As the Arctic melts, carbon creeps out

(Eco Business, 21 Mar 2019) New research on how permafrost melting in the Arctic releases carbon dioxide and methane show cause for concern, and some limited optimism.

We know that Arctic ice is melting. The latest Snow Water, Ice, and Permafrost Assessment  (SWIPA) estimate showed that the change is happening so fast that if things go along as before, there will probably no ice coverage of the Arctic at all during the summer by the end of the 2030s.

This has led to both excitement and consternation. Excitement among nations on what that might mean for transport and mineral extraction, consternation because the water from the melting ice will flood nations and displace millions of people that live along the coastline – many of them in poor nations like Bangladesh, India and Pakistan.

We are now learning more about an additional consequence which is likely to supercharge global warming – the release of carbon deposits from the peatlands buried under the Arctic permafrost.

Unaccounted carbon in the Arctic

recent study has some detail on how this may add to our challenges. To give an idea of what is at stake, the research paper mentions that permafrost soils in the Arctic store “~1035 Pg ( around 1,035 billion tons) of organic carbon in the upper 3 metres”.

This amount of carbon would overwhelm our ability to keep global temperature rise below 2 degrees Celsius as pledged by all nations (except the US) in the Paris Climate Agreement, leave alone the aspiration to limit warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius above the pre-industrial level.

External link

Eco Business, 21 Mar 2019: As the Arctic melts, carbon creeps out