirms these fears: The National Snow and Ice Data Center reports that the Arctic ice cover is near record lows, with the January 2012 Arctic ice cover the fourth lowest ever recorded. Polar Bears International says two-thirds of the estimated 20,000 to 25,000 polar bears in the wild could disappear by the middle of this century if carbon dioxide emissions are not cut.
International Polar Bear Day is about polar bear conservation, yes. But it’s also about our own conservation. If rising global temperatures finally eliminate the sea ice, driving the polar bear to extinction, dire consequences for humans will be right around the corner. Changing our behavior now and making drastic changes to shift our society away from fossil fuel consumption is the only hope, for the polar bears as well as ourselves.
This year, Polar Bears International is encouraging everyone to Bundle Up for polar bears by turning down our home thermostats by at least two degrees. This slight decrease in energy consumption has a big impact on your carbon footprint, and helps reduce the amount of climate change-causing emissions in the atmosphere. If you feel a little chilly because of this change, simply bundle up in your favorite warm clothing—and, afterwards, share your “Bundle Up” photos on the Polar Bears International Facebook page.
You can also remind your friends to turn down their thermostats by sending them a free polar bear e-card!
Flickr - NOAA