Another Good Reason to Fix Global Heating
“It was incredible, really incredible”, she recalls while speaking to me from The Woods Hole Research Center, Massachusetts, where she is an associate scientist. “I still get chills when I think about it… I just couldn’t believe the magnitude: collapsing cliffs the size of multi-storey buildings … and as you walk along you see what look like logs poking out the permafrost. But they aren’t logs, they are the bones of mammoths and other Pleistocene animals.”
In November, when temperatures should have been -25C, a temperature of 1.2C above freezing was recorded at the North Pole. The Arctic is warming twice as fast as the rest of the world (in part due to the loss of solar reflectivity).
"There is a lot we can do, she says. The fate of the Arctic is not a foregone conclusion: “The actions taken by the international community will have a substantial impact on just how much carbon will be released and how much of the permafrost will thaw. We need to keep as much of the permafrost as we can frozen. And we do have some control of that.” Our emissions cannot remain “business as usual”. The Arctic depends on it. And we depend on the Arctic."
If this melting continues,
- 130-150 billion tonnes of CO2 and methane (both strong greenhouse gasses) may be released as bacteria break down material as it thaws. This is as much as current US CO2 production per year, for another 80 years.
- Melting permafrost destroys local ecologies, creates sinkholes, floods, and erosion.
- Bacteria and viruses thaw and become active again; "A French study in 2014 took a 30,000 year-old virus frozen within permafrost, and warmed it back up in the lab. It promptly came back to life..."
It is likely humans have little resistance to many such diseases.
- Micro-plastics will also be released. "Due to circular global marine currents, much plastic waste ends up in the Arctic, where it becomes frozen in sea ice or permafrost. A recent study of marine micro-particles demonstrated that concentrations were higher in the Arctic Basin than all other ocean basins in the world. Microplastic concentrations in the Greenland Sea doubled between 2004 and 2015 [due to melting and runoff]."
- "Mercury is also entering the food chain, thanks to thawing permafrost. The Arctic is home to the most mercury on the planet. The US Geological Survey estimates there’s a total of 1,656,000 tonnes of mercury trapped in polar ice and permafrost: roughly twice the global amount in all other soils, oceans, and atmosphere."
- Uncovered archaeological treasures may just wash away in the subsequent floods.http://www.bbc.com/future/story/20190612-the-poisons-released-by-melting-arctic-ice
Toxic chemicals, anthrax - even nuclear waste - could be unleashed by global warmingwww.bbc.com