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Climate change permafrost is self-perpetuating threat

Underneath the frozen permafrost, mostly in the Northern Hemisphere, decomposing organic materials have created twice as much carbon as exists in the atmosphere currently.

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Thawing permafrost around the world is threatening to significantly worsen global warming. (WPA/Getty Images)

Scientists warn that thawing permafrost may significant worsen global warming and make the problem self-perpetuating.

The New York Times reported that underneath the frozen permafrost, mostly in the Northern Hemisphere, decomposing organic materials have created twice as much carbon as exists in the atmosphere currently.

As the permafrost melts, the carbon is released into the atmosphere, magnifying the effects of climate change.

A new UN report has warned that the issue of permafrost is getting worse and that its effects has not yet been factored into climate models.

The Associated Press said the report points out that, in the past, permafrost only saw thawing in the summer months.

Now, thawing occurs even in winter months with thaws as deep as 10 feet, said Bloomberg.

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"Permafrost is one of the keys to the planet's future because it contains large stores of frozen organic matter that, if thawed and released into the atmosphere, would amplify current global warming and propel us to a warmer world," UNEP Executive Director Achim Steiner said in a statement.

The UN report comes during the second day of climate change negotiations taking place in Doha, where countries are negotiating an extension to the Kyoto Protocol.

The talks have so far been tense, with rich countries such as Japan, Russia and Canada refusing to endorse the extension.

The United States has not joined the protocol.

The report also comes during a re-emergence of the issue in Washington, particularly after superstorm Sandy rocked the East Coast of the United States, leaving billions of dollars in damage and several people dead. Earlier, the storm had claimed dozens of lives in the Caribbean.

In proper UN style, the report recommended another report be written on the matter. It also urged countries to set up national monitoring of the problem.

http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/science/121127/climate-change-self-perpetuating-threat-permafrost-question