Closer to dangerous tipping points: Arctic emissions increase

January 17, 2010

A new report shows that carbon emissions from the Arctic have increased dramatically:

ARCTIC emissions of a powerful greenhouse gas jumped 30 per cent in recent years in a worrying hint that global warming might unlock vast stores frozen in permafrost, scientists say.

The 30.6 per cent rise in emissions from the Arctic from 2003-2007, to about 4.2 million tonnes, was the biggest percentage gain for any region of the world’s wetlands in the study in the journal Science with colleagues in Scotland and the Netherlands.

“It’s too early to call it a trend but if it continues this way there will be serious implications,” said Paul Palmer, a scientist at Edinburgh University in Scotland who was among authors of the study of methane emissions from wetlands.

This dangerous increase takes us closer to dangerous tipping points.

Tipping points in climate change are points of no return of significant, irreversible change to our climate. They can start positive feedback loops, exacerbating and hastening even more climate change.

A well-known tipping point is the melting of the permafrost and tundra in the Arctic circle. Billions of tonnes of carbon dioxide and methane are trapped in the ice in the Arctic. If these greenhouse gasses were released, it could send us over a tipping point.

Many scientists say that we will reach this tipping point if we reach or exceed 2 degrees Celsius in warming.


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