For Immediate Release, December 8, 2010
Dramatic New Video Footage of Starving Polar Bear Cubs Shows
Consequences of Delaying Action on Global Warming
CANCÚN, Mexico— While world leaders meeting in Mexico continue to delay significant action on global warming, dramatic new video footage shows the dire consequences of inaction for imperiled polar bears. The video, shot on November 23, 2010 on the western shores of Hudson Bay in Manitoba, Canada, shows an undernourished polar bear mother and her two starving cubs struggling to survive. One of the cubs experiences seizures in the video, and both cubs died within two days of the filming.
“Although it’s difficult to watch, this video is an important document of the terrible cost of climate change denial and inaction,” said Kassie Siegel, director of the Center for Biological Diversity’s Climate Law Institute, which has petitioned and sued for Endangered Species Act protection for the polar bear due to climate change. “Global warming isn’t a crisis that’s decades away. It’s here now. The sad truth is that polar bears are already starving as global warming melts the Arctic.”
Polar bears are completely dependent on the sea ice for survival, using the ice as a platform for hunting seals, mating and other activities. Polar bears in western Hudson Bay must come to land each spring when the sea ice melts, and must fast until the ice freezes again in the fall. The average date of breakup of the sea ice in western Hudson Bay is now about three weeks earlier than it was 30 years ago, while freeze-up comes several weeks later. Twenty years ago the average date the bears returned to the ice was Nov. 8. Last year, bears returned to the ice around Dec. 4; this year the bears have just begun to return to the ice in the past few days.
The western Hudson Bay polar bear population declined 22 percent between 1987 and 2004. There is every reason to believe that the decline is continuing, and if current trends persist, it will likely be the first polar bear population driven extinct by global warming.
“In November I was in the area where this video was shot, and it was clear polar bears were having a very hard time,” Siegel said. “The loss of sea ice has tragic consequences for them. It’s going to get far worse if world leaders don’t address this unprecedented global crisis effectively, making deep cuts in greenhouse pollution.”
As polar bears in Hudson Bay try to cope with a late freeze-up, the Obama administration is on the verge of making a crucial decision about how much protection the bears should get. Pursuant to litigation by the Center and its allies, the federal government is reviewing whether polar bears should continue to be listed merely as “threatened” or whether they need the more protective designation of “endangered.” The Obama government has to date defended President Bush’s 2008 “threatened” designation, claiming that threats to the species are only of concern in the distant future; it is also defending a Bush-era loophole that allows greenhouse pollution to escape regulation under the Endangered Species Act.
“Global warming is already taking a brutal toll on the polar bears of Hudson Bay. Our failure to reduce emissions has already cost the lives of these polar bear cubs, as well has hundreds of thousands of people around the world,” said Siegel. “But there is still time to create a brighter future. The Obama government must start by acknowledging the urgency of the problem, using domestic laws like the Clean Air Act to sharply reduce greenhouse pollution and the Endangered Species Act to fully protect polar bears, and joining the world in seeking science-based greenhouse pollution reductions through the international negotiations taking place in Cancún.”
The Center for Biological Diversity is a national, nonprofit conservation organization with more than 315,000 members and online activists dedicated to the protection of endangered species and wild places. www.biologicaldiversity.org
The video footage was taken as part of The Arctic Documentary Project by Daniel J. Cox for Polar Bears International. Find out more at www.naturalexposures.com and www.polarbearsinternational.org.