Danger to Earth: Climate change threatens the permafrost
2020 was a terrible year. We’re all hoping 2021 will reign in the coronavirus, stem the death and destruction the disease has caused, ease the grief at our losses, repair the economic damage, usher in changes to promote social justice, and end to the political strife that has pitted us against one another.
But we can’t lose sight of the fact that 2020 also marks an unprecedented year in climate change, continuing a trend that cannot be reversed in a single year or perhaps a single lifetime.
World-wide, 2020 was the second-hottest year on record, only a sliver of a degree under 2016’s record-breaking “El Niño” year. According to NASA, the last 7 years have been the 7 warmest on record. The 10 warmest years on record have occurred since 2005.
The result: devastating wildfires in Siberia, Australia, South America, and the US. A record-breaking number of Atlantic tropical storms and hurricanes.
Worse: For the first time, temperatures in Siberia north of the Arctic Circle broke 100°F. Warm Arctic temperatures are of particular concern because of the potential to thaw the permafrost, the perpetually frozen layer of soil that underlies the Arctic tundra.
The Arctic is one of the largest carbon sinks in the world, trapping 1,400 gigatons of carbon in the permafrost—about twice the amount of carbon currently contained in Earth’s atmosphere. If the permafrost thaws—if even a small percentage of the permafrost thaws—then greenhouse gases will be released in amounts that will dwarf all our puny efforts to control emissions. Worse, it will have a cascade effect: as the thawing soil releases methane, the greenhouse effect will warm temperatures even further. It’s no exaggeration to say that protecting the permafrost is vital to human survival on Earth.
Climate change isn’t a theory, it’s an observable, devastating fact.
Many people of faith believe that God will not allow Earth to change in a way that will damage humanity. But God helps those who help themselves. We are the stewards of the Earth and all the creatures on it. Just as we should love and care for our children, let us love and care for the Earth on which we all depend.
What can we do? The incoming Biden administration is making climate change a national priority, but the administration will need support from Congress and the US public to take necessary action to save us from ourselves. Tell Congress the environment is important to you. Make changes in your home and in your life to reduce your carbon footprint. Eat less meat, buy local, conserve water, foster the growth of native plants, reduce driving and air travel, conserve gas and electricity, reduce the use of plastics. Reduce, Reuse, Recycle.
Our children are depending on us.
Kathryn Hoff’s upcoming science fiction novel Project Hannibal dwells on the danger climate change poses to the permafrost.