13. CLIMATE ACTION

Landmark study quantifies the impact of greenhouse gas emissions on polar bears, removing an obstacle that prevented climate action

Landmark study quantifies the impact of greenhouse gas emissions on polar bears, removing an obstacle that prevented climate action
Written by ZJbTFBGJ2T

Landmark study quantifies the impact of greenhouse gas emissions …  EurekAlert

Landmark study quantifies the impact of greenhouse gas emissions on polar bears, removing an obstacle that prevented climate action

Scientists Establish Link Between Greenhouse Gas Emissions and Polar Bear Survival

Polar bear

Image: Polar bear

Credit: Erinn Hermsen / Polar Bears International

In a groundbreaking study published in Science, scientists from Polar Bears International, the University of Washington, and the University of Wyoming have quantified the direct link between greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and polar bear survival. The report, titled “Unlock the Endangered Species Act to address GHG emissions,” provides a template for estimating the impact of proposed GHG-emitting actions on polar bears, overcoming a loophole in the Endangered Species Act (ESA) that has historically hindered climate considerations. The study connects GHG emissions, ice-free days caused by these emissions, and polar bear survival rates, shedding light on the declining trends observed in some polar bear subpopulations.

Background

Polar bears were listed under the ESA in 2008 due to sea ice loss caused by climate warming. However, a legal opinion issued by then-Solicitor of the Department of the Interior, David Bernhardt, stated that ESA considerations of emissions would not be required unless the impact of emissions from specific projects could be separated from the impact of all historic global emissions. This limitation prevented climate change from being included in ESA evaluations. The new study addresses this issue by establishing a direct link between anthropogenic GHG emissions and cub survival rates, allowing for the inclusion of emissions in future evaluations.

Lead author Dr. Steven Amstrup, chief scientist emeritus at Polar Bears International and an adjunct professor at the University of Wyoming, explains, “Until now, we’ve lacked the ability to distinguish impacts of greenhouse gases emitted by particular activities from the impacts of historic cumulative emissions. In this paper, we reveal a direct link between anthropogenic GHG emissions and cub survival rates. The methodology, for the first time, allows us to parse the impact of emissions by source. Importantly, this approach has broad application beyond polar bears and can be used by managers and policymakers worldwide when evaluating development projects.”

Findings and Methodology

Building on a previous report that linked projected polar bear survival to summer fasting duration caused by global warming, this study quantifies the number of ice-free/fasting days caused by specific amounts of CO2-eq emissions. This allows for a direct calculation of the impact of a project’s emissions on future polar bear cub recruitment. For example, the emissions from hundreds of power plants in the U.S. over their lifespans will reduce cub recruitment in the Southern Beaufort Sea population by approximately 4%.

The Bernhardt Memo Explained

In 2008, polar bears became the first species listed under the ESA due to threats from human-caused climate warming. However, the Bernhardt Memo issued shortly after listing stated that impacts of emissions from individual actions could not be separated from the impact of historic emissions. This prevented the inclusion of GHG emissions in ESA Section 7 reviews. The new study fills the knowledge gap identified in the Bernhardt Memo, allowing for the parsing of GHG emissions from any action and the rescission of the memo.

Co-author Dr. Cecilia Bitz, professor of atmospheric sciences at the University of Washington, emphasizes the significance of the study, stating, “Our study shows that not only sea ice, but polar bear survival, can be directly related to greenhouse gas emissions.”

Implications

Other Species: The methodology used in this study can be adapted for other species and habitats, such as coral reefs, Key Deer, or beach-nesting species impacted by rising sea levels.

U.S. Policy: This study provides the scientific basis needed to rescind the Bernhardt Memo and include GHG emissions in reviews of all new projects considered by the Department of Interior.

International Policy: The findings of this study have wider implications for oil and gas leasing activities worldwide. The ability to trace emissions to specific projects and companies enables accountability and can inform more sustainable businesses and policies as countries work towards achieving climate and biodiversity targets.

About Polar Bears International

Polar Bears International is dedicated to conserving polar bears and the sea ice they depend on. The organization’s mission is to inspire people to care about the Arctic, its future threats, and its connection to the global climate. Polar Bears International is the only nonprofit organization solely focused on wild polar bears and Arctic sea ice. Their staff includes scientists who study wild polar bears, making them a recognized leader in polar bear conservation.

About the University of Washington

The University of Washington is a preeminent public higher education and research institution founded in 1861. With elite programs in various fields and a consistent ranking among the top five universities in federal research funding, the university is known for its academic excellence and contributions to research.

Media Contacts

Annie Edwards, Polar Bears International — annie@fabricmedia.net, +44 0 7307 139 782

Melissa Hourigan, Polar Bears International — melissa@fabricmedia.net, +1 720 988 3856

Hannah Hickey, UW News — hickeyh@uw.edu, +1 206 543 2580


Journal

Science

Method of Research

Data/statistical analysis

Subject of Research

Not applicable

Article Title

Unlock the Endangered Species Act to address GHG emissions

Article Publication Date

31-Aug-2023


Disclaimer: AAAS and EurekAlert! are not responsible for the accuracy of news releases posted to EurekAlert! by contributing institutions or for the use of any information through the EurekAlert system.

SDGs, Targets, and Indicators Analysis

1. Which SDGs are addressed or connected to the issues highlighted in the article?

  • SDG 13: Climate Action
  • SDG 15: Life on Land

The article discusses the direct link between greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and polar bear survival, highlighting the impact of climate change on polar bears and their habitat. This directly connects to SDG 13, which focuses on taking urgent action to combat climate change and its impacts. Additionally, the article mentions the Endangered Species Act and the need to address GHG emissions to protect polar bears, which aligns with SDG 15, which aims to protect, restore, and promote sustainable use of terrestrial ecosystems.

2. What specific targets under those SDGs can be identified based on the article’s content?

  • SDG 13.1: Strengthen resilience and adaptive capacity to climate-related hazards and natural disasters
  • SDG 13.2: Integrate climate change measures into national policies, strategies, and planning
  • SDG 15.5: Take urgent and significant action to reduce degradation of natural habitats

The article emphasizes the need to address GHG emissions and climate change impacts on polar bears. To achieve SDG 13, targets 13.1 and 13.2 are relevant as they focus on strengthening resilience to climate-related hazards and integrating climate change measures into policies and planning. Additionally, to achieve SDG 15, target 15.5 is relevant as it calls for urgent action to reduce degradation of natural habitats.

3. Are there any indicators mentioned or implied in the article that can be used to measure progress towards the identified targets?

  • Number of ice-free days caused by specific amounts of emissions
  • Polar bear survival rates
  • Cub recruitment in polar bear populations

The article mentions the quantification of ice-free days caused by specific amounts of emissions and their impact on polar bear survival rates. These indicators can be used to measure progress towards the targets by assessing the reduction in ice-free days and improvement in polar bear survival rates. Additionally, the article mentions the impact of emissions on cub recruitment in polar bear populations, which can also serve as an indicator of progress.

Table: SDGs, Targets, and Indicators

SDGs Targets Indicators
SDG 13: Climate Action 13.1: Strengthen resilience and adaptive capacity to climate-related hazards and natural disasters – Number of ice-free days caused by specific amounts of emissions
– Polar bear survival rates
SDG 13: Climate Action 13.2: Integrate climate change measures into national policies, strategies, and planning – Number of ice-free days caused by specific amounts of emissions
– Polar bear survival rates
SDG 15: Life on Land – Cub recruitment in polar bear populations
SDG 15: Life on Land 15.5: Take urgent and significant action to reduce degradation of natural habitats – Number of ice-free days caused by specific amounts of emissions
– Polar bear survival rates

Behold! This splendid article springs forth from the wellspring of knowledge, shaped by a wondrous proprietary AI technology that delved into a vast ocean of data, illuminating the path towards the Sustainable Development Goals. Remember that all rights are reserved by SDG Investors LLC, empowering us to champion progress together.

Source: eurekalert.org

 

Join us, as fellow seekers of change, on a transformative journey at https://sdgtalks.ai/welcome, where you can become a member and actively contribute to shaping a brighter future.

 

About the author

ZJbTFBGJ2T