Bloomberg the Company & Products

Bloomberg Anywhere Login

Bloomberg

Connecting decision makers to a dynamic network of information, people and ideas, Bloomberg quickly and accurately delivers business and financial information, news and insight around the world.

Company

Financial Products

Enterprise Products

Media

Customer Support

  • Americas

    +1 212 318 2000

  • Europe, Middle East, & Africa

    +44 20 7330 7500

  • Asia Pacific

    +65 6212 1000

Communications

Industry Products

Media Services

Follow Us

Thawing Permafrost Threatens to Intensify Warming

Nov. 27 (Bloomberg) -- Thawing permafrost threatens to intensify global warming, sending the planet beyond the 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit) of increases that envoys at United Nations climate talks have set as a maximum.

Frozen soils that cover a quarter of the land area in the northern hemisphere contain 1,700 gigatons (1,700 billion tons) of carbon, twice the amount currently in the atmosphere, the UN Environment Program said today in a report released at the latest round of treaty negotiations in Doha.

Higher temperatures threaten to unlock greenhouse gases trapped in the soil, adding to the greenhouse effect and amplifying warming, according to the study. The thaw undermines buildings and roads, and threatens to drain lakes that are currently contained by the impermeable frozen soil, the report’s author, Kevin Schaefer, told reporters in Doha.

“Thawing permafrost in turn can impact global climate,” said Schaefer, a researcher at the U.S. National Snow and Ice Data Center in Boulder, Colorado. “It will begin to trigger what is called the permafrost-carbon feedback. Once the feedback starts, it’s irreversible because once you take that organic matter out, it’s impossible to put it back. It’ll also persist for centuries.”

Schaefer, speaking in Doha, said thawing permafrost could account for 39 percent of total global greenhouse gas emissions by 2100. Because emissions from permafrost aren’t included in current projections of future emissions, the world risks overshooting its 2-degree warming target, he said.

The report recommended the UN conduct a special report into permafrost emissions, and the creation of monitoring stations in the main countries with the terrain: Russia, Canada, the U.S. and China.

To contact the reporter on this story: Alex Morales in Doha at amorales2@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Reed Landberg at landberg@bloomberg.net

Please upgrade your Browser

Your browser is out-of-date. Please download one of these excellent browsers:

Chrome, Firefox, Safari, Opera or Internet Explorer.