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Since global warming is affecting the polar bears, how can we help them to not go extinct?
— Tess S., Grade 6

Biodiversity scientist Richard Pearson answers this question:

Hi Tess,

Global warming is affecting many species on our planet, including polar bears .

Some species can respond to the changing global climate by changing their distribution — the area that a species lives and moves within. For example, many species of birds in North America are moving their distributions northward as the climate changes.

Other species are unable to adjust to changing conditions and therefore become extinct . For example, the golden toad used to be found in the tropical cloud forests of Costa Rica, but are now thought to be extinct. Scientists have collected evidence which shows that the golden toad was probably driven to extinction by climate change , because the forests became too dry for them to survive.

golden toads

The golden toad probably went extinct when the forests became too dry for this species.

As for the polar bears, they spend most of their time on floating sheets of sea ice  hunting for their favorite food, seals. But as the Arctic  has warmed in recent years, the ice is melting earlier. This gives the bears less time to hunt. So some bears might not be able to build up the fat they need to survive the rest of the year. 

We can all contribute to reducing climate change, and therefore help polar bears and other endangered  species. A significant cause of climate change is the emission of polluting gases from burning fossil fuels, such as coal and oil. Fossil fuels are burned when we use electricity or drive our cars, among other things.

polar bear on ice floe

The number of polar bears is dropping. Further global warming could threaten the entire species.

Here are just a few important things we can do to help reduce global warming:

  1. Use our cars less (walk or take public transport whenever possible)
  2. Use energy  efficient light bulbs (these are available in most household stores — encourage your parents and teachers to buy them!)
  3. Recycle  more and avoid products that have lots of packaging.
  4. Turn off electric devices when you're not using them.

 

All these actions will help reduce the amount of pollution we create. And don't forget, when you get older you will have the opportunity to vote for politicians that support taking action to reduce global warming.

Explore More: 

  • How is global warming affecting animals that are Living on Ice in the Arctic?
  • Find out how global warming is endangering the planet's species and habitats in Going, Going... Gone?
  • Kids talk about how melting ice is threatening polar bears in this video, The Sea Ice is Melting
Richard Pearson

Name:
Richard Pearson

Job Title:
Biodiversity Scientist, Center for Biodiversity & Conservation & the Department of Herpetology

Known For:
Richard researches how species respond to climate change . He is also looking for ways to speed up the discovery of unknown species.

Cool Fact:
Using computer models, Richard can predict where groups of plant and animal species may move in response to Earth's changing climate.

Image Credits:
golden toads, courtesy of NOAA; polar bear, © courtesy of NASA Goddard Space Flight Center (CC BY 2.0); Richard Pearson, courtesy of Richard Pearson.