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Wildfires, thawing permafrost pose new challenge to curb climate change

Wildfires, thawing permafrost pose new challenge to curb climate change

According to a study published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Science, thawing permafrost and wildfires pose new challenges to curb climate change as they release greenhouse gases that are not fully accounted for in global emissions agreement.

The warming Arctic tundra will make it harder for the world to curb climate change, as thawing permafrost and wildfires release greenhouse gases that are not fully accounted for in global emissions agreements, a study said on Monday.

As temperatures rise and permafrost thaws, carbon dioxide and methane trapped within the long-frozen soil are released. The deeper the thaw, the more gas is released.

That threatens to create a feedback loop that contributes to even more warming of the atmosphere, scientists warn in a study published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

"The Arctic is in the process of disintegrating as we know it, and the permafrost is one major component with some pretty grave implications," said co-author Rafe Pomerance, an environmentalist who chairs the Arctic 21, a network that highlights climate challenges in the polar region.

Siberia saw its highest-ever recorded temperature last summer, when the far north town of Verkhoyansk hit 38 Celsius (100 Fahrenheit). Also last year, unprecedented wildfires in the region released about 35% more carbon dioxide than in 2019, which saw the highest emissions from Russian fires since 2003, the study says.

However, emissions levels estimated from the gradual thaw of permafrost which covers 25% of the Northern Hemisphere do not account for the wildfires and abrupt thawing recently observed, and so are likely too low, the authors say.

That omission "does leave us with a substantial hole in those predictions," said co-author Rachael Treharne, an Arctic ecologist at the Woodwell Climate Research Center in Massachusetts.
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