For Immediate Release, September 8, 2007
Kassie Siegel, Center for Biological Diversity, (760) 366-2232 x 302 or (951) 961-7972
Jane Kochersperger, Greenpeace, (202) 680-3798
Full Court Press on Greenhouse Gas Pollution Needed to Save Polar Bears
WASHINGTON, D.C.– A newly released United States Geological Service (USGS) report concluding that two-thirds of the world’s polar bears will disappear by the middle of this century underscores the urgent need for a reduction in greenhouse gas pollution, according to the Center for Biological Diversity and Greenpeace. The report also found that polar bears will disappear entirely from Alaska during the same time period. The study is based on “middle of the road” climate projections, which do not account for the more rapid rate of warming actually observed; the projected polar bear losses may in fact be understated.
“This grim news for polar bears is a call to action for all of us,” said Kassie Siegel, director of the Center for Biological Diversity’s Climate, Air, and Energy Program and author of the legal petition to list the polar bear under the Endangered Species Act. “Polar bears will go extinct if current greenhouse gas pollution rates continue,” Siegel said. “But there is still time to change this outcome. Rapid and deep greenhouse gas pollution cuts can save polar bears and the entire Arctic ecosystem.”
The USGS study was submitted to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service as part of the Endangered Species Act listing process for the polar bear. The Bush administration was forced by a petition and lawsuit by the Center for Biological Diversity, Greenpeace, and the Natural Resources Defense Council to determine whether the polar bear qualifies for listing under the Act. A final listing determination is due on January 9, 2008.
“Americans should be outraged that inaction by our government and stalling measures on global warming from corporations like Exxon that are driving the majestic polar bear into oblivion,” said Melanie Duchin, Greenpeace global warming campaigner in Alaska. “Congress needs to kick into high gear on global warming legislation. Failure is not an option.”
The unprecedented melting of Arctic sea ice this summer underscores the urgency of the climate crisis. On August 17, the National Snow and Ice Data Center reported that sea-ice extent dropped below the previous record low, from September 2005, of 2.05 million square miles. As of September 3, 2007, sea-ice extent had fallen to 1.70 million square miles — fully 350,000 square miles below the previous record. The melting is expected to continue into the third week in September.