On Monday, the Obama administration said that polar bears were on the brink of extinction unless something is done about climate change. However, according to studies, the future of polar bears is actually bright as their population steadily grows.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Services (FWS) established the grim future of polar bears on its last Conservation Management Plan. FWS officials warned everyone that the fate of polar bears will be determined by “our willingness and ability to address climate change.”
“The current global polar bear population is estimated to be 26,000. If greenhouse gas emissions continue to rise at the current rates throughout the 21st century, polar bears will likely disappear from much of their present-day range,” according to Fish and Wildlife Services.
The recent statement prompted zoologist Susan Crackford, founder of the Polar Bear Science website, to question the agency’s “sensationalized nonsense” by spreading wrong information.
Crackford said in a post that since 2007 “summer sea ice coverage has declined to levels their sea ice colleagues said would not occur until 2050 yet 2/3 of the world’s polar bears did not disappear as USGS (U.S. Geological Service) biologists predicted.”
On 2008, the population of the massive arctic-dwelling mammal was listed as “threatened.” But recently, experts saw a remarkable increase in their population, which FWS failed to mention, said Crackford.
“They also don’t tell folks that the recent decline in population size recorded for the Southern Beaufort Sea was caused by thick spring sea ice in 2004-2006, not reduced summer sea ice,” Crockford added.
According to the International Union for Conservation of Nature, the polar bear population is between 22,000 and 31,000, the highest estimated population in 50 years.
On 2013, FWS reported that Chuckchi Sea population in Alaska was doing “quite well,” while the Norwegian Polar Institute reported on 2015 that polar bears in the Barents Sea had increased by 42 percent since 2004.
Meanwhile, the recent statement of FWS was criticized by wildlife groups. The group questions why the federal plan failed to order the large-scale U.S reduction in greenhouse-gas emissions to fight climate change.
“Polar bears are starving and drowning as their sea ice melts away, but this toothless plan shrugs off the one solution that will save them — carbon pollution cuts,” said Shaye Wolf, climate science director at the Center for Biological Diversity.
The center argued that in order to address the important threats to the polar bear, the government should reduce oil and gas drilling, reduce Arctic shipping and contaminants.
Instead, the FWS wants to reduce “human-bear conflicts, collaboratively managing subsistence harvest, protecting denning habitat, and minimizing the risk of contamination from oil spills.”
“Most of these actions are already under way, in partnership with Alaska Native communities, nonprofit groups, and industry representatives who participated in the plan’s creation,” the FWS added. “The plan also calls for increased monitoring and research to determine whether the actions in the CMP are being effective or need to be modified.”
The FWS’s final plan was released weeks before President Barrack Obama steps down from office. Critics said the statement was issued to startle the incoming Trump Administration.
“Perhaps it’s not a coincidence that this old hype is being recycled as ‘news’ prior to the inauguration of President-elect Trump?” Crockford asked.
The FWS said their final plan are just “short-term fixes” focused on helping the “revered symbol of the Arctic persist in the wild in the near term, while also acknowledging the primary threat to the bear will entail longer-term actions.”
“This plan outlines the necessary actions and concrete commitments by the service and our state, tribal, federal and international partners to protect polar bears in the near term,” said Greg Siekaniec, the service’s Alaska regional director.
“But make no mistake — without decisive action to address Arctic warming, the long-term fate of this species is uncertain,” Siekaniec added.