Loss of Arctic sea ice due to climate change is the most serious threat to polar bears throughout their circumpolar range. The largest land carnivores on Earth cannot hunt without ice platforms in the sea.
When ice melts, polar bears retire on land, waiting for new ice to form and relying on their fat reserves to survive. Polar bears are emblematic for a huge change that is going on. Climate change in the Arctic is three times faster than in other regions. It has a huge impact not only on the polar bears, but also on the Arctic environment, its people and on the rest of the globe, since “what happens in the Arctic doesn’t stay there”.
Much needed research – the Arctic research cluster
The European Commission is delivering a major financial investment to this end, notably through a number of dedicated Horizon 2020 research projects. To build synergies and increase their impacts, eight ongoing projects funded through Horizon 2020 or 7th Framework Programme have built up an EU "Arctic Cluster". The partners of the involved projects include the large majority of the most advanced research institutions dealing with Arctic matters. They are able to provide significant answers and have a common objective: provide guidance and policy-relevant information and support the EU in advancing international cooperation.
According to International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), based on pre-2014 data, we could miss one out of every three bears during three (bear) generations. However, it could be half of them or more. Uncertainty is high. That is why we need much better information. The good news is that science is progressing fast and scientist are pooling together to help bears and people master their future.
On April 17, the Arctic Cluster met in Brussels for a major event. It has been a stepping-stone to celebrate the first year of work of the Cluster.