Dr. Steve Amstrup with polar bear cubs
September 28, 2022

Polar Bears and Global Warming: Connecting the Dots to the Rest of Us

Event Details

Date & Time

Wednesday, Sep 28, 2022 6:00 PM - 9:00 PM

Event Link

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Gonzaga Center for Climate, Society, and the Environment

Co-sponsor: Gonzaga Environmental Studies and Sciences Department


Free and open to the public


Hemmingson Center Auditorium & Livestreaming (link sent day of)



Event Type & Tags

  • Academics

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About This Event

Polar bears require sea ice for capturing their seal prey. Due to declining summer sea ice, many bears are forced onto land, or they follow the remaining ice as it drifts over deep, unproductive waters. In both cases, polar bears are largely food deprived. I will begin my presentation with some fun facts about polar bears and discussion of polar bear study methods—which always capture audience attention. I’ll then describe how prolonged fasting periods have been linked to reduced body condition, reproduction, and survival in some polar bear populations. I’ll discuss my role in convincing the US Secretary of Interior that continued sea ice loss ultimately threatens polar bear survival Arctic-wide. In response, in 2008, the Secretary made polar bears the first ever species listed under the US Endangered Species Act because of the threat of global warming. In 2020, we followed up on that earlier seminal work showing when reduced ice availability will reach critical limits for polar bears in different parts of their range. I’ll discuss how the new work provided mechanistic underpinnings of our earlier predictions and confirmed that without significant greenhouse gas mitigation, polar bears will largely disappear by the end of this century. Because the melting of the Arctic and disappearance of polar bears may, for many, not seem an urgent matter; I’ll link the plight of the polar bear to changes coming to the rest of us. I’ll discuss projected climate changes in the Inland Northwest and elsewhere in the context of recent observations. I’ll describe how, on our current emissions path, end of century temperatures in the Spokane area will be equivalent to current temperatures in Salt Lake City. I’ll discuss the predictable impacts on our environment, our economy, and our way of life in the Inland Northwest. I’ll close by showing that we can still act in time to save polar bears over much of their current range. If we do, we’ll benefit all life on earth including ourselves.

About the speaker:
Dr. Steven C. Amstrup is chief scientist for Polar Bears International. He also is an adjunct professor at the University of Wyoming in Laramie. Before joining PBI, Amstrup was a research wildlife biologist with the United States Geological Survey at the Alaska Science Center, Anchorage AK., where he led polar bear research in Alaska for 30 years. He earned a B.S. in Forestry from the University of Washington (1972), a M.S. in Wildlife Management from the University of Idaho (1975), and a Ph.D. in Wildlife Management from the University of Alaska Fairbanks (1995).

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