Are polar bears endangered?

Wednesday, April 28, 2021
By Anne-Marie Blackburn
This Fact Brief is responsive to conversations such as this one.

A 2020 study published in Nature Climate Change found that most polar bear populations could become extinct by 2100 if high greenhouse gas emissions from human activities continue. Polar bears are classified as vulnerable by the International Union for Conservation of Nature.

Polar bears, which live in the Arctic, use sea ice to hunt seals, their main food source. Human-caused global warming has driven a rapid loss of Arctic sea ice, making it more difficult for polar bears to eat enough to survive.

There are 19 subpopulations of polar bears. According to the World Wildlife Fund in 2019, 4 were in decline, 5 were stable, 2 were increasing, and 8 were data-deficient.

In 1973, the international community agreed to restrict polar bear hunting, which helps explain why the population is estimated to be higher today than it was in the 1970s. This does not change polar bears’ endangered status.

Skeptical Science is a non-profit science education organization. Our goal is to remove a roadblock to climate action by building public resilience against climate misinformation. We achieve this by publishing debunking of climate myths as well as providing resources for educators, communicators, scientists, and the general public. Skeptical Science was founded and is led by John Cook, a research fellow at the Climate Change Communication Research Hub at Australia’s Monash University.