Greenhouse-gas emissions worldwide must be cut to avoid a disappearance of summer sea ice in the Arctic, which is crucial to the polar bear.
Polar bears – the white-furred poster children for global warming's impact on the Arctic – could step back from the brink of extinction over the course of this century if concerted efforts are made to reduce greenhouse-gas emissions and if rigorous wildlife management efforts are undertaken to keep bears and people safely apart.
That's the simple message behind a modeling study unveiled Wednesday by a team of federal and university scientists specializing in Arctic climate and polar-bear ecology.
In some respects, the conclusion isn't surprising, say some researchers who were not involved in the study. But, they add, buried in the study's details is a change in expectations for how the Arctic Ocean's sea ice is likely to behave as the climate warms. This change, if born out in the real world, could give Ursus maritimus more ice rafts to clamber over than might otherwise be the case.
IN PICTURES: Climate change and animals
The study is being released even as environmentalists and scientists are pressing the federal government to list the bears as "endangered." In November, a US district court ruled that the Interior Department had to take a second look at its 2008 decision to list the bears as "threatened," rather than the more-dire "endangered." The department must turn its latest evaluation over to the court by Dec. 23.
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