It May Not Be Too Late for the Polar Bears

March 23, 2011

By Judy Schropp Hoyer:

It would be nice if there were hope for the polar bears, but hope may not be all it’s cracked up to be.  Consider this excerpt from an Associated Press article, December 16, 2010:

Two groups of scientists are suggesting a sliver of hope for the future of polar bears. A study published online in the Journal NATURE rejects the often used concept of a “tipping point,” or point of no return, when it comes to sea ice and the big bear that has become the symbol of climate change woes.  The study optimistically suggests if the world dramatically changed its steadily increasing emissions of greenhouse gases, a total loss of critical summer sea ice for the bears could be averted.  Another research group projects that even if global warming doesn’t slow — a more likely near-future scenario – a thin, icy refuge for the bears would still remain between Greenland and Canada.

A “thin, icy refuge”  – great.  What more could they need?  And why should we care?

But, did I mention the oceans? Consider this from Matthew Knight for CNN, Dec. 12, 2010:

OCEANS FAILING THE ACID TEST, U.N. SAYS

The chemistry of the world’s oceans is changing at a rate not seen for 65 million years, with far-reaching implications for marine bio-diversity and food security, according to a new United Nations study. 

“Environmental consequences of ocean acidification,” published by the U.N. Environmental Program (UNEP), warns that some sea organisms including coral and shellfish will find it increasingly difficult to survive, as acidification shrinks the minerals needed to form their skeletons.

Lead author of the report Carol Turley, from the UK’s Plymouth Marine Laboratory, said in a statement: “We are seeing an overall negative impact from ocean acidification directly on organisms and on some key ecosystems that help provide food for billions.  We need to start thinking about the risk to food security.

It’s CO2 Again

Why?   We’re back to CO2.  CO2 emissions are absorbed by the oceans where they turn into carbolic acid.  This causes the oceans to acidify.  Acidification affects the growth and structural integrity of tropical reefs and, coupled with ocean warming, could limit the habitats of crabs, mussels and other shellfish.  In turn, this will affect the rest of the food chain (right on up to the polar bear and us).   Fish depend upon coral reefs for shelter and food.  And a billion people rely on fish as a key source of protein.

Aw, who needs stupid fish anyway?  We can eat cake.  Or become vegetarian.  Eat meat.   Or, maybe, we could all stop needing so much oil.

Editor’s note:  Judy Schropp Hoyer is an attorney, mother and organic farmer. She joins CWN with an occasional essay on the state of the world.