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Science

Polar Bears Drowning As Globe Warms 503

Posted by Zonk
from the seriously-do-you-need-more-proof? dept.
An anonymous reader writes "The Times Online is reporting on disturbing findings from the arctic. Polar bears appear to be drowning when they attempt long sea crossings as a result of receding summer ice." From the article: "New evidence from field researchers working for the World Wildlife Fund in Yakutia, on the northeast coast of Russia, has also shown the region's first evidence of cannibalism among bears competing for food supplies ... As the ice pack retreats north in the summer between June and October, the bears must travel between ice floes to continue hunting in areas such as the shallow water of the continental shelf off the Alaskan coast -- one of the most food-rich areas in the Arctic. However, last summer the ice cap receded about 200 miles further north than the average of two decades ago, forcing the bears to undertake far longer voyages between floes. "
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Polar Bears Drowning As Globe Warms

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday December 18, 2005 @05:29AM (#14284041)
    I can see evolution breeding stronger polar bears capable of swimming to your house to eat you. i for one welcome our polar bear overlords.
  • by Da Fokka (94074) on Sunday December 18, 2005 @05:32AM (#14284049) Homepage
    Everytime there is an article about global warming there will be an army of sceptics who say that global warming has not been scientifically proven and that trying to do anything about it is a wast of money and bad for the economy.

    This bothers me a great deal. Although it may not be possiple to _prove_ without a hair of a doubt that global warming is occurring, there are way too many signs saying our climate is changing drastically.

    We know this and we know that CO2 and other greenhouse gases have a strong influence on our climate. Looks like reason enough to strive for a change to me. Because of the upcoming shortage of fossil duels, reducing fuel depency also makes sense ecologically. And no, without significant increases in nuclear power usage, the hydrogen economy is not it.
    • Although it may not be possiple to _prove_ without a hair of a doubt that global warming is occurring, there are way too many signs saying our climate is changing drastically.

      Common tactics in arguments is to misrepresent the "opponents" and turn the issue into something other then it is. Are the non-wack job conservatives (yes, they do exist. Another common tactic is to paint your opponents as inherently worse then yourself) even arguing about whether or not global warming is happening? I thought they had
      • The weather is cyclical and isn't static. So it is possible that it isn't caused by humans. Having said that, I don't know whether or not there is damning proof it's being caused by humans.

        Well what we do know is that as CO2 emissions have increased in the last 200 years, raising the global atmospheric C02 concentration a significant amount (an order of magnitude larger than any fluctuation in C02 levels in the last 650,000 years). We also know that average global temperature has risen over roughly that sam
    • Actually, it's part of a natural cycle of glacial / interglacial periods [noaa.gov]. Pollution is just uh...speeding things up. :) Even if pollution is stopped overnight, the climate will continue to change. Hot, cold, hot, cold, it's recorded in geological records.

      It should be noted that I'm 100% against the monster trucks that are passing for SUVs these days (and most other vehicles that get less than 30mpg); if you need a truck for hauling a boat or the trailer you live in there's no reason you can't use bio-diese

      • by nathanh (1214) on Sunday December 18, 2005 @07:34AM (#14284348) Homepage
        Actually, it's part of a natural cycle of glacial / interglacial periods [noaa.gov]. Pollution is just uh...speeding things up. :) Even if pollution is stopped overnight, the climate will continue to change. Hot, cold, hot, cold, it's recorded in geological records.

        Right, but the natural cycle is approximately 100,000 years (as says the NOAA link). It seems that with pollution we've managed to compress that down to just a few 100 years. Over 100,000 years there is time for flora and fauna to adapt to the changing conditions - through evolution, or migration, or whatever. In the space of a few 100 years there's no opportunity for adaption; the flora and fauna simply die.

        Consider an analogy. A human life is on average 70 years and if you stab them to death that's just uh... speeding things up. But stabbing someone to death is considered criminal. Speeding up the natural glacial cycle by several orders of magnitude causes more death than a single stabbing yet for some reason it's not considered criminal. Why isn't mass extinction a criminal act?

        And it's even worse than that. The real danger is that rainfall distribution will change. Unfortunately rainfall in the Sahara won't suddenly make the desert a fertile ground for crops. The desert simply lacks the nutrients and the surrounding ecosystem of insects and animals to sustain a high volume of life. However a reduction of rainfall in farming regions will lead to failed crops and widespread starvation. You can't just move the farm to where the rainfall occurs; the non-fertile ground can't support the crops, and the fertile ground lacks the necessary rainfall. Over 100,000 years there is time for the non-fertile ground to become fertile. But over a few 100 years? There simply isn't enough time to adapt.

        So don't you dare say that this is all fine because it's natural. About 100,000 years is natural. A few 100 years is frightening.

      • it's part of a natural cycle of glacial / interglacial periods. Pollution is just uh...speeding things up. :)

        The current levels of CO2 are about 25% higher than they've been in any interglacial in the last 650,000 years. The levels of other important greenhouse gases, such as methane and nitrous oxide are even higher relative to previous earth history. This means that the current warming is expected to bring about temperatures significantly higher than we'd see in any of the Pleistocene interglacials.

        To

    • In my mind, its is less an issue of "proving" global warming, but rather asking -- Does it matter?

      Yes, the average temperature seems to have gone up a couple of digrees over the last fifty years. It did the same at the end of the last ice age. Temperatures went down before the last ice age, they can go down again. If there any evidence to show that global warming is irreversible?

      Sure, the effects may be catastrophic; cities may get washed away, millions in coastal areas may die. There have been catastrophic
      • by vistic (556838) on Sunday December 18, 2005 @07:01AM (#14284255)
        I guess you missed this slashdot story: Global Warming Past The Point of No Return [slashdot.org]

        ""The UK's Independent is running a front page story today on a scientific report claiming that global warming is now unstoppable [independent.co.uk], after measuring changes in the level of ice in the arctic." From the article: "The greatest fear is that the Arctic has reached a 'tipping point' beyond which nothing can reverse the continual loss of sea ice and with it the massive land glaciers of Greenland, which will raise sea levels dramatically. Satellites monitoring the Arctic have found that the extent of the sea ice this August has reached its lowest monthly point on record, dipping an unprecedented 18.2 per cent below the long-term average."


      • by Anonymous Coward
        The point of environmentalism is to protect the human race from suffering and devastation due to the way we interact with the rest of the environment.

        The point of environmentalism is not to "protect the planet" because animals are cute or because somebody particularly cares, on a moral level, if we pollute or if we exhaust our finite resources per se.

        It is completely irrelevant if on geological timescales the earth will cool down again, if it means the human race is nearly or completely extinct by the time
    • "Fossil Duels". Best. Video game name. Ever.
    • What contributes this problem of skeptics to global warming are the Ultra Environmentalist, who are just as unscientific if not more then the environmental skeptics, the ones who blame every problem in the world with human intervention, every solar flare is due to global warming etc. Environmental groups need to work harder to change there image from the green peace crazies, to more moderate groups that understand that correct environmental actions require tradeoffs. And except for saying Driving Cars is
    • by abulafia (7826) on Sunday December 18, 2005 @09:33AM (#14284713)
      ...Global Warming Skeptic Bingo [timlambert.org]!
    • You're confused. Determining that the climate is changing and blaming humans for it are two different things. The problem is that you have climatologists on the one hand saying, "We're seeing temperatures rise in parts of the globe to this degree. This seems to be an indication of a global climate change." On the other hand you have politically motivated environmental groups saying, "global climate change is a result of CO2 emissions and humans wasting resources!" When these two groups start to blur and con
  • Climate is Cyclical (Score:2, Informative)

    by core plexus (599119)
    I say this every time this argument/discussion comes up: the Earth's climate is cyclical, and complex.

    As a geologist, I know that the areas I work in here in southcentral Alaska were covered by an ice sheet 1,000 feet thick just 9,000 years ago, but 65 million or so years ago it was hot and humid, and there were many more active volcaloes than there are now. I suspect that there were few, if any, humans around in an industrial culture 65 million years ago.

    That ice sheet was one of many recent glaciation

    • Finally, in another article I read, (CONSERVATIONISTS FILE LAWSUIT) I have to ask exactly what, other than fund-raising, will this lawsuit remedy?

      From YFA:

      Listing under the U.S. Endangered Species Act will provide broad protection to polar bears, including a requirement that U.S. federal agencies ensure that any action carried out, authorized, or funded by the U.S. government will not "jeopardize the continued existence" of polar bears or adversely modify their critical habitat.... will provide important p

      • "Looks like it will protect them if successful, by forcing the American government (if it is to follow it's own laws) to not fund anything that will harm the climate of polar bears."

        And how exactly would it do that? And how would it protect the polar bears in Canada and other countries?

        Sorry, I'm being rational. And I did read the article.

    • 65 million years is a LONG time change. Studies show, without doubt, climate could not change at the current pace without human intervention. Let me point you to a study. I don't care how many rocks you get off to looking at, if you read this response to a similar argument of Rush Limbaugh's (he's an idiot), it may just tell you more about climate change than the religious school you got your degree at presumably did.

      Limbaugh falsely denied human causes of ozone depletion, global warming [mediamatters.org]
      • Have you conducted any reserach on your source? I quote you; "65 million years is a LONG time change. Studies show, without doubt, climate could not change at the current pace without human intervention. Let me point you to a study." (Apparently you didn't comprehend my post).

        Media Matters for America is a Web-based, not-for-profit, 501(c)(3) progressive research and information center dedicated to comprehensively monitoring, analyzing, and correcting conservative misinformation in the U.S. media.

        Launc

    • Being a geologist you can probably see how the "ice sheet" level have been changing over the past 20 years. I doubt that they have remained constant, though feel free to prove me wrong if you know otherwise. Also, while climate is cyclical, these cycles last tens of thousands of years, not tens.
    • You know what we are talking now.
      You talked about MILLIONS of years ago.
      Vs years ago.
      The global climate changes naturally, in thousands of years period, not years.
      The true problem is that for most of people 50 years is a long time.
      For climate 100 years or 200 years is like a blink of an eye.
      Any change that is visible in human life time in global climate is not natural.
      And I said clobal. A change in ocean currents can happen faster.
    • As a geologist...I suspect that there were few, if any, humans around in an industrial culture 65 million years ago.

      As someone with a geology degree, I suspect that you either didn't take any paleo or biology courses...
    • by penguin-collective (932038) on Sunday December 18, 2005 @07:44AM (#14284378)
      As a geologist, [...] That ice sheet was one of many recent glaciations. Are humans contributing to "global warming'? Perhaps. Is that contribution significant compared to natural process? I am skeptical.

      As a geologist, you aren't particularly qualified to make judgements about cause and effect in climate models.

      In any case, it is unnecessary to prove conclusively that human activity is causing global warming in order to justify taking steps; reducing CO2 emissions is sensible and economically beneficial public policy.
      • As a geologist, you aren't particularly qualified to make judgements about cause and effect in climate models.

        Just curious. What sort of background exactly do you think a paleoclimatologist should have?
      • "As a geologist, you aren't particularly qualified to make judgements about cause and effect in climate models."

        Of course, because I stayed away from the courses in geomorphology. Why would any serious scientist care about the effect of climate, since it obviously has no relation to the formation of geologic deposits. Weathering, transportation, deposition, hydrography, compression, vulcanism...what does any of this have to do with geology? Everyone knows the earth is 6,000 years old, and is exactly how

    • by hankwang (413283) *
      the areas I work in here in southcentral Alaska were covered by an ice sheet 1,000 feet thick just 9,000 years ago, but 65 million or so years ago it was hot and humid,

      And where was current Alaska back then? Continental drift is a few cm per year, so it could have been several 1000 km away from where it is now.

      • The geology of Alaska is made of many pieces. Only a small part of it (mostly the southern part) has been transported here. And much of that has been subjected to subduction, and so is under the surface of what we know today. So that doesn't really count.

        Alaska is still a very active area, especially along the margin of the Pacific Plate.

  • by User 956 (568564) on Sunday December 18, 2005 @05:44AM (#14284071) Homepage
    "The Times Online is reporting on disturbing findings from the arctic. Polar bears appear to be drowning when they attempt long sea crossings as a result of receding summer ice."

    So that means the bears that do survive will be better swimmers than previous. Evolution wins again!
    • Or it means that polar bears will die out and another animal will fill its niche. Y'know, nature might be fine with that, but as a sentient human I have a small problem.
      • Or it means that polar bears will die out and another animal will fill its niche.

        It is the niche which is dying. Polar bears need that niche to survive, so they will die out too.
        The world is being changed by our activities, and polar bears will be one of the early high-profile victims of those changes.
    • by Irvu (248207) on Sunday December 18, 2005 @05:56AM (#14284103)
      Even if you don't give a damn about the bears further changes such as these signal problems for us. Our civilizations depend upon stable food supplied, stable ocean levels, predictable tides, seasons, and weather, all of which may likely be thrown off drastically by global warming. Most of humankind lives within a few miles of sea level. As polar ice retreats oceal levels rise. As temperatures rise so do the frequency of powerful storms such as Katrina. Similarly rising temperatures herald more unpredictable seasons and thus crop losses. Changes in weathere patterns seem likely to doom some areas to overly warm weather (e.g. Africa) and some areas to much colder weather (e.g Europe).

      It is one thing to be sanguine about the loss of polar bears to natrual selection. The loss of human populations, that's another thing.
    • by srussell (39342) on Sunday December 18, 2005 @07:20AM (#14284304) Homepage Journal
      So that means the bears that do survive will be better swimmers than previous. Evolution wins again!
      ... and, eventually, their front legs will turn into fins, and their hind legs will fuse into one large fin, all to help them swim further. And they'll get sued by the seals for patent infringement.

      --- SER

    • So that means the bears that do survive will be better swimmers than previous. Evolution wins again!

      Or they'll die out altogether; that's what often happens to species when the environment changes rapidly.
  • by TheStonepedo (885845) on Sunday December 18, 2005 @05:45AM (#14284075) Homepage Journal
    Ice melting is not the real problem here. The bears are simply swimming in the wrong direction because the change in position of the Magnetic North Pole [bbc.co.uk] combined with the accumulation of too many Leap Seconds [bbc.co.uk] has screwed up the BearSUV's latest Navigation Package. Fix the SUV software, sell more BearSUVs with good software to bears, and forget that "global warming" mumbo jumbo.
  • by jonastullus (530101) on Sunday December 18, 2005 @05:51AM (#14284088) Homepage
    1) could we please have a proper discourse about probability distributions? having the ice recede 200 miles further north than the average means nothing without a given variance. and even then they would have to name the period of observation to get any meaning out of it. obviously giving all that information won't go so well for an article, but giving just scraps of information isn't all that hot either

    2) global warming is not a threat to nature! nature has dealt with catastrophic climated changes in the past and it will deal with them in the future. the threat of global warming is to us humans and the the status quo of nature, but there's no doubt in my mind that the ecosystems will adapt to a warming planet - as they have to countless ice ages, meteor hits, etc. although i would find it a shame to see ice bears going extinct due to human interference in world climate, we _can_ not take responsibility of _nature_ on this scale; what if a warmer climate brought forth an even more beautiful creature than the ice bear? wouldn't we make _that_ extinct by preventing global warming as well?

    note, i'm not advocating to do nothing, nor am i lacking sympathy for the ice bears. but in my mind, global warming is first and formost a danger to the status quo and to _our_ survival. if the planet heats up drastically other species will replace the current ones and the cycle of life will turn on; with the difference of us being dragged down by the environmental changes...

    jethr0
    • Under the logic of your number 2, anything that does not destroy the planet is acceptable. Do you really wish to assert something so extreme?

      Also, consider that, in a natural ecosystem, all waste is recycled. The planet is a zero-sum system when it comes to mass (we have a net flow of energy in from the sun). Humanity is not. We continuously put out far more waste (Trash, nuclear waste, CO2, etc) than we reuse, and it simply isn't sustainable for any extended period of time. Worse, we're doing it on a such
      • Worse, we're doing it on a such a massive and unbalanced scale that I worry the natural processes of evolution may not be able to save us.

        But you dont 'get it' when it comes to the natural process of evolution. If we destroy the environment that supports us, and die of because of it, that IS the natural process of evolution functioning as it should....

      • I think what the GP was trying to say is that being concerned about the environment does not necessarily have anything to do with tree hugging or fluffy animals. If you are not religious and do not believe in a grand scheme or inherent purpose of it all, then the Earth and everything else are simply a bunch of atoms combined with chemical reactions.

        Sure, our actions may destroy this planet as we know it much sooner than would otherwise be the case, but the universe won't cease to exist because of this.

    • ...although i would find it a shame to see ice bears going extinct... ...an even more beautiful creature than the ice bear? ...nor am i lacking sympathy for the ice bears.

      What in the heck is an "ice bear"?
    • what if a warmer climate brought forth an even more beautiful creature than the ice bear? wouldn't we make _that_ extinct by preventing global warming as well?

      Screw that! What about all of the Google articles we'll miss here if things heat up too much?
  • by Anonymous Coward
    I was kind of hoping the article had some photos of the drowning polar bears?
  • by ewe2 (47163) <ewetooNO@SPAMgmail.com> on Sunday December 18, 2005 @06:08AM (#14284129) Homepage Journal
    Baby seals are cautiously optimistic.
  • by ruebarb (114845) <colorache@nOSPam.hotmail.com> on Sunday December 18, 2005 @06:13AM (#14284134)
    It astonishes me the blind naiviety of these Republicans who insist they aren't convinced that Global warming is happening. Every year we get another story or two like this and they still have their hands over their ears going "LA LA LA - I CAN'T HEAR YOU." Even more naive is the notion that it can't affect us or that we can buy our way out of any issues it causes.

    The house has smoke all thru the ground floor - the ceiling is burning two stories up out of sight and all Republicans can say is "Well, we're not convinced this smoke is our house. And we're not convinced that there hasn't been smoke here before and that this is natural geology - and we're not convinced the fire will spread to the ground floor if the building is on fire.

    idiots - naive, blind, idiots
    • I was originally modd'd down for flamebait - I apoligize - I am not trying to start a political fight - but I am upset at the focal point of greatest resistance.

      Imagine another 20 years of weather like last year and Cat 5 hurricanes 3 or 4 times a year. The Entire Southeas would become uninhabitable - uninsurable - our Port infrastructure would have to be totally retooled to keep supplies coming into the US.

      This is heavy stuff, people - Katrina was the first example of the BAD stuff. We joke when it's win
    • by nathanh (1214) on Sunday December 18, 2005 @07:56AM (#14284421) Homepage
      It astonishes me the blind naiviety of these Republicans who insist they aren't convinced that Global warming is happening. Every year we get another story or two like this and they still have their hands over their ears going "LA LA LA - I CAN'T HEAR YOU." Even more naive is the notion that it can't affect us or that we can buy our way out of any issues it causes.

      What astonishes me more are the idiots who insist on turning it into a Republicans vs Democrats debate. The world doesn't revolve around American partisan politics and we wish you'd stop reducing all discussions to this petty bickering over whose political logo is the prettiest (because, let's be honest, the parties are otherwise identical). Pretending that the only people who deny Global Warming are Republicans is ignorance to the nth degree. The reality is that some Republicans think Global Warming happens and there are some Democrats who don't. Don't bring your personal politics into this; it's divisive and destructive.

      You should be more like Australians. We hate all our political parties equally. When something goes wrong it's not the Liberal party's fault or the Labor party's fault. It's just the politicians fault. All you merkins could learn something from that.

  • by Squidbait (716932) on Sunday December 18, 2005 @06:21AM (#14284153)
    I have to say this, because every time something like this comes up, there are a bunch of posts saying, "It's natural, it's evolution, new species will develop, nature will repair itself, bla bla bla". I just want to point out a fucking obvious fact that people seem to forget. Yes, nature will sort it out. Somewhere during the next several million years. You, your grandkids, and the whole human race probably won't be around to see it. Evolution works on geological time scales. Try and wrap your head around it. Save those species now, because from our point of view they will never be replaced.
    • and why exactly is not "replacing" them during my lifetime somehow bad if nature will sort it out eventually? Evolution does indeed work on geological timescales, that doesn't make it work any less... Showing polar bears to my grandkids is of purely romantic value, I'd say, not something I "need" from a rational POV.
  • by Charcharodon (611187) on Sunday December 18, 2005 @06:22AM (#14284155)
    Here in California the seal population is exploding since they are protected, and they have gotten to the point of nuisence, well at least to rich people who own boats. The funny thing is the seals like to find a nice new boat, the kind with an easy to reach swim platform and then have a sunbathing party on said boat. They proceed to trash the boat by shitting all over it, tear up the gear with mating/territory fights, and then finally they pack onto it like a bunch of high schoolers in a compact car on a Friday night, sink it with their shear weight.

    As far as the seals and the bears up north go, it wouldn't take too much to apply the same concept, minus the million dollar boats, and build some platforms (artificial bergs) up the coast for them to use. For the distances they're swiming placing one every 10 miles or so should be plenty, and would give a boost to the fishing in the area as well.

    • i heard all about that. also there were pollutant making sealions go crazy and attack people. this was pretty much around the time i took a sailing class and we rounded the dinghy too close to the buoy at the harbor entrance and the sealion reared up at us and i saw the terror look in my instructor's face who was sitting in a small powered boat 20 ft away. fortunately nothing happened but there are just too many sealions and theyre acting like they own the road now.

      seems to me what they need to do is put a
  • by CCMCornell (930509) on Sunday December 18, 2005 @06:22AM (#14284156)
    How are the polar bears handling the polar ice cap melting on Mars [spacedaily.com]? Must be the Mars rovers...
    • to inform people of that for a very long time. Theres also some heating on one of uranus's or neptune's moons i dont recall which, which is heating up the atmosphere there. Its the sun thats causing all of this. Maybe if we're lucky we'll see mars thaw a bit. I wonder how much the sun would have to heat up to make all the ice thaw there.
  • Cue the 'I'm more cynical than you' comments, more like.

    'evolution in action' 'they need SUVs'

    More like 'I'm feeling mighty cosy and safe here in one of the richest countries in the world'.

    Unfortunately, kiddo, there's no gaurantee that will protect you.

    Also, a thought. People talk about there being a lack of evidence for climate change. What we're doing at the moment is conducting a global experiment in how hard we can push the climate without it changing. Guess what happens if we cock up?

    So when people ta
    • Re:pathetic (Score:3, Insightful)

      So, what are we going to do, then?
      Massive reverse-osmosis water purification plants on the African coast, to terraform our own planet?
      In all seriousness, are we willing to accept phenomenal loss of human life in Pakistan, Indonesia, and the US gulf coast, because we don't want to pollute in the name of saving life?
      Do we roll back the clock to simpler, agrarian times, and excuse ourselves from feeling any guilt, or roll the clock forward to cleaner technologies?

      you'll realise that reducing CO2 emmisions

    • Guess what happens if we cock up?

      And for those with a limited imagination, you might want to google what happened at Chernobyl when they experimented with "what happens when an unstable, self dependent system with positive feedback gets out of hand".

      The rest of us are down at Paddy Power's placing large bets on the number of days till the next "once in 50 years" hurricane happens in New Orleans while the odds are still reasonable.

  • I get a little tired of hearing any little happening tied to human-produced global warming. Although I am all for cleaning up all manner of human pollution, it seems a little like Post Hoc to say that polar bears' drowning has anything to do with human activity. The environment should be kept clean for its own sake, I don't think we need to use global warming as an excuse.

    Maybe we could just use the truths that we know to promote environmental friendliness and leave out the unprovable theories. There ar

  • by putko (753330) on Sunday December 18, 2005 @07:06AM (#14284267) Homepage Journal
    The polar bears seem incredibly adapated to living on ice -- the article says they live their whole lives on ice. Their natural range is circumpolar (http://www.solcomhouse.com/polarbears.htm [solcomhouse.com] ). I know their feet, fur and sense of smell are all optimized for living in ice. I'm sure there are more things.

    It seems that the next time the earth gets warm, for whatever reason, the polar bears are going to die off in droves.

    The same is true for camels: they've got special eyes, feet, a way to store water and energy for long periods, etc. If there is ever a mass greening of the earth, wild camels will have a hard time.

    More general animals, like brown bears ("grizzly" bears) have it differently: their problem is that they are adapted to living in Eurasia and North America, so they come into conflict with humans in nearly all the areas they'd like to be. Here's their range (it would all of North America and Europe, but for humans):
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Image:Ursus_arctos_di stribution.jpg [wikipedia.org]

    If you look, you'll see brown bears live all over Alaska. That's where that bear-maniac Treadwell got mauled by them. There's now a movie about it, and it uses his amazing bear footage:

    http://maisonbisson.com/blog/post/10725/ [maisonbisson.com]
  • Threatdown (Score:5, Funny)

    by BushCheney08 (917605) on Sunday December 18, 2005 @07:34AM (#14284349)
    Oh man, Stephen Colbert's gonna be pleased with this!
  • Churchill, Canada (Score:3, Informative)

    by keen (86192) on Sunday December 18, 2005 @08:22AM (#14284494)
    No discussion of polar bears is complete without mentioning Churchill, Manitoba [ucla.edu], The Polar Bear Capital of The World. I visited at the end of October and had the chance to go out on a "Tundra Buggy" tour. It was quite exotic.. we saw 3 polar bear. There's also a guy who lives out on the tundra for a few months a year in a huge tundra buggy with satellite internet access.. He has a site: http://www.polarbearcam.com/ [polarbearcam.com]

    The buggies are amazing.. probably about 4-5 feet off the ground, HUGE tires, furnace inside to keep warm.. we ate dinner on board as well, with the bears just outside. Our tour guide was VERY professional and knowledgeable, we were quite impressed. It turned out he had also lived in Africa for many years and given tours there, etc etc..

    Here's some fun facts about polar bear off the top of my head:

    Their skin is actually black to absorb the sunlight (it's amazing how well adapted they are). The fur is really transparent but looks white in the same way a cloud looks white because of all of the water droplets.

    They have suction cups on their paws to keep from slipping on the ice.

    Churchill has had, I believe, only 2 or 3 fatalities in the past 30 years. One was a few weeks before I got there as a drunk wandered out of the town limits.

    They are very careful about bear up there, for obvious reasons. Every night they fire off shotguns to keep the bears away. People living on the outskirts of town always have rifles in their houses just in case - they also put out traps.. basically boards with nails going through them.. to keep the bears away.

    If a bear comes into town they will stun it and carry it away with a helicopter! We actually saw this happening! They move it further north IIRC... but if the bear comes back 2 more times, they put it into the "polar bear jail" which is in town (no tourists allowed sadly). They only water the bear in the jail, and do not feed it, otherwise the bear may view it as a rewarding experience.

    I was surprised how nice everything was up there.. beautifully decorated hotels, at least on the insides. Food is expensive though and their economy is pretty much dependent on the bears, although they do export grain to Europe. The train takes 2 days from Winnipeg and is quite a slow ride, sometimes traveling at only 10 miles per hour. (They run 2 engines just in case one breaks down.)

    I remember lots more about the bears and Churchill if anyone is interested.. just ask!

    Oh - there was far less ice compared to previous years when I was up there. Everyone I asked said they weren't sure if it was global warming or just a temporary cycle. You can check the sea ice information for the Hudson Bay at the Canadian Ice Service [ec.gc.ca] site.
  • by feelyoda (622366) on Sunday December 18, 2005 @03:21PM (#14286725) Homepage
    "seriously-do-you-need-more-proof?"

    As much as I am starting to dislike the editorial filter that Slashdot has and Digg avoids, let me just say in response:
    Proof of warming does not equate to proof Kyoto is a good idea.

    Even the planners agree that all countries participating for a century would do almost nothing for the projected warming. Recently, the non-Kyoto-signer US has had higher economic growth and greater improvements on GHGs than the Kyoto signers of the EU. Do you need any more proof that it's the wrong approach?

    Perhaps instead of a half-ass non-solution, we should fund more research for true, viable alternatives. I want bettery batteries, solar, and fusion to all be so cheap that any GHG emitting methods of energy generation and storage aren't used because of their economic cost.

    Arbitrarily trying to limit carbon emissions, when billions of people who embrace modernity need energy and don't have alternatives, is a bad idea. Here is a good article by Bjorn Lomborg on the The relative unimportance of global warming [blogspot.com], with better policy suggestions.

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