Polar Bears’ significance to Florida

The plight of the polar bear should concern all Floridians, whether you love wildlife or not. The U.S. Department of the Interior wants to list the bears as endangered species because their numbers are plummeting.

Higher temperatures are melting the arctic ice and the bear’s hunting grounds are dwindling.

The melting ice could, over time, increase sea levels enough to be disastrous for low-lying Florida. Scientists predict our beaches would be wiped away if sea levels rise 15 inches in the next century – the mid-range of scientific estimates given, should global warming continue. The Tampa Bay Regional Planning Council estimates that more than 200 square miles of local land probably would need protection from inundation or erosion. The price tag would be staggering.

So Floridians share more kinship with the arctic predator than they realize.

Some scientists dispute the reality of global warming, particularly the significance of greenhouse gases. But they are in the minority. And new evidence appears to shore up the global-warming case. A recent report by the National Academies of Science found that Earth’s temperatures have risen about 1 degree over the past century, which researchers called an “unprecedented” development. Two other recent studies linked global warming to stronger hurricanes. And researchers at the National Research Council concluded that the past few decades of the 20th century were the warmest in 400 years – “potentially” in several thousand years.

All this does not mean the nation should throw economic concerns to the wind in a panicky effort to eliminate greenhouse emissions. But it does suggest that ignoring the threat, as this nation has largely done, is irresponsible. The nation needs to get serious about developing clean energy sources and increasing conservation.

If we save the polar bear’s habitat, we may also save Florida.

From the Tampa Tribune