More than 450 television stations around the United States will soon start airing a public service announcement showing two polar bears desperately trying to find sea ice sturdy enough to stand on, highlighting the effects of climate change.
The ad, which is being launched Monday by a conservation nonprofit group, includes a call to action with a petition to curb global warming, which is causing arctic ice melt.
“Global warming is pushing polar bears to the absolute brink,” said Kieran Suckling, executive director of the Center for Biological Diversity, the group behind the campaign.
“It’s one thing to read about their plight, but to witness them struggling, even on a screen, is incredibly powerful,” he said. “We’re hoping these public service announcements will help galvanize national action to curb the climate crisis, not only for the bears’ sake but for all of us.”
According to the center, global warming left unchecked could shrink the world’s polar bear population by two-thirds by 2050, and the species could be extinct by the end of the century.
The Arctic Ocean will be nearly free of summer sea ice by as soon as 2020, scientists at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) said in April 2013. The U.S. Navy put that threshold even earlier, predicting an ice-free summer in the Arctic Ocean by 2016.
Polar bears need Arctic sea ice to hunt, find mates, and raise their young, relying on it completely as their primary habitat. The bears are usually found at the convergence of sea ice and open water because that’s where seals and other potential prey congregate.
But warming temperatures have caused more ice to melt every year, forcing the bears to swim further to find stable ice or reach land.
Despite the polar bears’ listing under the Endangered Species Act, their prospects for long-term survival remain “troubling,” according to “On Thin Ice,’ a 2013 report by the Center for Biological Diversity.
In 2012, scientists found Arctic sea ice had shrunk almost 300,000 square miles from 2007.
Also, temperatures in the Arctic are increasing at twice the rate of the rest of the globe on average – disrupting the ecosystem the polar bear depends on, the report said.
There are just 20,000-25,000 polar bears worldwide, and the rapid Arctic sea ice decline spurred by global warming has put at least eight of the 19 polar bear populations – including both U.S. groups – in decline.
The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change in August warned of a three-foot sea level rise by 2100. But with new insight into melting glaciers in West Antarctica, which researchers last month called “unstoppable,” that increase has been revised to at least seven feet.
Additional studies have shown that melting in Greenland has accelerated and will be a far more significant contributor to global sea level rise than previously thought, although its exact contribution is currently unknown.