All permafrost may begin to thaw

Measures the permafrost in Longyearbyen.Researcher Graham Gilbert.Photo: Are Føli / NTB scanpix

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Climate change can thaw huge amounts of permafrost, according to a draft of a new IPCC report. Defrosting leads to large emissions of greenhouse gases from the ground.

The AFP news agency has been granted access to a draft of a new report from the UN Climate Panel (IPCC).

The situation for the Arctic and the regions of the world covered by ice and snow is one of the main themes of the report. In addition, the consequences of global warming in the sea are described.

In Greenland and Antarctica, an average of 430 billion tonnes of ice has disappeared every year since 2006, according to the draft. The melting of ice here has thus become an important reason for the sea level rising.

Vicious circle
If climate change is not slowed, it is estimated that between 33 and 99 % of the world’s permafrost will begin to thaw by 2100. It is the top layer of permafrost that will disappear, the researchers believe.

Permafrost is frozen ground that often contains ancient frozen plant remains. When the ground thaws and the plants rot, it can cause very large emissions of greenhouse gases CO2 and methane.

Thawing thus acts as a vicious circle. Global warming thaws frozen land, which in turn emits gases that enhance warming.

280 million people
The draft report also estimates that 280 million people may have to move due to rising sea levels by 2100. If global warming exceeds 2 degrees, this number could be even higher.

Researcher Ben Strauss tells AFP that migration and immigration have led to political instability today.

“I shudder when I think of the future world where tens of millions of people have to move because the ocean eats up their land,” says Strauss, who heads the Climate Central organisation.

The final version of the IPCC’s new report will be published on September 25th.

© NTB Scanpix / #Norway Today

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