A new study warns that polar bears may be starved into extinction by the end of this century as Arctic sea ice melts, destroying much of their habitat. The large white bears have long been the poster child of climate change consequences. Now research led by the University of Toronto says they're increasingly struggling to find enough food -- mainly seals -- to survive.
If more sea ice is lost, the estimated 25,000 polar bears in the Arctic would be forced onto land and away from their food supplies for longer periods. Prolonged fasting and reduced nursing of cubs would lead to rapid declines in reproduction and survival. "But if society gets its act together," one scientist says, "we have time to save polar bears. And if we do, we will benefit the rest of life on Earth, including ourselves."
Class discussion: Have you seen a polar bear at a zoo or on a nature program? Why is the survival of this animal important? List one major cause of climate change that melts Arctic ice, according to most scientists. Describe another impact of generally warmer global temperatures over recent decades.
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