Climate scientists, policy experts and environmental justice advocates on Monday announced a major project to better understand the contribution of permafrost thawing to global warming. demand and help communities in the Arctic cope with its impacts.
Led by the Massachusetts-based Woodwell Center for Climate Research, the six-year, $41 million project will fill gaps in the monitoring of greenhouse gas emissions across the Arctic caused by permafrost thaw, is currently a source of uncertainty in climate models. The project is funded by private donors, among them is the billionaire philanthropist Mackenzie Scott.
With the Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs at Harvard University and the Alaska Institute of Justice, the project will also develop policies to help reduce the global impact of permafrost emissions and, the agency in Alaska, supporting indigenous communities grappling with thaw and the problems that arise from it.
“A good part of this is the science,” said Sue Natali, a permafrost researcher, Arctic program director at Woodwell and one of the leaders of the new project. Permafrost . icy road. “But really, it’s important to us to make sure that our science is actually useful and usable where it’s needed.”
Permafrost, the frozen ground that lies beneath much of the Arctic and can be hundreds of feet deep, contains remains of plants and animals that have accumulated over the centuries. As rapid warming in the region has caused many of the top frozen layers to thaw, organic matter decomposes and releases carbon dioxide and methane.
Permafrost is thought to contain twice as much carbon as is present in the atmosphere. But as the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change recognized last year as part of its Friday Assessment ReportThe size and timing of emissions from the permafrost thaw is uncertain.
“That uncertainty has been a major barrier to incorporating permafrost emissions into global climate policy,” said Dr Natali.
John Holdren, White House science adviser in the Obama administration and director of the Arctic Initiative at the Belfer Center, says that better measurements are used to develop improved models, ” can help us not only give a more complete picture of what is happening right now, but will give us a better ability to predict what might happen in the future. “
The Permafrost thaw isn’t just global. Locally across the Arctic, it has rendered roads, bridges, homes and other structures built on frozen ground unstable and unusable. Melting permafrost also leads to greater erosion, leading to land collapse and flooding.
Robin Bronen, a human rights attorney and executive director of the Alaska Institute for Justice, based in Anchorage, said the project will address those issues in coordination with several Alaskan Native communities. Several coastal communities in the state been trying to relocate for many years.
Understand the latest news on climate change
The project will work to develop a management framework for resettlement, she said, “to create a process where communities have the environmental data they need, based on indigenous knowledge and their science, to make decisions about where they might be or not. they are.”
Dr Natali said the permafrost thawing is well underway and people are being impacted by it. “People are moving or having to raise their houses to solve this problem,” she said. “And there’s no support for it.”
The project is being funded through Project Audacious, a collaborative funding group that is an offshoot of TED, the idea-sharing organization.
“That’s a lot of money,” says Dr. Holdren, although perhaps not as much as some people think since $41 million is spread over six years. “And I think we’ll be able to do a lot of good with it.”