“During the last 36 years, more than 40 percent of the Arctic sea ice has melted. In September 2016 NASA recorded the minimum extent of the Arctic sea ice since 1979. The ice is also forming later and melting earlier, which means less time for pregnant female polar bears to hunt before denning. Their cubs are born lighter, and struggle to keep up after leaving the den.
Today, scientists are reporting decreasing polar bear populations, smaller litters, and also more frequent events of cannibalism, death by starvation, and death by drowning. One mother polar bear was documented as having swum continuously for nine days in the frigid Bering Sea for 687 kilometres (400 miles) to reach ice far from land. She then travelled another 1,800 kilometres (1,100 miles). During the swim, she lost 22 percent of her body mass and her yearling cub died. Another mother and her two cubs were found to have been crushed inside a maternity den, which seems to have collapsed due to the combined effects of unusually warm weather, which destabilised the snow bank, followed by heavy snowfall in late January.
If these warming trends continue we could see an ice-free Arctic Ocean as early as the 2030s, barely a decade away. This would mean the collapse of an entire ecosystem, not only drastically affecting polar bear populations, but also with huge repercussions for our own species.”