Permafrost carbon feedbacks threaten global climate goals

| July 31, 2021 | Leave a Comment

Permafrost thaw

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Media Type: Article - Foundational

Date of Publication: May 17

Year of Publication: 2021

Publisher: National Academy of Sciences

Author(s): Susan M. Natali, John P. Holdren, Brendan M. Rogers et. al.

Journal: PNAS

Volume: 118 (21)

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Abstract

Rapid Arctic warming has intensified northern wildfires and is thawing carbon-rich permafrost. Carbon emissions from permafrost thaw and Arctic wildfires, which are not fully accounted for in global emissions budgets, will greatly reduce the amount of greenhouse gases that humans can emit to remain below 1.5 °C or 2 °C. The Paris Agreement provides ongoing opportunities to increase ambition to reduce society’s greenhouse gas emissions, which will also reduce emissions from thawing permafrost.

In December 2020, more than 70 countries announced more ambitious nationally determined contributions as part of their Paris Agreement commitments; however, the carbon budgets that informed these commitments were incomplete, as they do not fully account for Arctic feedbacks. There is an urgent need to incorporate the latest science on carbon emissions from permafrost thaw and northern wildfires into international consideration of how much more aggressively societal emissions must be reduced to address the global climate crisis.

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