Arctic melt: will polar bears vanish by 2100?

What is the News?

According to a study published in the journal Earth’s Future, if carbon emissions continue at current levels, then by 2100 Arctic sea ice may disappear during the summer, which could drive polar bears and other ice-dependent species to extinction.

What is the importance of Arctic Ice?

In winter, most of the Arctic Ocean surface freezes. During this time, Arctic sea ice reflects sunlight away from Earth’s surface, keeping temperatures cool. 

But when it melts in the summer, Arctic oceans absorb the sunlight instead, causing oceans to warm and temperatures to rise. This results in a rich marine ecosystem. 

Moreover, in some parts of the Arctic, such as the “Last Ice Area — a vast area north of Canada and Greenland — sea ice has historically thrived year-round instead of melting during the summer, providing a vital habitat for ice-dependent animals like seals and polar bears.

But with a warming climate, summer sea ice has been shrinking fast and now consistently spans less than half the area it did in the early 1980s.

What are the findings of the study? 

The study covered the Last Ice Area where sea ice has traditionally been the thickest round the year and is thus likely to be most resilient.

Based on this area, the study has looked at two scenarios:

Optimistic Scenario: During this, carbon emissions are immediately and drastically curbed to prevent the worst global warming. This could result in a limited portion of the ice surviving in the region. At least some seals, bears and other creatures may survive.

Pessimistic Scenario: During this scenario, emissions continue at their current rate of increase and the summer ice would disappear by the end of the century. This would result in polar bears and seals that live on it could become extinct by 2100.

Source: This post is based on the article Arctic melt: will polar bears vanish by 2100? published in Indian Express on 19th October 2021.

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