The area, which covers the entire sub-Arctic region of western Siberia, is the world’s largest frozen peat bog and scientists fear that as it thaws, it will release billions of tonnes of methane, a greenhouse gas 20 times more potent than carbon dioxide, into the atmosphere.
The thaw may represent a “tipping point” of global warming both because of its scale and because of its role as part of a vicious cycle. The thawing is “undoubtedly” caused by human-driven global warming. But once triggered, the thawing itself spawns further warming.
“When you start messing around with these natural systems, you can end up in situations where it’s unstoppable. There are no brakes you can apply,” said David Viner, a senior scientist at the Climatic Research Unit at the University of East Anglia.
So while humans take warming risks by scrambling to mine methane for energy from the briny depths, nature’s methane stock may release itself uncontrollably… as a result of other human energy production activities. A spiral reactor.