The Svalbard Global Seed Vault, a giant seed bank in the Norwegian island of Spitsbergen, is facing an unanticipated threat – global warming. The seed vault, which was built in 2008 and houses around a million packets of seeds of most food crops known to man, has been flooded after the permafrost it was built in started melting, The Guardian reported.
The global seed vault was built to insure human beings against food scarcity in the event of a global natural or man-made disaster. Its location – inside a mountain in the Arctic Circle – was chosen carefully. The vault was sunk through permafrost to ensure that the seeds were kept at the required temperature of -18 degree Celsius. This was a deep freeze on a giant scale.
However, like most freezers, the global seed vault is also battling the twin problems of melting ice and resultant flooding. Unseasonal rainfall has led to flooding at the entrance of the vault. Though the actual storeroom has not been affected, the floodwater, which froze into ice, has had to be hacked through. More crucially, the breach has led to questions about the long-time survival of the vault, which is considered to be humanity’s food insurance against apocalypse.
The seed bank was established and is fully funded by the Norwegian government, with the responsibility for operations assigned to the country’s Ministry of Agriculture and Food. “It was not in our plans to think that the permafrost would not be there and that it would experience extreme weather like that,” said Hege Njaa Aschim, an official of the Norwegian government. “A lot of water went into the start of the tunnel and then it froze to ice, so it was like a glacier when you went in,” she told The Guardian.
“It was supposed to [operate] without the help of humans, but now we are watching the seed vault 24 hours a day,” Aschim said. “We must see what we can do to minimise all the risks and make sure the seed bank can take care of itself.”
United States President Donald Trump has expressed open disdain and scepticism about global warming and climate change. Immediately after he assumed office in January, his administration had scrapped all climate change information from the White House website. Trump has also threatened to back out from the United Nations’ Paris climate change deal, which is aimed at reducing global emissions. Trump has also expressed his desire to champion the coal industry. His policies have worried climate change experts across the world.