In assessing global warming, look beyond the stranded polar bears

The iconic photograph of polar bears stranded on floating ice often appears when the Globe runs a story on climate change. This is unfortunate, not only because it’s lazy journalism, but because it sends the wrong message.

Climate change is destroying coral reefs. It is destroying the habitat of bees that pollinate our crops, and it’s distorting the migration patterns of many species of birds. It is increasing the frequency of droughts and severe storms. It is acidifying the ocean, which threatens shellfish, including the New England lobster. It is altering the ocean currents. Sea levels around the world are rising because of climate change, threatening coastal cities, including ours.

While it’s true that the most visually dramatic effects of climate change are in the polar regions, climate change is happening everywhere. Photos of polar bears make it seem distant — “too bad for those poor polar bears up in the Arctic.” The polar bears are only the tip of the iceberg.

Frederick Hewett