The Arctic and the Antarctic regions play very important roles. How? First, like the human eyes, they are the mirrors to the soul; they are the first to manifest adverse effects like global warming. We witness these changes rather most drastically in these polar regions. Another correspondingly direct effect of global warming is: any change in the polar conditions affects those of all the other regions. Once the polar ice melts, this flushes more freshwater from the region's rivers, consequently holding the ocean from circulating fast enough, thereby causing higher sea levels. With more ice melting, more land and bodies of liquid water are exposed to the heat of the sun. These two, which naturally absorb more heat than snow and ice, causes more warming oceans and land masses. Worst of all is borne by the Arctic's perennially frozen soil - melting of the polar ice releases the greenhouse gases (carbon and methane) trapped within. This is very dangerous as the Arctic permafrost contains a third of the planet's total soil carbon content. Man-made emissions would fade in comparison is all this carbon were released. The National Center for Atmospheric Research has also predicted that the Arctic could be ice-free starting 2040 and sea ice reduced by 80% in the next couple of decades.
Warming of the Arctic has already been felt and is now a cause for apprehension. According to the Polar Bear Specialist Group (the absolute scientific authority on everything involving polar bears) several (5) of their populations in the world are now stamped as declining.
Just recently, the US. Fish and Wildlife Service (USF & WS) announced that the polar bears who once roamed the territory freely may soon be classified under the list of endangered species. The agency has, in fact, done the initial steps already formally proposing to do such that, include the polar bears in the critical registry. This alarming announcement has, in effect, granted the request (later escalating to a demand by way of a lawsuit against the USF & WS) of 3 organizations (the Center for Biological Diversity, the National Resources Defense Council or NRDC, and Greenpeace. For years, these three have been urging the US government precisely to act on the problem. It could be victory for the group, but not much since it has taken the concerned authorities this long ; it will now take painstaking effort to save the polar bears from extinction. An NRDC executive strongly referred to global warming as the one major threat to the survival of the polar bears. He urged further to stop delaying the action and to go full-force; no more half-measures.
Enlisting the species as endangered is not even the culmination of the unified effort; it is only the initial part of a long process. It should take the US Fish and Wildlife Service around one year to study the proposal before they decide on an action to take. Meantime, there is imminent danger that the polar bear would totally lose its sea-ice habitat as this one year rolls by. Loss of sea ice also means loss of their main source of food which are ice seals. This could also result to more mortality as the bears would tend to cannibalize their ranks in the absence of prey. Why? Mainly because enlisting a species as endangered does not necessarily mean ready plans would immediately be implemented. Steps would involve a stoppage on all activities that threaten the bears survival, before developing and implementing of a recovery plan are put to order by the Fish and Wildlife Service. Faced with the rate greenhouse gases are being emitted from the Arctic, this will indeed be a daunting task.
Talking about populations, it is not just that of the polar bears which lie victim to global warming. The Inuits, (a member of the Eskimo peoples living in northernmost North America down to eastern Canada and Greenland) depend on the sea ice for food. The dismal and continued shortening of their hunting season by 50% has had drastic effects on their lives. Will it not be long till a people and an era vanished from the face of the earth? Can we do something about it?