A new report by the United Nations Environmental Program is warning that a large-scale melting of the Earth’s permafrost—defined as soil that is at or below freezing point—may already be under way. According to the UNEP, current models for climate prediction are not taking into account the 1,700 billion metric tons of carbon dioxide sealed in the permafrost, roughly twice the amount that’s currently stored in the atmosphere. A significant thaw could emit up to 135 billion metric tons of CO2 by 2100.
Permafrost covers over 24 percent of exposed land in the northern hemisphere and the UNEP is urging the United States and other countries with large permafrost deposits to begin monitoring their ground more carefully.
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