In recent years, the rate of melting ice has been on the rise because of global warming. But the reduced amount of ice makes it difficult for polar bears to capture seals for food. A CNN report shows that polar bears are getting thinner and giving birth to fewer cubs as the sea ice dwindles. Now, a new study in the journal Nature has revealed that polar bears could be extinct by the year 2100 if humans do not put an end to global warming.

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According to the study, polar bears are being pushed to the brink of extinction because of current human practices. The study indicates that if humans continue emitting greenhouse gases into the atmosphere, the polar bears might not exist past the year 2100.

Related: Climate change-induced melting of mountain ice threats global supply of freshwater

Polar bears have been ranked as the largest terrestrial carnivores. But the survival of this species depends on the Arctic’s sea ice. Polar bears only feed during the Arctic winter, when the waters are frozen. They use the ice to stand on while capturing seals, stocking up on this food in the form of body fat to prepare for the summer, when the ice has melted. If the warmer summer weather lasts longer than anticipated, the polar bears are likely to die due to a lack of food supply.

Péter K. Molnár, one of the study’s authors and assistant professor at University of Toronto Scarborough, explained that the polar bears use the ice because they aren’t skilled enough to swim and catch the seals. The polar bears cannot feed if there is no ice in the Arctic.

According to the study, polar bear cubs are the most vulnerable, followed by the adult mothers. If the mature males lack food, they are likely to feed on the cubs. Given that polar bears are already producing fewer cubs than before, it is important to protect the offspring by ensuring that there is ice for the older bears to fish.

“Ultimately, the bears need food and in order to have food, they need ice,” Molnár explained. “But in order for them to have ice, we need to control climate change.”

+ Nature


Image via Margo Tanenbaum