The Arctic permafrost has been frozen for thousands of years (permanent frost). The frozen soil of this ancient ground contains almost double the amount of carbon currently present in our atmosphere. Now, scientists raise concerns about the permafrost thawing - and releasing monstrous amounts of carbon into the atmosphere.
The Woods Hole Research Center (WHRC) in Massachusetts is dedicated to tackling problems like the melting permafrost. Along with other climate scientists, researchers from the WHRC actively stress to many nations' leaders, including U.S. President Obama, the impending consequences of ignoring the situation in the Arctic. In two days, leaders from many countries will meet in Anchorage, Alaska for the Conference on Global Leadership in the Arctic: Cooperation, Innovation, Engagement and Resilience. The direction these leaders choose to take concerning the melting permafrost will have a monumental impact on Earth's climate trajectory.
According to a recent policy brief from the WHRC, decreasing carbon dioxide emissions through fossil fuel use, deforestation, and black carbon deposition is the top priority to prevent "disastrous and irreversible" damage. The release of greenhouse gases triggers the warming of the atmosphere, which in turn leads to increased thawing permafrost. As the permafrost melts, carbon dioxide and methane are released, further adding to the accelerated climate change.
Dr. Max Holmes, a Senior Scientist at the WHRC, stresses the importance for our nation to prioritize focus on finding "the tipping point." He asks, "at what level of warming will the cycle of warming and permafrost thawing become impossible to stop?"
Many other research institutes' missions are centered around combating global warming and the environmental issues related to increased use of fossil fuels. The issue is also present on many presidential candidates campaigns for the 2016 presidential election. Democratic candidate Bernie Sanders includes a strong statement about global warming on his website: "We must transform our energy system away from polluting fossil fuels, and towards energy efficiency and sustainability." The issue is also popularly discussed in science fiction, like in Dr. Christy Esmahan's recent novel, The Laptev Virus. Ultimately, it is going to take strong and immediate action to prevent irreversible damage to our climate patterns, and the decisions made by the leaders at the upcoming conference in Alaska could potentially forecast the future of the permafrost.
Watch the video below to hear more about the Arctic permafrost and the impact of the carbon resting in the ice.
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