Bookmark and Share

More press releases

For Immediate Release, October 17, 2007

Contact: Kassie Siegel, (951) 961-7972 or

Rapid Action Plan to Save the Polar Bear Unveiled at Congressional Hearing:
Reductions in Methane and Black Carbon Emissions
Alongside Carbon Dioxide Could Save Arctic

WASHINGTON, DC— The Center for Biological Diversity today released a “Rapid Action Plan” to address global warming that has already resulted in a drastic reduction in Arctic sea ice and threatens to drive polar bears extinct. The plan calls for strong reductions in methane and black carbon emissions, pollutants with disproportionate impacts on the Arctic, as immediate measures to slow global-warming impacts alongside global reductions in CO2 emissions.

The plan, titled “Not Too Late to Save the Polar Bear: A Rapid Action Plan to Address the Arctic Meltdown” was released in conjunction with a House Committee on Science and Technology hearing on the impacts of global warming on Arctic sea ice and the polar bear.

Kassie Siegel, director of the Climate, Air and Energy Program at the Center for Biological Diversity, testified at the hearing. “ The rapid melting of the Arctic should be seen as an early warning of the broader climate crises to come if the U.S. and the world do not respond to global warming with the necessary urgency. Instead, like beachgoers chasing the receding waters immediately prior to a tsunami to gather up the exposed shellfish, nations and industry are racing to the newly ice-free areas to stake claims for fossil fuels and shipping routes that would lead us further down the path to climate catastrophe.”

Immediate reductions in carbon dioxide emissions to limit atmospheric CO2 concentrations are essential to preventing the worst impacts of global warming. However, CO2 reductions alone will not be enough to slow and reverse impacts to the Arctic in time to save polar bear populations from extinction. Therefore, it is also necessary to immediately reduce “non-CO2” pollutants such as methane, tropospheric ozone, and black carbon (soot), which disproportionately affect the Arctic.

Fortunately, there are many feasible reduction measures to eliminate hundreds of millions of metric tons of these “non-CO2” pollutants, including many measures that would pay for themselves. Furthermore, because of their relatively short life-spans in the atmosphere, reductions in methane and black carbon emissions can slow global warming over the next few decades, whereas CO2 persists in the atmosphere for more than a century.

A U.S. Geological Survey report this year projected that two-thirds of the world’s polar bears, including all of the bears in Alaska, will be extinct by 2050 due to the impacts of global warming and the subsequent loss of sea ice. Last month, Arctic sea-ice extent reached a historic low, approximately one million square miles smaller than the average minimum of the past three decades. The USGS’s predictions of polar bear extinction are premised on “business as usual” emission scenarios.

“Business as usual will doom the polar bear to extinction,” said Siegel. “But if we can address global warming quickly enough to save the polar bear and the Arctic, then we will be well on our way to solving the problem for the rest of the world as well.”

The rapid action plan to address global warming in the Arctic can be found on the Center for Biological Diversity Web site at

Go back