1 thought on “Where to from here? Priorities for research, policy, and investment”

  1. Urgent decarbonization of global human activities must be the top priority to mitigate severe risks from permafrost thaw and other dangerous climate change instabilities. This absolutely requires social and political commitment to seriously tough policies on carbon pricing. Beyond that, there is no silver bullet, with the possible exception of SRM as a desperation last resort.

    As emissions of CO2 and methane from thawing permafrost will be very diffuse and highly variable over vast areas, ground surface collection and separation of these gases would be quite impracticable. Direct air capture of CO2 is technically easy but expensive in energy and capital costs, while separation of very dilute methane from atmospheric gases is much more difficult. There has been some successful work on the related problem of methane release from thawing deep hydrate deposits, using the approach of exchanging CO2 for CH4 in the underground or subsea hydrate phase, so that CO2 can be buried while high concentration methane is recovered for its fuel value.

    Passive winter ground freezing by thermosyphons might have a very restricted role for stabilizing steep banks and cliffs against slumping failure, restricted economically by prohibitive high cost per unit area covered, and technically also by the need to avoid disturbing very fragile ground cover by tracks of drilling equipment used to install thermosyphon tubes.

    Wet low lying areas can be managed to maximize the carbon sink role of peat accumulation, with the example of extensive peat bogs in Ireland which emerged from post-glacial permafrost about 11,000 years ago. Well drained tundra regions may be managed by megafauna grazing to improve permafrost retention and provide benefits for indigenous people. Barren rocky areas may be converted to fertile meadows or healthy boreal forest by artificially emplacing suitable soil cover.

    With permafrost thaw and growing wildfire emissions on top of anthropogenic GHG emissions which are not yet on track to meet Paris Treaty commitments, Canada and Russia may be the world’s worst per capita contributors to dangerous climate change. The truly massive scale of necessary investments in western North America for intensive silvicultural fuel load management to secure forest carbon sinks hasn’t yet been appreciated, while a comparable program for permafrost regions hasn’t been defined.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *