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Mains Practice Questions

  • Q. Discuss the impacts of permafrost thawing on global climate change and its implications. Suggest measures to mitigate the adverse effects of permafrost thawing. (150 Words)

    22 May, 2023 GS Paper 1 Geography


    • Start your answer by describing Permafrost and Permafrost thawing.
    • In the body section, mention its impacts and measures for mitigation.
    • Conclude with way forward approach.


    • Permafrost is any ground that remains completely frozen— 0°C or colder—for at least two years straight. It covers approximately 25% of the Earth's land area, mostly in high-latitude regions such as the Arctic and sub-Arctic regions. Permafrost contains large amounts of organic carbon, as well as frozen microbes and viruses, that have been preserved for thousands of years.
    • Permafrost thawing is the process of permafrost melting and releasing its contents to the environment. Permafrost thawing is caused by rising temperatures and precipitation due to climate change.

    Permafrost thawing has several impacts on global climate change and its implications, such as:

    • It releases greenhouse gases, such as carbon dioxide and methane, to the atmosphere, which further amplifies global warming and creates a positive feedback loop.
    • It alters natural ecosystems, such as creating thermokarsts (formed when permafrost thaws and creates surface depressions that fill with melted water), increasing soil erosion and landslides, and disrupting plant and animal habitats.
    • It affects human health and livelihoods, such as damaging infrastructure and buildings, increasing the risk of infectious diseases from ancient microbes and viruses, and threatening food security and water quality for indigenous communities.
    • It can expose ancient bacteria and viruses that were frozen in the ice and soil, which could pose a threat to human and animal health.

    Some measures to mitigate the adverse effects of permafrost thawing are:

    • Reducing greenhouse gas emissions globally to limit the extent and rate of permafrost thawing and global warming.
      • Environmental treaties like the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), Paris Agreement and Kyoto Protocol must be implemented in letter and spirit.
    • Enhancing permafrost monitoring and research to improve understanding and prediction of permafrost dynamics and feedback.
    • Using engineering techniques to prevent or minimize frost heave, such as replacing frost-susceptible soils with coarse-grained material, using thermal insulation or ventilation layers, or applying additives to modify soil properties.


    Addressing permafrost thawing and its impacts on global climate change requires a multi-faceted approach that combines mitigation efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions with adaptation strategies to enhance resilience. By implementing these measures, we can work towards minimizing the adverse effects of permafrost thawing and mitigate its contribution to climate change.

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