Most polar bears are most likely to be gone by the end of the century, a new study suggests, unless humans can control climate change.

Continuous production of greenhouse gases across the world causes global warming. Thus the inevitable melting of ice, which is the bears’ habitat. Once the sea ice declines, the animals will then be deprived of food and starve to death.

“Ultimately, the bears need food and in order to have food, they need ice,” Peter Molnar, assistant professor at the University of Toronto Scarborough and one of the authors of the study, told CNN in an interview. “But in order for them to have ice, we need to control climate change.”

Polar bears rely on sea ice to hunt for their food, so when ice continues to melt in their natural habitat, they are forced to strange lands where they cannot find food. These days, polar bears fast for longer periods due to the warming temperatures in the Arctic sea.

When polar bears fast longer, it reduces their body condition, reproduction, and survival in some populations, the study found.

“Previously, we knew that polar bears would ultimately disappear unless we halt greenhouse gas rise. But knowing when they will begin to disappear in different areas is critical for informing management and policy – and inspiring action,” Steven Amstrup, from University of Wyoming and the one who conceived the project and co-author of the study, told CNN.

The authors of the study modeled polar bear survival under a high greenhouse-gas emissions scenario, which would cause most of the polar bears’ populations to collapse by 2100, they found.

“Showing how imminent the threat is for different polar bear populations is another reminder that we must act now to head off the worst of future problems faced by us all,” Amstrup said.

The study was published in the peer-reviewed British journal Nature Climate Change.

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