Global warming is apparently causing a population boom in some small Alaskan communities.
Alaskan villages are seeing an increased presence of polar bears in their communities, according to a Monday report from PBS NewsHour, as the animals move inland to try and find food. The bears have been forced from their former hunting grounds as Arctic sea ice — which reached the second lowest recorded level over the weekend — has receded. Now, instead of finding their dinner in Arctic waters, the bears are poking around the ice boxes of Alaskans.
The altered behavior of the polar bears in Alaska, which are classified as a “vulnerable” species, illustrates the danger of melting Arctic ice for wildlife and communities in the region. Arctic sea ice, which researchers say could be gone sometime between two and 15 years from now, plays an important role in providing a habitat for polar bears and also in reflecting sunlight out of the atmosphere instead of allowing darker ocean water to absorb that heat.
The effects may be felt elsewhere, far beyond the Arctic as well. Scientists have suggested that an ice-free Arctic could impact the jet stream and change weather and weather patterns further south.
The decline in sea ice has come as a result of fossil fuel burning and deforestation that have elevated global temperatures by almost 2 percent Fahrenheit since the 1800s. The increased production of greenhouse gas emissions from fossil fuel emissions, especially since the beginning of the industrial revolution, have caused nearly a 30 percent increase in concentrations of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. Carbon dioxide, alongside other gases like methane, absorbs and traps heat in the atmosphere that would have normally exited into space.
While there have been high profile pushes to lower greenhouse gas emissions across the globe, including last year’s United Nations Paris climate agreement, the situation is still dire, scientists warn. Some of those researchers say without a way to trap carbon dioxide emissions, the world has already reached the point of no return for dramatic effects of climate change in the future.