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first_imgA solid link between global warming and polar bear mortality emerged in 2004 when researchers were surprised to find four drowned bears in the Beaufort Sea off Alaska’s North Slope. The meltdown of sea ice—the polar ice cap had retreated a record 160 miles to the north—forced the bears to swim unusually long distances to find solid ice, which they depend on as hunting and fishing platforms and for rest and recuperation. And more recently, USGS researcher Steven Amstrup published findings that polar bears are “stalking, killing and eating other polar bears” as competition for scarcer food heats up. SEND YOUR ENVIRONMENTAL QUESTIONS TO: EarthTalk, P.O. Box 5098, Westport, CT 06881; earthtalk@emagazine.com. Read past columns at: www.emagazine.com/earthtalk/archives.php. EarthTalk is now a book! Details and order information at: www.emagazine.com/earthtalkbook.200351383-001 Dear EarthTalk: Some say that polar bears are going to disappear in 50 years, but Alaskan officials insist their populations are recovering. What’s the real story?             — Harper Howe, San Francisco, CA The real story is that affording the polar bear endangered species protection would bring further regulations capping greenhouse gas emissions, a threat to Alaska’s main economic driver: oil revenues. Alaska professor Rick Steiner uncovered the misinformation in Palin’s claims when he found evidence that the state’s top wildlife officials agreed with federal findings that polar bears are headed toward extinction: “So, here you have the state’s marine mammal experts, three or four of them, very reputable scientists, agreeing with the federal proposed rule to list polar bears and with the USGS [United States Geological Survey] studies showing that polar bears are in serious trouble,” said Steiner. Beyond global warming, other risks to polar bear populations include toxic contaminants in the surrounding environment as well as in the fatty tissue of the prey they rely on, conflicts with shipping, stresses from recreational polar-bear watching, oil and gas exploration and development, and overharvesting through legal and illegal hunting. The erroneous notion that Alaska wildlife officials don’t believe the polar bear is in trouble was put forth by Alaska governor Sarah Palin when she initiated a suit against the federal government in hopes of overturning its decision to include the polar bear under the umbrella of endangered species protection. “I strongly believe that adding them to the list is the wrong move at this time,” Palin wrote in a January 2008 New York Times Op Ed piece. “My decision is based on a comprehensive review by state wildlife officials of scientific information from a broad range of climate, ice and polar bear experts.” The nonprofit Center for Biological Diversity presents an even more pessimistic forecast. If current warming trends continue, they say, two-thirds of all polar bears—including all of Alaska’s polar bears—will be extinct by 2050. Both organizations agree that the species as a whole will likely be wiped out completely within 100 years unless humans can get global warming in check. CONTACTS: International Union for the Conservation of Nature, www.iucn.org; Center for Biological Diversity, www.biologicaldiversity.org. There is no doubt that polar bears are in serious trouble. Already on the ropes due to other human threats, their numbers are falling faster than ever as a result of retreating ice due to global warming. The nonprofit International Union for the Conservation of Nature, which added the polar bear to its “Red List” of the world’s most imperiled wildlife back in 2006, predicts a 30 percent decline in population for the great white rulers of the Arctic within three generations (about 45 years).last_img read more

first_imgROGER Federer beat fellow Swiss Stan Wawrinka 7-5, 6-3, 1-6, 4-6, 6-3 to reach the Australian Open final and stay on course for an 18th Grand Slam title.The 35-year-old will face Rafael Nadal on Sunday if the Spaniard beats Grigor Dimitrov in today’s semi-final.The Swiss, returning from a six-month lay-off to rest his left knee, last won a major at Wimbledon in 2012.He is the oldest man to reach a Grand Slam final since Ken Rosewall did so at the 1974 U.S. Open at the age of 39.“I couldn’t be happier right now,” said Federer. “I felt like everything happened so quickly at the end, I had to check the score.“I never ever in my wildest dreams thought I’d come this far in Australia. It’s beautiful, I’m so happy.”Federer’s extraordinary run in Melbourne had already seen him beat top-10 seeds Tomas Berdych and Kei Nishikori to reach the last four.Seeded 17th following his injury, Federer had an 18-3 record against the fourth seed and reigning U.S. Open champion coming into the semi-final, but the two had never played a five-set match.Both players needed medical treatment during a match of high intensity but it was the 17-time Grand Slam winner who finally prevailed after three hours five minutes.Federer will now seek a fifth Australian Open title, and his first in Melbourne since 2010, when he plays in his 28th Grand Slam final and 100th Australian Open match on Sunday.FEDERER’S REMARKABLE RETURNWhat makes Federer’s run to the final remarkable is the combination of being in the twilight of his career and not having played competitively since his Wimbledon semi-final exit last year.Federer missed the Olympic Games and the rest of the 2016 season to have “more extensive rehabilitation” on a knee injury suffered in February while he ran a bath for his twin daughters.He played just seven tour events last year, leading to his dropping out of the world’s top 10 for the first time in over 14 years.After beginning his comeback with victories against Britain’s Dan Evans and France’s Richard Gasquet in the Hopman Cup – a non-ranked event played in the first week of January – Federer played down his chances of going far in the Australian Open.But, after reaching his first Slam final since the 2015 U.S. Open, he finally spoke about the prospect of winning in Melbourne.“I can really actually talk about playing a final – I’ve been dodging that bullet for a few rounds,” he said.“I’ll leave it all out here in Australia and if I can’t walk for five months that’s OK.”Wawrinka noted how the tour and the fans had missed Federer, saying: “Everyone wants even more to see him play, to see him win. He’s flying on the court. He’s playing amazing tennis. He’s the best player ever.”Former world number one Federer started the match brightly and had three early break points before converting his first set point, on Wawrinka’s serve, in the 12th game.Wawrinka, the 2014 Australian Open champion, was broken for the second time at 2-3 in the second set as Federer maintained his impressive standards.Clearly frustrated, the 31-year-old Wawrinka cracked his racquet in two over his left knee and, after the set, left the court with a trainer for treatment to his other knee.But he came back superbly to win the third set in 26 minutes and break Federer in the ninth game of the fourth set to take the match to a decider.Federer went off for a lengthy medical timeout for treatment to his leg as the physical nature of the match started to tell.He also came back fighting and broke Wawrinka in the sixth game when the U.S. Open champion double-faulted on break point.There was no let-up as Federer completed a stunning victory to the delight of the majority of fans in Rod Laver Arena. (BBC Sport)last_img read more