Heat Waves and Starving Polar Bears

Dr. Reese Halter with fourth grade ocean science students

Heat waves are very frightening. As we continue to burn in excess of 96 million metric tons of fossil fuels daily on our planet, expect more of them – lots.

A few weeks ago, India was blanketed in a mother of heat. It was so hot in New Delhi that roads melted. At least 2,500 people died and more than 17 million chickens perished.

At the same time India was searing, the Arctic was sweltering, too. On May 23, Eagle, Alaska was 91 degrees.

Earlier this week at the G7 summit in Germany, leaders concluded that fossil fuels would be phased out in 85 years. Eighty-five years? Clearly, these politicians are out of their minds and blatantly disregarding the science behind the climate crisis.

Stringent measures to reduce burning, heart-trapping, disease-causing fossil fuels are required immediately. Let me remind you that over the past 50 years, the oceans have tripled in mercury poisoning from burning fossil fuels.

Let me also remind you that last year Australian scientists achieved supercritical steam from the sun, a milestone analogous to breaking the speed of sound. It means that we can now derive energy from the sun on par with coal-fired power plants.

So now we can reallocate some of the $5.6 trillion of subsidies to coal, oil, gas and fracking that the International Monetary Fund revealed to the world a few weeks ago into solar energies. Future-proofing our towns and cities is the only way forward to survive what’s ahead.

It is heartbreaking to see ribs protruding from starving polar bears. It’s equally shocking to see them eating white-beaked dolphins trapped in the Arctic ice. These skinny bears are ravenous and without seals, they are doomed. My colleagues have never witnessed polar bears eating dolphins because dolphins are not normally residents of the Arctic.

The climate crisis has disrupted ocean currents and all sea life is experiencing temperature and oxygen stresses.

I’ve spent 30 years of my life studying Earth’s wild systems on land and under the sea. Nature is vividly showing us that rising temperatures from burning heat-trapping fossil fuels are lethal to all life. It’s now a matter of survival.

Pick-up your pens and write a letter, not email, to your elected officials and tell them to stop subsidizing fossil fuels and start future-proofing your town or city – now!

Dr. Reese Halter’s latest book is Shepherding the Sea: The Race to Save our Oceans.