Russia’s vast permafrost may shrink by a third by the middle of the century due to global warming, the government’s disaster monitoring department said Friday.
This is a huge shift, considering that 63% of Russia is now covered in permanently frozen soil.
Friday’s announcement was focused on the bad side, according to AFP. Steady thawing is expected to destroy buildings, and transportation and energy infrastructure. “The negative impact of permafrost degradation on all above-ground transportation infrastructure is clear,” Andrei Bolov told Ria Novosti.
The report also described the risk of a massive gas release. Permafrost traps methane and the thawing soil would release methane into the atmosphere. The release has no reported serious health effects, though it is an asphyxiant at high levels. The gas does however pose combustion risks. More significantly to the resource rich Russian economy, methane is a crucial source of fuel.
But there’s a positive side too. Global warming could increase Russia’s arable land by 37 to 67 per cent, according to researchers at the University of Illinois. This would add 425,000 square miles of farmland — an area three times the size of Montana.
There you have the bad, the ugly and the good.
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