Not welcome news, especially in petro-pimp Canada, but NOAA, the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association, has released a new report on Arctic permafrost, the repository of vast amounts of once safely sequestered methane. The permafrost is thawing faster than ever. Think of it as leaving the freezer door open on a hot day.
Permafrost in the Arctic is thawing faster than ever, according to a new US government report that also found Arctic seawater is warming and sea ice is melting at the fastest pace in 1,500 years.
“What happens in the Arctic doesn’t stay in the Arctic; it affects the rest of the planet,” said acting NOAA chief Timothy Gallaudet. “The Arctic has huge influence on the world at large.”
Permafrost records show the frozen ground that many buildings, roads and pipelines are built on reached record warm temperatures last year nearing and sometimes exceeding the thawing point. That could make them vulnerable when the ground melts and shifts, the report said.
So why does this matter? There's a simple answer. This crosses the barrier between man-made greenhouse gas emissions, primarily CO2, and the even more powerful methane greenhouse gas emissions from a natural feedback loop. We're the trigger. We create the tipping point. However, once that tipping point is reached, and we've crossed a number of them, nature begins to release its own stored greenhouse gases creating what's called runaway global warming.
We notionally strive to limit global warming to 2, if not 1.5 degrees Celsius by slashing man-made CO2 emissions, primarily by abandoning fossil fuels. We're not even doing a convincing job of that. Yet the rationale for cutting man-made emissions was, and supposedly remains, to ensure we don't trigger natural feedback loops, runaway global warming, just like that now underway across the Arctic.
Science is now scrambling to analyze how the loss of Arctic sea ice will affect the climate elsewhere. A report last week forecast a significant decline of rainfall and worsening of droughts in California due to Arctic changes. California supplies a significant part of America's food supply and it's the source for much of the fruit and nuts on Canadian grocery shelves. That's the insidious nature of climate change. Everything seems to have knock-on or ripple effects. Disruption of one kind in one place can trigger entirely different but equally or worse impacts thousands of miles away.