Permafrost Melt Soon Irreversible Without Major Fossil Fuel Cuts

Thawing Permafrost Will Accelerate Climate Disruption

By Stephen Leahy

UXBRIDGE, Canada, Feb 17, 2011 (IPS)

Thawing permafrost is threatening to overwhelm attempts to keep the planet from getting too hot for human survival.

Without major reductions in the use of fossil fuels, as much as two-thirds of the world’s gigantic storehouse of frozen carbon could be released, a new study reported. That would push global temperatures several degrees higher, making large parts of the planet uninhabitable.

Once the Arctic gets warm enough, the carbon and methane emissions from thawing permafrost will kick-start a feedback that will amplify the current warming rate, says Kevin Schaefer, a scientist at the National Snow and Ice Data Center (NSIDC) in Boulder, Colorado. That will likely be irreversible.

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And we’re less than 20 years from this tipping point. Schaefer prefers to use the term “starting point” for when the 13 million square kilometres of permafrost in Alaska, Canada, Siberia and parts of Europe becomes a major new source of carbon emissions.

“Our model projects a starting point 15 to 20 years from now,” Schaefer told IPS. Continue reading

Arctic Ice in Death Spiral, Thaws Permafrost — Risks Climate Catastrophe

2 degrees C of warming could spark runaway global warming

By Stephen Leahy

UXBRIDGE, Canada, Sep 20, 2010 (IPS)

The carbon dioxide emissions from burning fossil fuels have melted the Arctic sea ice to its lowest volume since before the rise of human civilisation, dangerously upsetting the energy balance of the entire planet, climate scientists are reporting.

“The Arctic sea ice has reached its four lowest summer extents (area covered) in the last four years,” said Mark Serreze, director of the National Snow and Ice Data Center in the U.S. city of Boulder, Colorado.

The volume – extent and thickness – of ice left in the Arctic likely reached the lowest ever level this month, Serreze told IPS.

“I stand by my previous statements that the Arctic summer sea ice cover is in a death spiral. It’s not going to recover,” he said.

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