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Signatories (from left to right) : Sauveur Menella (BNP Paribas, BNP Paribas Foundation), Denis Brière (rector of the Laval University) and Sarah Mondet (CNRS Representative in North America) / Photo credit: Marc Robitaille, Laval University, Quebec City.

On Wednesday, December 3, the BNP Paribas foundation, the National Scientific Research Center (CNRS, France) and the Laval University, in Quebec city, signed a convention to finance a scientific research program over a three year period. Named APT, for Acceleration of Permafrost Thaw By Snow – Vegetation Interactions, it is one of the five global research projects on climate change supported by the Foundation.

Global warming is causing the permafrost – areas of soil or rock that remain frozen all year round – to thaw. Permafrost is found in Alaska, Siberia and Canada and covers 20% of the earth surface. Part of the carbon trapped under this soil would transform into Co2. It is estimated that this phenomenon might release twice the amount of CO2 equivalent that the atmosphere currently contains.

The issue of the thawing permafrost would seriously affect the local environment of the Inuit people and have a potentially devastating impact on the planet as a whole.

The joint Takuvik laboratory created by the CNRS and the Laval Universty will conduct and lead this research program over several years in the Great North of Canada. This program will contribute to document the thawing process and assess the quantity of CO2 that might be released in the atmosphere.

The APT project team intend to include the Inuit community as a stakeholder in the project. Among other things, the school in the Inuit village of Umiujaq in Nunavik will be equipped with tools to enable students to gather data on ground temperature and snow density. This valuable work will help the researchers, who cannot be ‘on the spot’ at all times. In addition, a website is being set up to enable students to share the data collected and help the Inuit communities to adapt to climate change.

The convention was signed at a press conference attended by many journalists. It was followed by a visit of the Takuvik laboratory, then by a flight to Kuujjuarapik, where research will be conducted.

According to the BNP Paribas Foundation, climate change is undoubtedly one of the biggest challenges facing humanity. In permanently altering our environment and the availability of certain natural resources, this phenomenon risks compromising our ways of life and will have a significant impact on the social and political fabric of communities throughout the world. Understanding the factors and predicting the consequences for our environment and populations are key challenges. This knowledge will enable scientists, policy makers, industry and, more generally, every one of us to modify our behaviours in order to limit the impact on the climate.

March 13, 2015: “Permafrost thaw: a climate bomb” (Published in “Le Figaro” – Article written by Cyrille Vanlerberghe – in French only) .

March 2015: “La Bombe Pergélisol” (published in “Québec Science” – Article written by  Raymond Lemieux – in French only).

To find more information on the “Climate Initiative” program, please click here


The APT program in video