Thursday, November 11, 2010

Polar Bears Don't Matter?

The article “Polar Bears: Maybe the prospects aren’t so gloomy” (2010) published in False Alarm and written by Paul MacRae gives two major claims. Firstly, MacRae claims global warming is barely affected by humans and that humans are only slightly speeding up the process that is meant to happen. Secondly, he claims that polar bears will adapt as the glaciers shrink and humans shouldn’t be spending such a great deal of money trying to save them from extinction.

MacRae argues that polar bears have once had to adapt to warming of the earth so they can do it again. It seems that MacRae believes that polar bears are not and will not be affected at all by global warming. However, polar bear populations are already decreasing and isn’t this a sign that maybe they can’t adapt to such high temperatures? He also argues that humans are only slightly affecting the heating of the earth and it would be naturally happening without human contribution. However, MacRae doesn’t give any evidence that the earth would actually be heating if humans didn’t produce such large amounts of carbon dioxide emissions.

I believe both of these claims are slightly ridiculous. Firstly, even if the earth is warming on its own should humans be speeding up the process? In my opinion this is not a smart idea especially since we are seeing so many negative affects of global warming. Viewing these affects why should we contribute without taking responsibility for them? The way MacRae writes it seems like we are barely affecting global warming and thus, we should not have to take any responsibility. I feel that if we had never began polluting our environment global warming wouldn’t be a problem today. Secondly, polar bears may have adapted to natural warming of the earth but with all the pollution and heating of oceans I feel they may not be able to adapt quickly enough for survival. Also, the polar bear population is already decreasing due to ocean warming and thus, it could continue to decrease until they become extinct.

Robert J. Nicholls and Anny Cazenave wrote an article called “Sea-Level Rise and Its Impact on Coastal Zones” discuss some of the problems with oceans heating. They suggest that there are two main reasons for sea-level rise. Firstly, there is the expansion of water due to heating. Water heats in response to absorption of carbon dioxide which of course is a natural gas in air but is also a pollutant that gets pumped into the air by human behaviour. In this case you can’t say that humans have no affect on the melting of ice caps due to oceans heating. The less carbon dioxide is placed into the air the less warming our oceans will experience. Therefore, I feel like you can’t say that we only slightly contribute to global warming. The second cause of sea-level rise is melting ice. The warmer the atmosphere gets the more ice bergs melt and the higher the sea level rises. This poses a large problem for polar bears. When the ice bergs melt polar bears are forced to swim to other ice bergs or to shore. With high sea-levels this is very dangerous and polar bears can drown, especially when high winds are involved. Thus, how can MacRae even suggest we have only a slight contribution to global warming and that it’s not affecting polar bear populations? It is possible that not all the warming is due to human behaviour but I feel that MacRae should defend this in his article rather then just writing off human contribution to global warming as if it doesn’t exist.

I found another article which speaks specifically about polar bears and how the ice melting affects their weight and their population size. The article is written by Jim Morrison and titled “The Incredible Shrinking Polar Bears”. When the ice melts polar bears have difficulty getting to food sources which means smaller polar bears. These polar bears have problems nursing and giving birth to their cubs and thus, the population of polar bears decreases. Therefore, if polar bear populations are already decreasing why is MacRae so confident that eventually polar bears will evolve and survive? Shouldn’t polar bears have started to adapt already? However, he does have decent evidence to support the possibility of polar bears adapting but they don’t seem to be. I also agree that it is possible humans spend too much in donations on saving certain animals. It seems the cuter the animal the more people donate even if there are other things that need donations. So who decides who gets the donations?

MacRae’s first claim that humans do not contribute to global warming is strong and a little over the top in my opinion. It is clear that human actions have a large contributing factor to global warming and oceans warming up then some people want to admit. Also, I feel as if MacRae thinks contributing to helping polar bears from becoming extinct is a waste of time and money. But if they don’t adapt are we supposed to stand by and let them go extinct? Is MacRae saying that this is natures plan and that we should let global warming take whatever path it’s meant to take? I do not agree with this if this is his opinion. I believe we have contributed to climate change and it’s our responsibility to help delay what we have started for as long as possible to have the same thriving environment we once had.

MacRae, P. (2010) Polar Bears: Maybe the prospects aren’t so gloomy. False Alarm, 02 Oct 2010

Nicholls, RJ. Cazenave, A. (2010) Sea-Level Rise and Its Impact on Coastal Zones. Science vol. 328 pp. 1517-1520

Morrison, J. (2004) The Incredible Shrinking Polar Bears. National Wildlife. 02 Jan 2004

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