12 December 2019   Leave a comment

The US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Agency (NOAA) has released is annual Arctic Report. Up to this point the Arctic has been a place where climate change has been documented by things such as melting sea ice or disappearing glaciers. But now we have evidence that the Arctic may be contributing to climate change by releasing methane from melting permafrost. According to the report:

  • Northern permafrost region soils contain 1,460-1,600 billion metric tons of organic carbon, about twice as much as currently contained in the atmosphere.
  • This pool of organic carbon is climate-sensitive. Warming conditions promote microbial conversion of permafrost carbon into the greenhouse gases carbon dioxide and methane that are released to the atmosphere in an accelerating feedback to climate warming.
  • New regional and winter season measurements of ecosystem carbon dioxide flux independently indicate that permafrost region ecosystems are releasing net carbon (potentially 0.3 to 0.6 Pg C per year) [petagram (Pg) of Carbon – one Pg =1015 grams=one billion metric tonnes] to the atmosphere. These observations signify that the feedback to accelerating climate change may already be underway.

If that amount of permafrost is melting, it would greatly increase the rate of global warming:

“A 2014 study in Environmental Research Letters estimated that thawing permafrost could release around 120 gigatons of carbon into the atmosphere by 2100, resulting in 0.29°C of additional warming (give or take 0.21°C). By 2300, another study in Nature Geoscience concluded, the melting permafrost and its resulting carbon feedback loops could contribute to 1.69°C of warming. (That’s on the high end. It could be as low as 0.13°C.)

“The logic here is simple: The more warming, the greater the risk of kickstarting this feedback loop. A study published in Nature Climate Change in 2017 predicted that 1.5 million square miles of permafrost would disappear with every additional 1°C of warming.

In addition, there are other problems associated with melting permafrost, including the release of once frozen pathogens or toxic materials such as mercury. This train may be unstoppable.

Exit polls suggest that British Prime Minister Boris Johnson and his Conservative Party have won a convincing victory in the British national election. The New York Times reports:

“According to the exit poll, the Conservatives are projected to win 368 seats in the House of Commons, versus 191 for the Labour Party. That would give the Conservatives an 86-seat majority, enough to empower Mr. Johnson to pull Britain out of the bloc at the end of January, as he had promised.”

The election will no doubt assure that Johnson will pursue Brexit with great vigor. He will have to negotiate an agreement with the European Union, but the election assures that the EU will have to take his decision as a done deal. Johnson’s opponent in the election, Jeremy Corbyn and the Labour Party, ran on a platform of a second referendum on Brexit. Johnson will undoubtedly consider the outcome as a firm endorsement of Brexit. But we should also consider the possibility that the British people were more concerned with assuring that Labour could not form a government. We will know final results of the election tomorrow and will be better able to assess the significance of the election then.

Posted December 12, 2019 by vferraro1971 in World Politics

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