CLIMATE CHANGE: Permafrost Melt Could Destroy a Third of All Arctic Infrastructure, Affecting as Many as 4 Million People

All the glue that has held the Arctic together for millennia is being dissolved by climate change, right down to the ground beneath millions of people’s feet.

Rising temperatures are melting frozen soil at an alarming clip with the changes visible before our very eyes today. But the future promises an even more dramatic shift according to a new study published Tuesday in Nature Communications. As the frozen ground turns to muck, it could result in millions of people left without homes or the infrastructure that makes living in one of the harshest environments on Earth possible. What’s more disconcerting is that even if the world slashes carbon emissions dramatically, these changes are basically locked.

The new findings offer what the authors call “an unprecedentedly high spatial resolution” look at how the melt of frozen soil, known as permafrost, will impact infrastructure. As permafrost melts, it essentially turns previously firm ground into a slurry of soil and water. Communities in the Arctic are already coping with the impacts the 1 degree Celsius (1.8 degrees Fahrenheit) of warming since the industrial revolution has wrought. Infrastructure is collapsing or at risk of it as are traditional ways of life.

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