Rapidly melting Arctic sea ice is endangering the polar bear population, new research shows. It is set to fall by nearly a third over the next four decades.
An international research team has predicted that the likelihood of the population declining by 30 per cent in 35-41 years is 71%.
It comes as sea ice coverage in the Arctic continues to fall at a startling rate while global temperatures soar.
The number of days of sea ice cover each year fell at an average annual rate of 1.26 days between 1979 and 2014.
Over the next 35-30 years, the scientists predicted that the range of sea ice will fall by a further 20-95 per cent, imperilling thousands of poplar bears.
The 26,000 polar bears on Earth are classified as “vulnerable” under the International Union for Conservation of Nature’s Red List.
“Polar bears (Ursus maritimus) depend on sea ice for most aspects of their life history. Anthropogenic climate change is the primary threat to the species because, over the long term, global temperatures will increase and Arctic sea ice will decrease as long as atmospheric greenhouse gas concentrations continue to rise,” the study, published in Biology Letters, warns.
The World Meteorological Organisation warned last month that the five years from 2011-2015 are the warmest on record and 2016 is set to be even warmer still.