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Melting Permafrost to Release Billions of Tons of CO2 by 2100

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In a recent UN Environment Programme report, it was declared that the permafrost across Siberia and Alaska has started to melt, threatening the earth with its release of an estimated 43 to 135 billion tons of carbon dioxide (CO2) gases into the atmosphere by 2100.

The permafrost, a vast area of supposedly permanently frozen land in Russia, Canada, China, and U.S.A., stores colossal amounts of CO2 and methane (CH4) gases, which are to be liberated when permafrost melts. The estimated amount of CO2 emissions by 2100 already represents 39% of annual emissions from human sources.

An earlier UN report stated that at the world’s current greenhouse gases emission rate, a 3oC to 5oC increase global temperature is expected by 2100.  This estimated increase, which had not included the impact of permafrost thawing, is far above the global target of limiting the temperature increase to only 2oC by 2020.

Kevin Schaefer, the recent UN report’s lead author, suggested that the global target of 200 nations must consider the permafrost melting factor, or else, “risk overshooting the 2oC maximum warming target,” which was set to lessen climate change impacts.

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