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The Global Seed Vault was established in 2008 as a biological archive and backup in case of a disaster. If something tragic happened to a region’s or the planet’s biology the seeds in the vault would be available to regrow lost crops. The idea was to build the vault in the far north where the seeds would be passively protected by cold, dry air. Passive protection was important because we humans may not be able to maintain it in a crisis. Global warming is already threatening the site. While average global air temperatures were 1.5F above normal, arctic temperatures jumped 50F for a while. The result, permafrost melted. The protective frost wasn’t as permanent as expected. The other result, active rather than passive protection is required. People are monitoring and cleaning up the site as meltwater intrudes. So far, the water hasn’t reached the seeds; but for a facility that was expected to survive massive disasters, such an issue is a worrying surprise less than a decade after its opening. Climate change has breached one of our most remote defenses.

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