Polar Bear Week panelists, from left to right: Dr. Donald Moore, Alysa McCall, Kassie Siegel, and Dr. Andrew Derocher. BJ Kirschhoffer, back, PBI's field operations manager, keeps everything running.

12/6/2015 4:58:59 PM

Making Climate Change Relevant

Every fall, Polar Bears International hosts Tundra Connections, a series of webcasts that reach students all over the world, teaching them about polar bears, their biology, and the threats they face through live Q & As with scientists in the field. Dr. Don Moore joined us for our very first webcast and continues to take part today.

When I first visited polar bears in Churchill about 15 years ago, our inaugural broadcast was from a primitively equipped Tundra Buggy®. We spoke with students in Australia via a laptop and microphone. The 50 students on the other end of the webcast were very engaged, and asked great questions about polar bears and their biology.

Over the years, the program has grown-with hundreds of thousands of people joining the conversation! Connecting with people through webcasts allows us to reach both individuals and communities around the world to exchange ideas and help develop solutions to climate change.

From those humble beginnings, we've expanded our conversations to include a wide variety of Arctic wildlife. Polar Bears International began establishing collaborations beyond polar bears to include climate scientists and social scientists. Our team of experts now includes climatologist Dr. Cecilia Bitz and her students, and climatologist/social scientist Dr. Katharine Hayhoe.

Over the years, I have seen some of the most fascinating animals on the planet while visiting Churchill: polar bears, seals, gyrfalcon, snowy owls, eider ducks, wolves, caribou, wolverine, arctic foxes, red foxes, arctic hare and ptarmigan. It's important for people watching the webcasts to make connections with these animals, too. That's why Polar Bears International has worked with Explore.org and Frontiers North Adventures to help people see some of this wildlife via live cams. I can't imagine our Arctic without these animals.

But climate change isn't just about the Arctic—it's affecting the whole planet. The evidence presents itself in the form of ice loss around the poles and glaciated areas, coral bleaching from warming oceans, changing migration patterns, and mass extinctions. Despite the science backing up the case of climate change, some people continue to be skeptical that it is occurring.

Part of the solution to this issue is making it relevant to people's everyday lives-that is, explaining climate change from the heart, and not the head. I talk about loss of snowpack with skiers; I talk about loss of cold water fisheries with trout fisherman; and I talk about loss of coral reefs with scuba divers.

It's important that everyone—whether in a leadership role or not—understands that there needs to be change on behalf of the planet, and on behalf of the animals that live in the Arctic.

In our webcasts, we talk about little "every day" things people can do for the planet, like Reduce-Reuse-Recycle. Individuals can take simple actions to be good stewards of Earth, such as turning off lights when leaving a room, turning computers off at night, taking public transit, car-pooling, and taking shorter showers. As an added bonus, these practices can help you save money!

Communities, too, can make changes that will help our planet by incorporating solutions like "stop idling" campaigns in schools and towns, town-level shifts to renewable energy sources like solar and wind power, and supporting local farmers markets (the food travels shorter distances, so the food itself has a smaller carbon footprint). These are all good conservation practices and save resources for the rest of the planet for now and future generations.

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