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Scott Schliebe / USFWS

As Arctic ice melted to the smallest extent in human history — a loss that stunned scientists and exceeded worst-case scenarios in climate models — the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service was collecting comments on new research into the fate of polar bears north of Alaska.

These nine studies, released in early September, predict that most polar bears will disappear if the Arctic ice continues to retreat during summer. Conducted as part of the agency’s proposal to list polar bears as threatened with extinction under the Endangered Species Act, the studies are sobering.

polar bear leaps ice floes
Credit: UNEP

Eliminate the ice habitat where polar bears hunt, rest and build dens, and you eliminate the bears. Two-thirds of the iconic white predators will starve, fail to reproduce, cannibalize each other and drown as their essential ice platform dissolves into slush. The process is irreversible, the scientists say.

Now people have additional time to digest the reports and make comments on the science, the agency announced this week. The comment period originally closed Oct. 5, but now remains open until Oct. 22.

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