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Climate Change in the Arctic Circle: The Birth of a New Bear

A polar bear

A polar bear

As climate change continues to shift the dynamics of our steadily warming planet, it’s not just weather patterns that will be changing. In the wild, animals too are being forced to adapt, and while the image of a sad polar bears on ice flows has become heavily associated with climate change, Grizzly and Brown bears too have been adapting to their changing habitat. While the polar bears are making their way south in search of food, brown bears are heading north. Their meeting has resulted in a brand new bear.

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A grizzly bear

This grizzly-polar hybrid, affectionately known as the pizzly, prizzly, polizzy, nanulak, Polar-Grizz or Grolar Bear, had its first recorded natural occurrence in 2006 in the Northwest Territories of Canada. The genetic make-up of these two bears (with brown bears referring to either the Kodiak, Alaskan brown or grizzly bear) differs, polar bears are the most recent split from the brown bear line, diverging between 350,000-6 million years ago, which is relatively recently in evolutionary time. While normally such interbreeding results in sterile offspring such as the liger and the mule, the majority of prizzlies appear to be fertile. Given how recent this research is and the extreme difficultly of tracking cold-weather bears, there is little to no data on whether prizzlies mate with other prizzlies or with purebred grizzlies or purebred polar bears, however genetic tests have suggested that one wild prizzly was a second generation hybrid.

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A prizzly bear

The prizzly isn’t the only result of global warming. Lynx and bobcats, wolves and coyotes and other similar but unique species have begun to mate as well. While it could take several generations for this “new” bear to evolve into a completely different species, this kind of occurrence may become more common as the changing climate forces more and more animals to adapt to their new environment.

Climate Change and the Catholic Church: Pope Francis in the U.S.

Pope Francis’s visit to the United States last week caused a hubbub of conversation. Whether discussing Black Lives Matter or his thoughts on abortion, there is one issue on which Pope Francis has made his opinion blatantly clear: climate change. In the wake of his second encyclical, Laudato si’, Pope Francis took to the U.S. Congress and the General Assembly of the United Nations to emphasize the utter importance of this issue. In Laudato si’, which is addressed to every person living on this planet, Pope Francis criticizes throwaway culture and emphasizes the global problem of climate change and the serious consequences it will cause for each of us as a result of our mistreatment of our “common home.”

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Pope Francis with Vice President Joe Bidden and Former House Speaker John Boehner

Pope Francis became the first Pope to address a joint session of Congress on the September, reminding U.S. lawmakers of their important role in pioneering climate change legislation. The Pope appealed to business interest as well by reminding business owners that the “creation of jobs as an essential part of its service to the common good. This common good also includes the Earth.”

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Pope Francis kissing a baby during his D.C. parade

At the United Nations, the Pope stated “any harm done to the environment, therefore, is harm done to humanity.” The planet is the “creation of God and humans don’t have the authority to abuse or destroy it.”

His arguments for the reversal of our environmental damage span more than religious reasoning, he also notes the impact of climate change on the impoverished, saying “The poorest are those who suffer most from such offenses, for three serious reasons: they are cast off by society, forced to live off what is discarded and suffer unjustly from the abuse of the environment. They are part of today’s widespread and quietly growing ‘culture of waste.”

Climate change is a hot topic at the United Nations this session. The U.N. Sustainability goals, which were adopted by the U.N. this past Friday, were endorsed by the Pontiff because of their environmental and human rights focus.  With an estimated 1.1 billion Catholics in the world as of 2010, this kind of environmental emphasis from their spiritual leader brings the issue to the attention of millions of people.  Now that the issue is known, we can take global steps to correct it.

Going Green Makes a Global Impact

Today marks the 41st Anniversary of Earth Day! Join us in celebrating the beautiful planet we live on and demonstrate your commitment to environmental protection and sustainability. And for those of you who have not yet taken part in recycling or other going-green efforts, Earth Day is your opportunity to start making changes in your life and in your community.

The Earth Day Network‘s year-round mission is to broaden, diversify and activate the environmental movement worldwide, through a combination of education, public policy, and consumer campaigns. This year, the organization’s goals are bigger than ever before.

A Billion Acts of Green,” the Earth Day Network’s 2011 theme, is the largest environmental advocacy and service project happening around the globe today! Help power the movement and pledge an act to save our planet here! According to the Earth Day Network’s website, “Every Act registered will be counted toward our ultimate goal of amassing one billion actions in advance of the 2012 UN Conference on Sustainable Development in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.” Millions of individuals have already done so, and you should too!

In addition to this campaign, the Earth Day Network also needs your help to build a new green economy.  One way to help put Americans back to work and solve the climate crisis is by telling the U.S. Congress that you want comprehensive green jobs legislation. You can sign the petition here.

There are even more ways to honor the planet. Here are some green acts you can start doing right now:

  • Plant a tree
  • Brush your teeth without running water
  • Carpool
  • Commit to recycling in your home and at your office
  • Eat more locally grown food
  • Bring reusable shopping bags to the grocery store
  • Use green cleaning products
  • Start a garden

What are other suggestions you have?  Post a comment below!

-Hanna

Global Response to a Global Problem

Climate change is a problem that affects all countries- rich and poor.  The United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCC) held its 16th annual Conference of the Parties (COP16) in Cancún, Mexico from November 29 – December 10, 2010.  The ultimate goal of the Conference is to stabilize greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere at a level that will prevent dangerous human interference with the climate system.  The Conference has nearly-universal membership with 20,000 delegates, NGO’s (green groups), business and media in attendance from 194 countries.

One of the goals of the Conference was to make a realistic step in taking action on climate change and build upon the Copenhagan Accord by taking steps to better implement it.  The Cancún Agreements made four major steps in achieving that objective:

1. Mitigation targets & actions: The Agreements provide emission mitigation targets and actions for approximately eighty countries (which importantly include all of the major economies) to reduce their emissions by 2020.

2. Green Climate Fund: A fund was proposed last year to help developing countries deal with implementing green policies to prevent climate change, and has a target of $100 billion annually by 2020.  The World Bank is the interim trustee of the Fund, and its oversight board consists of  representatives of the donor nations.

3. Tropical forest protection: One of the challenges facing the developing world is industrializing under environmental restrictions that developed nations did not.  Through the tropical forest protection program, wealthier countries help prevent deforestation in poorer countries by working through market mechanisms.

4. Clean Development Mechanism (CDM): The CDM stimulates sustainable development while also reducing emissions in developing countries.  It also provides industrialized countries flexibility in how they meet their reduction targets.  The CDM allows emission-reduction projects in developing countries to earn emission reduction credits, which can be traded, sold, and used by industrialized countries to meet part of their reduction targets under the Kyoto Protocol.

The Conference made an extensive effort to reduce the carbon footprint of the event by doing everything from using renewable resources to planting over 10,000 trees and bushes in Cancún.  Although there is always more that needs to be done to address climate change, the Conference was a successful in creating new initiatives.

As 2011 approaches, we encourage you to think about your carbon footprint and what you can do to make a difference!

-Alex.