Polar bears spend so much of their time on ice floes and the frozen Arctic Ocean that they are classified as aquatic mammals. The greenhouse-effect heating of planet Earth is melting polar bear habitat out of existence.

          In fact the situation is so dire that a University of Washington study released in July reported that the region north of Greenland and Canada’s Arctic islands, which was once thought to be “one area (that) might serve as a refuge – a place that could continue to harbor ice-dependent species when conditions in nearby areas become inhospitable” is “already showing a decline in summer sea ice.”

          The release states the obvious: “How the last ice-covered regions will fare matters for polar bears that use the ice to hunt for seals that use the ice for building dens for their young, and for walruses that use the ice as a platform for foraging.”

          Assessing the warming planet, scientists from The Netherlands Meteorological Institute and Oxford University point to the recent record-setting June heat wave that blasted the Pacific Northwest and western Canada and concluded it was “virtually impossible” without climate change, as reported by the BBC’s Matt McGrath.

          His summary observers:

          “In their study, the team of researchers says that the deadly heat wave was a one-in-a-1,000-year event.

          “But we can expect extreme events such as this to become more common as the world heats up due to climate change.

          “If humans hadn’t influenced the climate to the extent that they have, the event would have been 150 times less likely.”

          And while CTV reported on July that a University of British Columbia researcher estimated that “more than one billion marine animals,” such as mussels, clams, starfish and other invertebrates, may have died during the heat attack, it not just “lower” animals in the crosshairs of climate catastrophe.

          The Associated Press reported at least 79 deaths heat-related deaths in Oregon, with hundreds more likely and CTV’s related stories July 6 included:

          • Coroners responded to nearly 100 deaths on Vancouver Island during heat wave;

          • Sudden deaths recorded during B.C.’s heat wave up to 719, coroners say;

          • B.C. heat wave leads to severe damage to some crops, benefits to others;

          • Out-of-province fire crews, armed forces heading to B.C. to help with wildfires.

          That last mention  refers to more than 180 heat-fueled wildfires in Canada. Similar stories have been news staples in our own West for months now – reigniting now as the summer warms up. Intense heat and drought turns forests and grasslands into tinder.

          NBC’s Ben Kessden reported in June: “Water is increasingly scarce in the Western U.S. — where 72 percent of the region is in ‘severe’ drought, 26 percent is in exceptional drought, and populations are booming.

          “This year’s aridity is happening against the backdrop of a 20-year-long drought. The past two decades have been the driest or the second driest in the last 1,200 years in the West, posing existential questions about how to secure a livable future in the region.”

          A “livable future!” It won’t just be polar bears seeking new habitat as Earth keeps getting hotter.

          Our current trajectory will result in tragedy. The Earthly ecosystem  which enabled us to flourish will disappear much too fast to allow us to adapt – with only ourselves to blame.

          One of Kessden’s examples is the Las Vegas metropolitan area, of 2.2 million people, where “Around 90 percent of the water comes from Lake Mead, the reservoir on the Colorado River formed by the Hoover Dam, which is currently 36 percent full.”

          CBS contributed to the real news stockpile by pointing out, “Western drought brings plague of voracious grasshoppers.”

          And, to include the third largest country in North America, we turn to Reuters to read, “A long-term drought that has hit two-thirds of Mexico looks set to worsen in coming weeks, with forecasts warning of high temperatures, crop damage and water supply shortages on the horizon, including in the populous capital.”

          Raw Story recently passed along an announcement from The Weather Channel’s chief content officer and executive vice president Nora Zimmett, who told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution that TWC will start pointing out the links between weather events and the overall warming of the planet.

          “Our viewers are seeing it on their doorsteps,” Zimmett told the newspaper. “It’s impacting them in ways never before seen. Industries such as farming are saying they have never seen such crazy weather patterns. Many natural disasters are being linked to climate change. The evidence has become overwhelming. Young people are shouting about it on the rooftops.”

          Say goodbye to polar bears, floating north on the last ice floes left in the Arctic Ocean, while those remaining behind will have to find different kinds of lives by hybridizing with grizzlies into a brand new species. Right now, the debate is between “pizzly” or “grolar” – and examples already exist.

          Where we go and what we become is yet to be determined.

          (Gary Edmondson is chair of the Stephens County Democratic Party. Longer versions of his columns can be found at scdpok.us or facebook.com/SCDPOK/.)

Unbearable heat creates new bear

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