While climate change is effecting every spot on the planet and the most visible effects are the crumbling ice shelves at both poles – perhaps the most important and critical early warning signs are the borreal forests and permafrost stretching like a collar around the top of the earth. There is new evidence of the borreal forests’ warming.
With the latest readings from NOAA (look particularly at the graph showing the biggest temperature rises over the Siberian forest.) it is another concrete Clarion call to action. It seems that the melting permafrost has likely got a one way ticket for the foreseeable future – that is until we can turn our CO2 spewing boat around.
Our future may be defined by the simple calculation of how fast the permafrost is going to melt – and like Hansen’s 350, another number may come to haunt us: 500.
That’s the over 500 billion metric tons of carbon that the permafrost is estimated to hold.
For comparison, we globally, currently emit about 7.4 billion tons of carbon each year – without including deforestation. (Take the 27,245,758,000 CO2 emissions number and divide by 3.67 to get carbon.)
To make matters worse the carbon is generally being released as methane, at an ever increasing rate.
While methane is over 21 times more potent than CO2, the good news is that methane dissipates 10 times faster as CO2. So the BIG question is how fast is the melting accelerating?
It could disastrously add the right push to make this climate crisis a perfect storm – and there’s only one boat. While the Olympics and election are sure to drown out important climate news keep your eyes out for reports on the permafrost melt this summer and what new projections foresee. If such a thing is possible, the data readings this summer could be our most important warning to date.