Permafrost: The Tipping Time Bomb
Last week, the web site Climate Denial Crock of the Week posted a very important video (which I’ve embedded below) about the state of our planet’s permafrost. Now, if you remember your high school geography, the permafrost is found in the northern parts of North America and Asia. And as the name suggests, it is soil that is supposed to be permanently frosty (or frozen). Unfortunately, as the globe’s temperature increases because of our greenhouse gas emissions, the permafrost is beginning to melt.
This is important because “as permafrost thaws, the organic matter in the permafrost thaws as well and begins to decay. The microorganisms start to eat it. If there’s no oxygen, the microorganisms make methane. If there’s oxygen, the microorganisms make carbon dioxide.” Both methane and carbon dioxide are greenhouse gases.
The state of our permafrost is of great concern for two reasons. First, as Nobel Prize (in physics) winner Steven Chu mentions in the video, “once this starts, the amount of greenhouse gases released could be larger than, even dwarf, the amount of greenhouse gases that humans are putting in the air now.” Second, a study by Dr. Anton Vaks, of Oxford University, has concluded that the temperature at which the “the continuous permafrost starts to melt”, also know as the “tipping point”, is 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre industrial temperatures. And we are already at +0.8 degrees C.
Just one more reason (as though we needed more) to bring our emissions down to zero as soon as possible.