Emissions from Thawing Peatland Permafrost 30-50% Greater than Previous Estimates

Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, August 10

Under high emissions scenarios, northern hemisphere permafrost and peatlands will show a 30-50% greater contribution to warming than previously projected, with emissions impacts equivalent to 1% of all anthropogenic radiative forcing this century – and this takes into account both peatland carbon uptake and permafrost thaw emissions, as both CO2 and methane. Permafrost has accumulated large amounts of carbon and nitrogen over many millennia.  Today, it holds 80% of the global peatland carbon and nitrogen stock, and presently serves as a net carbon sink. However, a 2°C temperature increase would thaw half of all such permafrost, converting 50% of it to emissions not taken up by increased plant growth. The authors conclude that we must remain below 2°C to prevent such carbon cycle climate feedback.


Compiled by Amy Imedieke