According to data submitted by Global Forest Watch Canada to the International Boreal Conservation Campaign (IBCC), Canada’s boreal forest contains 186 gigatonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent. That is equal to about 27 years worth of present global emissions. Permafrost – which is rich in methane – makes up about 25% of the world’s land area and about 50% of Canada.
Significant permafrost melting would release gasses that would accelerate the warming trend. Making boreal areas into parks and avoiding deforestation there isn’t a terribly effective mechanism for keeping the bulk of these greenhouse gasses in the soil. The trees themselves are increasingly threatened by pine beetles, as warm winters permit their continued spread. Maintaining the soils as a carbon sink essentially requires that they remain cold – an increasingly distant prospect as emissions continue to grow and other carbon sinks become saturated.