It feels like not a day goes past without a clear example of climate change whacking us directly in the face.
This time? The Arctic stash of the world’s seeds has been flooded, due to melting ice.
The seed bank, built on the Norwegian island of Svalbard, was designed as a backup for the world’s crops – with the seeds protected from the threats of war, theft – and indeed climate change.
The seed bank was built in 2008, designed to protect the seeds for generations into the future.
But an unusually warm winter – after the hottest year on record – saw heavy rainfall when it should have been snow. The seed bank was designed to resist the threats of extreme cold and snow, but apparently not if the snow was melting.
While the flooding was widespread, there was no significant damage to the seeds themselves. That said, it’s a worrying sign that the seed bank – which was supposed to protect seeds for centuries – was flooded less than ten years after its creation.
It is expected that the Norwegian government is set to modify the overall design to protect from flooding. Spokesperson Hege Ajaa Aschim has said that the potential for flood damage was simply not contemplated at the time the seed bank was designed.
“It was not in our plans to think that the permafrost would not be there and that it would experience extreme weather like that”, she said.
While politicians continue to snuggle up with coal companies and hold back on regulating carbon, the seed bank’s flooding is another clear sign that climate change is actually happening.