September 11, 2007 17:31 ET

WWF-Canada: Cut Emissions Now or Polar Bears Will Disappear, US and Canadian Scientists Warn

TORONTO, ONTARIO--(Marketwire - Sept. 11, 2007) - A new US Government report on the fate of polar bears in a world of rapid climate change predicts disaster for one of the world's most charismatic species, WWF-Canada said today.

"How ironic that the US government is confirming that polar bears are heading for massive regional extinctions in the next 45-75 years, yet the US and Canadian governments continue to avoid binding commitments to reduce greenhouse gas emissions," says Dr. Peter Ewins, Director of Species Conservation for WWF-Canada. Dr. Ewins recently returned from a research expedition to Churchill, Manitoba, to gather data on the Hudson Bay polar bears, one of the most affected populations. Canada currently is home to nearly two thirds of wild polar bears-the world's largest living land carnivore.

The last in a series of 9 reports prepared to inform the US Fish and Wildlife Service's consideration of whether to list polar bears as 'Threatened' under the US Endangered Species Act, this US Geological Survey report forecasts that accelerated melting of sea ice will result in the loss of about two-thirds of the world's polar bears by 2050. This is almost certainly an underestimate of the impact, because current models have consistently underestimated sea-ice loss by about 25 per cent.

"The Arctic sea ice is disappearing and the great white bear is heading for extinction throughout much of its range," said Julia Langer, Director of Global Threats for WWF-Canada. "So-called 'aspirational' targets for reducing fossil fuel pollution, such as those supported by Canada at this past weekend's APEC summit, will not be enough to prevent the disappearance of the polar bear. Polar bears can't survive on aspirational ice floes."

Several key meetings over the coming months, including a UN Summit in New York on September 24th, and the annual early-December Conference of the Parties (COP) in Bali, will provide the US and Canada with the opportunity to embrace hard targets for reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

Notes for Editors:

The full report can be found at: http://www.usgs.gov/newsroom/special/polar_bears/

High resolution photographs and footage are available to accompany press stories mentioning WWF-Canada. If used, appropriate credit must also be given to the photographer.

This news release and associated material can be found on wwf.ca

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