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Are Polar Bears in Danger from Global Warming?

Mary McMahon
Updated Jun 04, 2024
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Global warming, a scientifically documented phenomenon wherein the global temperature is steadily rising, has a profound impact on species all over the world. Polar bears and other Arctic species are particularly at risk because their habitat is increasingly threatened by the rising temperatures. Numerous scientific agencies have shown that polar bear numbers are on the decline, and that if action is not taken quickly, these animals may vanish from the Earth, deprived of habitat, food, and shelter.

In the wild, polar bears spend much of their lives wandering pack ice in search of food, which presents itself in the form of other Arctic animals like seals. These bears have adapted to a high fat diet from ocean-going animals like seals: they are rapid and aggressive swimmers, allowing them to readily capture their prey. Each summer, as the pack ice starts to shrink, polar bears draw closer to land to give birth to and nurse cubs. Many forgo food during this period, hunting again when the ice returns and living on stored fat.

Pack ice overall is decreasing globally. When it does form, it melts more quickly, and tends to be thinner as well. In 2004, several polar bear deaths by drowning were recorded, something which was unheard of before. The bears had been trapped on isolated areas of floating ice, and had tried to swim for land. Due to the shrinkage of the ice, they tired and drowned before reaching shore and safety. This problem is likely to grow as the pack ice shrinks.

The shrinkage of the ice has other repercussions for polar bears: they are losing their natural prey, who are also affected by the shrinkage in habitat. The bears are not very adept at catching land animals such as caribou, and also must contend with other species for these food sources. Land animals also do not provide the high fat diet that polar bears need, which may lead to starvation. Starving mothers may not be able to provide their cubs with the nutrition they need, which will further contribute to the decline in polar bear numbers.

While searching for food and habitat, polar bears have also clashed with humans. Interactions with the animals used to be very rare, because the bears kept to the sea ice. With the disappearance of that ice, bears have begun to show up around inhabited areas looking for food and shelter. They contend with hunters for their kills and often end up being slaughtered because they pose a threat to human communities.

The combination of deadly factors brought about by global warming put polar bears at a very high rate of risk. Drops in birth and survival rates have already been documented, and biologists are growing concerned about erratic behavior exhibited by the animals as a result of the loss of their natural habitat. Organizations dedicated to the welfare of the environment believe that a global effort is needed to counteract global warming before it is too late for polar bears, as well as many other species that call Earth home.

All Things Nature is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Mary McMahon
By Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a All Things Nature researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

Discussion Comments
By anon250586 — On Feb 26, 2012

First (fact), the "global temperature" has been declining since 1998. Second (fact), global populations of polar bears is at an all time high. Both of these claims are scientifically documented.

Before you write an article such as this how about spending a few minutes researching the available "scientific data."

By anon249257 — On Feb 20, 2012

"Global warming, a scientifically documented phenomenon..."

Problem. Scientists have done the documenting, but it has not been a "scientific" process. They've left out all kinds of data, including looking at the numbers from the last thousand years. (There are numerous ways to track temps from environmental markers.) We're not even a quarter as warm as the Medieval Warm Period, just significantly warmer than the little ice age that followed it.

If the polar bears survived the Medieval Warm Period, they're going to be fine now (well, unless we fish their food supply into extinction, or kill them with pollutants -- those are things we *can* control).

By anon241583 — On Jan 19, 2012

I find it sad that so many of the youth posting on this site have so completely bought into the man-made global warming myth. For you young people who have been taught that we (humans) are at fault, please understand that there is no scientific consensus on global warming. Yes, some are absolutely convinced of it, but just as many are convinced it is not happening. Even those that do believe are not certain why it is happening. There is still a lot of research that needs to be done in this area, and tons of pseudo-science that needs to be dealt with.

In the meantime, treat the earth kindly, and conserve resources where appropriate, but don't freak out.

By anon217199 — On Sep 24, 2011

I hope people will save the polar bears!

By anon180791 — On May 27, 2011

Polar bears are living like us! We need to help them, and stop sitting here and doing nothing. People aren't even trying to help them because there has been no change in the population. OK and the guy who keeps talking about Al Gore, I don't think he's that helpful either. Help the polar bears! This site was extremely helpful with my science project. Thanks.

By anon166000 — On Apr 06, 2011

Polar bears should be saved, not risked and some people even think that honey bees are more important than polar bears! Please save the polar bears! Try to find something that would help the polar bears from dying because of global warming! I love polar bears!

By anon163128 — On Mar 26, 2011

I've actually read many articles that say why global warming is fake and it sounds like a reasonable argument, but there is no explanation other than global warming for the polar bears. Also, if you love polar bears, instead of asking for help, why don't you get up and do something for them?

By anon87852 — On Jun 01, 2010

i am a person who really loves animals. global warming has a great effect on the world; to animals and humans. Global warming is a fact and does not start after "ice age". Look, it is our responsibility to protect Mother Earth since we are so called "smarter" animals. We have more ideas on saving Mother Earth and should really work on that. Who agrees with me?

By anon87819 — On Jun 01, 2010

All you people who think global warming is fake are dumb. All *real* scientists believe in global warming, they just don't agree on what is causing global warming to happen.

By anon82187 — On May 04, 2010

hey cut al gore some slack. he's just a guy with some brains who uses them to try save the world from global warming. he cares. give him some credit people. global warming is not a myth. take some responsibility, please.

By anon78566 — On Apr 19, 2010

I really hope someone can help polar bears! I love them.

By anon78565 — On Apr 19, 2010

I'm doing a project on polar bears for my computer class, and when i looked at this article i also read the comments, and some were pretty dumb, because I love polar bears, and i wish i could do something for them. I think this year has been a hope for polar bears because where i live, it's still cold in the mornings. So, go polar bears!

By anon72915 — On Mar 24, 2010

they're so cute. let's help them.

By anon72630 — On Mar 23, 2010

well you're wrong. if you look at the outer version of the world from space you can see the polar ice sheets are melting at a rate not known since the ice age.

global warming is a real serious problem and we cause more damage because of the carbon emissions etc. the thicker it is the harder it will be to exist. the global warming gases back into space etc.

global warming was a natural thing until we helped it along way too much so stick that in your hub caps.

By anon70981 — On Mar 16, 2010

Look, kids..the polar bears will be fine. The planet doesn't need to be saved. Al Gore does. You can't "save" a planet. Forty-nine states got snow this winter, yet Al is nowhere to be found for an answer. God is in control, people.

By anon70763 — On Mar 16, 2010

i love polar bears. They're so cute. please don't kill them. i love them.

By anon69577 — On Mar 09, 2010

my name is samuel and i am 11 years old. i really like the article about polar bears. i am doing a test and i need make a campaign so i wanted to choose something that i feel strongly about.

By anon59144 — On Jan 06, 2010

Global warming started right after the "ice age" ... and man has had noting to do with it.

By anon58631 — On Jan 03, 2010

I am very sorry that our youth are being scared to death with the false idea that the ice is melting and we as well as the poor polar bears will fade off into oblivion.

It is a travesty to scare children and adults in order to effect the largest seizure of our economy ever. Al Gore and his cronies will make fortunes on cap and trade in exchange for absolution for our green sins- a system that does nothing to reduce emissions (but has direct parallels to the religious practice of papal absolution during the crusades).

Look at the facts- this is a scam that hopefully is losing steam.

By anon55689 — On Dec 09, 2009

Polar bear numbers are five fold what they were in the eighties.

There is a reason why, despite what the alarmists want you to believe; polar bears are not on the endangered species list.

Do you get that? Polar bears are not on the endangered species list.

By anon53695 — On Nov 23, 2009

get your facts straight. The polar bear population has declined. Do you know what that means? They have gone from a population of 33,000 to a population of 25,000.

Where the heck did you get your information? Global warming is not a hoax! Do your research before you talk about hoaxes.

By anon36241 — On Jul 10, 2009

Will the polar bears be taken to zoos?

By anon34969 — On Jul 01, 2009

"'Cause Al Gore is wayyyyyy smarter than you I'm sure; have you gotten close to being president? NO!"

So by this logic that anyone who's gotten close to being president is smart and thus right on their views about global warming, does that mean George W. Bush, who scoffed at some global warming claims, is smarter than Al Gore?

Global warming's existence or want thereof has nothing to do with what Al Gore thinks. He's not a climatologist, he's not a scientist, he's an ex politician with an agenda of his own. What he says is not made right by dint of his being "wayyyy smart" because he almost became president.

Your logic is simply ridiculous, anon22445

By anon33517 — On Jun 07, 2009

OK who ever thinks global warming is not really happening then really wow you are are wrong. oh just forget about the animals that have been dying for years because of carbon dioxide emissions, they will be all right. well i just hope you realize how much damage is done not just to the animals but to yourselves too. i hope you come to realize it and learn to actually care.

By anon27162 — On Feb 24, 2009

Polar bear growth has actually gone up from 5-10K to 25K since the sixties...

By anon27089 — On Feb 23, 2009

hola amigos necesitamos salvar las especies del planeta necesitamos salvar alos osos polares no porque esten desapareciendo tan pronto si no porque podemos salvarlos no contamines el planeta porque

el hogar de los osos desaparecera,todavia se pude dejar de contaminar.

hello friends, we need to save the planet's species. we need to save polar bears. they will not disappear as quickly if we can save the planet. do not contaminate home of the bears.

marcos de sur america

we can do many things to take care our planet lets do it.

By ace14 — On Jan 09, 2009

hey guys. i need a question answered for my biology/ecology class. The question is: in what three specific areas has the polar bear been impacted by global warming, and what is being done to prevent this cause?

By mrscullen — On Dec 23, 2008

This is for anon22245. I think that's what he was saying in the first place. Didn't he say that polar bears have died from global warming? Yes, Al Gore is a smart man- The Inconvenient Truth was a great movie. But you don't have to be a used-to-be-the-future-President to know something about global warming. So calm down- you'll melt the ice caps.

By anon22245 — On Nov 30, 2008

Okay, 'GWhoax'! You may think you're this great genius who knows everything and think it's really obvious that there's no such thing as global warming and polar bears like the ice caps melting because that way they can swim more; but you're WRONG! Polar bears are dying and they're losing the ability to hunt, mate, and raise their cubs!

Lesson #1: You need to stop being such a high-and-mighty kind of guy with your 'Do you realize this?' and 'Do you realize that?' got it? 'Cause Al Gore is wayyyyyy smarter than you I'm sure; have you gotten close to being president? NO!

By anon20091 — On Oct 25, 2008

hey, im 13 and i go Monroe Middle school im doing a science in the news project and i think this really helped. i also luv!!!!! polar bears and i hope something happens soon before they are gone.

By anon18281 — On Sep 18, 2008

i am 1 kid in high school doing an ecology project and was wandering what happens when all the ice melts where will the polar bears go?

By anon14863 — On Jun 25, 2008

hey im a 15 year girl who's doing a project in endangered species and i also belief are generation is going down the hill due to global warming and the economy isn't helping...we need more international help and ways we can help the endangered species survive.

By anon13191 — On May 21, 2008

Hey, I'm 13 and doing a project for school. I found this site very useful, thanks! All other sites seem to have mostly biased information. Thanks again! Bye!

By GWhoax — On May 01, 2008

Do you realize that the whole Global Warming thing is a HOAX by Al Gore to make money on his fiction documentary, which the British don't allow to be shown in schools. Polar Bears have made a huge comeback since the 1950's from pop. of 5000 to 25,000 today. and it's the sun that Causes the earth to warm and that is a good thing, the alternative is worse! Look at the mini-ice age of the middle ages. And now the "green" movement is going to save the environment with bio-fuels, but starve people on the margins who would have eaten that bio-fuel, great movement!

By RawrAtRel — On Apr 25, 2008

Hello. This is a good article and i really wish people cared more. I'm a 14 year old girl and i love polar bears a lot. I also have a big concern about our world and the environment. Unlike most people my age, i would like to keep a generation going. I'm trying to help out as much as i can but it's hard when i have low money and i live in a small town full of people who don't care. The animals that we have came to love, are going to be killed off because some people aren't awakened by this tragical event. I wish that i could speak out and actually have people listen to me, because if an adult looks at me they think I'm just another dumb kid. Well that's very untrue and if i could make a difference i would but no one cares what a dumb 14 year old girl has to say. If there's any way i can help at all that is not a lot of money or is even free, let me know because i have the knowledge and I i know i can make a difference. Thank you.

-Arielle. :)

By anon860 — On May 07, 2007

I really really hope that we can help one another and rid of this Global Warming, there are a lot of animals at risk, but not only that we are too, and our future generations are too! Wish there was something I could do.

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a...

Learn more
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