The polar bear (Ursusmaritimus) is a carnivorousbear native largely within the Arctic Circle encompassing the Arctic Ocean, its surrounding seas and surrounding land masses. It is the world's largest bear, together with the omnivorousKodiak bear, which is approximately the same size. A boar (adult male) weighs around 350–700 kg (770–1,500 lb), while a sow (adult female) is about half that size. Although it is closely related to the brown bear, it has evolved to occupy a narrower ecological niche, with many body characteristics adapted for cold temperatures, for moving across snow, ice, and open water, and for hunting the seals which make up most of its diet. Although most polar bears are born on land, they spend most of their time at sea. Their scientific name means "maritime bear", and derives from this fact. Polar bears hunt their preferred food of seals from the edge of sea ice, often living off fat reserves when no sea ice is present.
The polar bear is classified as a vulnerable species, with eight of the nineteen polar bear subpopulations in decline. For decades, large scale hunting raised international concern for the future of the species but populations rebounded after controls and quotas began to take effect. For thousands of years, the polar bear has been a key figure in the material, spiritual, and cultural life of Arcticindigenous peoples, and polar bears remain important in their cultures.
Global warming is the rise in the average temperature of Earth's atmosphere and oceans since the late 19th century and its projected continuation. Since the early 20th century, Earth's mean surface temperature has increased by about 0.8 °C(1.4 °F), with about two-thirds of the increase occurring since 1980. Warming of the climate system is unequivocal, and scientists are more than 90% certain that it is primarily caused by increasing concentrations of greenhouse gases produced by human activities such as the burning of fossil fuels and deforestation. These findings are recognized by the national science academies of all major industrialized nations.
Climate model projections were summarized in the 2007 Fourth Assessment Report (AR4) by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). They indicated that during the 21st century the global surface temperature is likely to rise a further 1.1 to 2.9 °C (2 to 5.2 °F) for their lowest emissions scenario and 2.4 to 6.4 °C (4.3 to 11.5 °F) for their highest. The ranges of these estimates arise from the use of models with differing sensitivity to greenhouse gas concentrations.
Future warming and related changes will vary from region to region around the globe. The effects of an increase in global temperature include a rise in sea levels and a change in the amount and pattern of precipitation, as well a probable expansion of subtropicaldeserts. Warming is expected to be strongest in the Arctic and would be associated with the continuing retreat of glaciers, permafrost and sea ice. Other likely effects of the warming include a more frequent occurrence of extreme-weather events including heat waves, droughts and heavy rainfall, ocean acidification and species extinctions due to shifting temperature regimes. Effects significant to humans include the threat to food security from decreasing crop yields and the loss of habitat from inundation.