We’re Scarily Close to the Permafrost Tipping Point

Permafrost, Sweden:Dentren via Wikimedia Commons

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Permafrost—the ground that stays frozen for two or more consecutive years—is a ticking time bomb of climate change. Some 24 percent of Northern Hemisphere land is permafrost. That’s 9 million square miles (23 million square kilometers) found mostly in Siberia, the Tibetan Plateau, Alaska, the Canadian Arctic, and other higher mountain regions.

Unfortunately, thawing permafrost releases massive amounts of methane and/or carbon dioxide. The question is whether that would happen over the course of decades or over a century or more. This short video from the Yale Climate Forum explains the current scientific thinking on just how close we might be to the lethal tipping point.

Meanwhile this 90-second permafrost primer from the Climate Desk explains exactly we want this northern freezer to remain frozen. 

The map below shows land-based permafrost in the Northern Hemisphere. It also shows the subsea permafrost that underlies the continental shelves of the Arctic Ocean. 

Map of Northern Hemipshere permafrost on land and under the Arctic Ocean:

Map of Northern Hemisphere permafrost on the land and under the Arctic Ocean: Credit: Tingjun Zhang via the National Snow & Ice Data Center

We really really don’t want permafrost to melt since its emissions have the potential to dwarf our own. As the Yale Climate Forum video says, we have the theoretical ability to control our carbon emissions but none whatsoever to stop a permafrost tipping point once it’s reached.

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SIX TRUTHS

Reclaiming power from those who abuse it often starts with telling the truth. And in "This Is How Authoritarians Get Defeated," MoJo's Monika Bauerlein unpacks six truths to remember during the homestretch of an election where democracy, truth, and decency are on the line.

Truth #1: The chaos is the point.

Truth #2: Team Reality is bigger than it seems.

Truth #3: Facebook owns this.

Truth #4: When we go to work, we're in the fight.

Truth #5: It's about minority rule.

Truth #6: The only thing that can save us is…us.

Please take a moment to see how all these truths add up, because what happens in the weeks and months ahead will reverberate for at least a generation and we better be prepared.

And if you think journalism like Mother Jones'—that calls it like it is, that will never acquiesce to power, that looks where others don't—can help guide us through this historic, high-stakes moment, and you're able to right now, please help us reach our $350,000 goal by October 31 with a donation today. It's all hands on deck for democracy.

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