Permafrost: The Tipping Time Bomb, a production of the Yale forum on Climate Change and the Media, describes the urgent and little-understood climate change tipping point – the melting of the permafrost and the release of the massive stores of currently frozen greenhouse gases into the atmosphere.
Pegged by climatologists as one of the most consequential and rapid accelerators of climate change, the threat of permafrost melt is no longer theoretical. Researchers are observing unprecedented, massive releases of greenhouse gases such as methane and carbon dioxide right now.
Scientists predict a tipping point – an increase of 1.5 degrees celsius in global temperature over historical averages – which would result in irreversible releases of greenhouse gas and trigger worst-case climate change scenarios. Currently we are at a ~0.8 degrees celsius increase over historical averages. In other words, we’re more than halfway to the tipping point.
The melting of the permafrost is related to the destruction of the sea ice in the Arctic, another major accelerator of global temperature rise.