Gaius Publius: Arctic Seafloor Methane Release is Double Earlier Estimates

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By Gaius Publius, a professional writer living on the West Coast of the United States and contributing editor at AmericaBlog. Follow him on Twitter @Gaius_Publius and Facebook. Cross posted from AmericaBlog

One of the greenhouse gases (GHGs) that Obama’s EPA Clean Power Plan doesn’t count is methane from leaks, for example, fracking leaks, fuel line leaks, transportation leaks, and so on. Yet methane (CH4) is one of the most powerful greenhouse gases known, though very short-lived (most atmospheric methane disappears in about 12 years, becoming CO2 and water vapor).

And one of the cornerstones of the idea that mankind still has a “carbon budget” — that we can still release even more CO2 and other greenhouse gases like methane, though a “limited” amount — is the idea that we can do a good job of modeling climate-changing feedbacks. We can do a good job of modeling some feedbacks, but we’re very bad at modeling others, and some feedbacks have so much randomness about them that modeling them becomes next to impossible.

For an example of seemingly good models that have gotten things drastically wrong, take a look at what 13 Arctic-ice models said about the ice melt rate (loss of ice is a feedback, since it’s cause by warming, and then feeds more warming back to the system):

Arctic Sea Ice Melt, Projected v. Actual, Actual is Much Worse

All of the fuzzy lines are predictions of various models using the assumptions of that model. The heavy black line is the mean of those models. The red line is observed loss. Note that today, we’re about at the place the IPCC models had us reaching 90 years from now. The observations peak at about 9 million square kilometers, and we’re now at about 3 million. When we reach 1 million square kilometers, the Arctic will be considered “ice free.” Not long after that, summer ice will go to actual zero. With increased warming, winter ice will go to zero also.

See why I’m always saying we’re “wrong to the slow side”? If you think a climate event will happen in some number of years, cut it in half, at least, and maybe in half again.

For an example of a process that’s almost impossible to model, consider the disappearance of Antarctic ice shelves. They don’t go gradually; they hang around, then go suddenly and in big chunks, as they have recently. We’ve crossed the point of no return on large parts of the Western Antarctic shelf. No one saw that coming when it did, and there was no way to model it. That system is just too complex, with too many unknowns.

Frozen Methane is One of the Largest Unknowns in Climate Prediction

Which brings us back to methane — in particular, frozen methane. By most accounts, there’s more than 1,000 GtC — a thousand billion (“giga”) tons of carbon — locked into the tundra and the peat bogs, and frozen at the bottom of the ocean in the Arctic region. As noted, methane is a short-lived but powerful GHG. “Greenhouse warming potential” (GWP) is a comparison of the warming effect of a substance relative to CO2 (which is assigned a GWP of 1). Here’s what methane’s GWP looks like over time:

Chart of methane's GWP


The small dot at 20 years on the blue line says that in the first 20 years, atmospheric methane has 72 times the warming effect as CO2. The IPCC wrote that in 2007 in the report called AR4. Assessment Report 5 (AR5), out last year, increased that number from 72 to about 85. The IPCC has moved that number up in every report since 1995.

Now note the blue line to the left of that dot, in the less-than-20-year part of the chart, as it climbs toward 100. In the first five years, the effect of methane is over 100 times that of CO2, and again, that was the number as calculated in 2007. It’s larger by more recent calculations.

I said at the start of this piece that there’s more than 1,000 GtC in methane form — remember, methane contains the carbon molecule — stored in the Arctic. That’s conservative; the number is much higher.

(A note about units used to measure carbon: You’ll see Pg, petagrams, sometimes used as a unit of weight, for example, at the previous link. A “petagram” (Pg) has the same weight exactly as a “gigaton” (Gt). I’m going to translate everything to tons of carbon (tC) for this piece, no matter where the original measurement appears.)

Whatever the number, the methane’s been down there for millions of years, and if it stays down there, we’re in good shape. (Just like coal — most of it was formed several hundreds of millions of years ago, and until recently, it just sat under the earth doing no harm at all. The steam engine changed all that, got us to dig it back up and put it back in the air.)

The key questions about methane are — how fast is it leaking back into the atmosphere, and will that rate be stable? The answer to the first question is, by many accounts, not fast. In 2007, methane release from the vast, shallow East Siberian Arctic Shelf (ESAS) — one of several sources of methane — was put at 0.5 MtC per year. That’s half a megaton (a half-million tons) of carbon. Compare that to today’s rate of carbon emissions in CO2 form — 10 GtC per year.

A gigaton is 1,000 megatons, so quite a difference in scale. Methane may be 100 times more potent than CO2 as a GHG in its first few years (before it decays). But by weight, CO2 emissions are measured in the millions of tons of carbon, not the billions of tons. (Yet note that low number of 0.5 MtC for East Siberian releases — it’s been revised considerably upward. Read on.)

Will things stay like this, with methane emissions at a crawl? In a runaway warming scenario, there is certainly a point where all that methane will go into the air. Are we near that point? No one knows, though the consensus is that we’re not — at least not yet.

Arctic Methane is Leaking Twice as Fast as Previously Thought

Which brings us to the news and back to the uncertainties. That consensus I just mentioned — that we’re not near a “runaway methane” scenario — hides a sharp divide in the scientific community. There is a small group of researchers who think we could be near a methane tipping point.

In that group is the Russian research team of Natalia Shakhova and her husband Igor Semiletov, researchers at the University of Alaska Fairbanks (UAF) International Arctic Research Center. Here’s what they found recently (my emphasis):

Arctic seafloor methane releases double previous estimates

The seafloor off the coast of Northern Siberia is releasing more than twice the amount of methane as previously estimated, according to new research results published in the Nov. 24 [2013] edition of the journal Nature Geoscience.

The East Siberian Arctic Shelf is venting at least 17 teragrams of the methane [17 Mt or million tons] into the atmosphere each year. A teragram is equal to 1 million tons.

“It is now on par with the methane being released from the arctic tundra, which is considered to be one of the major sources of methane in the Northern Hemisphere,” said Natalia Shakhova, one of the paper’s lead authors and a scientist at the University of Alaska Fairbanks. “Increased methane releases in this area are a possible new climate-change-driven factor that will strengthen over time.”

… On land, methane is released when previously frozen organic material decomposes. In the seabed, methane can be stored as a pre-formed gas or as methane hydrates. As long as the subsea permafrost remains frozen, it forms a cap, effectively trapping the methane beneath. However, as the permafrost thaws, it develops holes, which allow the methane to escape. These releases can be larger and more abrupt than those that result from decomposition.

The findings are the latest in an ongoing international research project led by Shakhova and Igor Semiletov, both researchers at the UAF International Arctic Research Center. Their twice-yearly arctic expeditions have revealed that the subsea permafrost in the area has thawed much more extensively than previously thought, in part due to warming water near the bottom of the ocean. The warming has created conditions that allow the subsea methane to escape in much greater amounts than their earlier models estimated. Frequent storms in the area hasten its release into the atmosphere, much in the same way stirring a soda releases the carbonation more quickly.

Yes, I too caught the point about earlier models being wrong in the last paragraph above. Shades of Arctic sea ice models? I guess only time will tell.

But 17 megatons of methane is a sharp upward estimate from the 0.5 megatons just seven years earlier. Has methane emission changed, or is the measurement more precise?

Probably both. To a large degree emissions have changed, since Shakhova and Semiletov have been taking measurements by expedition for quite some time. In fact, I wrote about one of their previous discoveries — that they found kilometer-wide plumes of methane rising through the Arctic ocean — two years ago (my emphasis):

“Earlier we found torch-like structures like this but they were only tens of metres in diameter. This is the first time that we’ve found continuous, powerful and impressive seeping structures more than 1,000 metres [one kilometer] in diameter. It’s amazing,” Dr Semiletov said.

“I was most impressed by the sheer scale and the high density of the plumes. Over a relatively small area we found more than 100, but over a wider area there should be thousands of them,” he said.

A kilometer is over half a mile. Imagine how tall a half-mile wide undersea plume of methane gas is. The researchers found over 100 in a relatively small area and have extrapolated to thousands. 

The Data Isn’t in on the Risk From Methane

I want to close with these two points.

1. I mentioned at the start of this piece that some models were right, some very wrong, and some nearly impossible to construct. The behavior of the sequestered (captured, stored) methane, especially in the north latitudes is in the third group — it’s very hard to model and extrapolate from. Many scientists, including many I respect, who have been in the forefront of the “zero carbon” bandwagon, don’t see an immediate danger from Arctic methane.

Eventually, yes, but immediately, no. If we let the system run out of control — by not reigning in the men and women determined to profit from carbon — we’ll cook the joint. But if we do stop the warming, stop the emissions we ourselves are causing, and do it fast enough, there’s a large contingent of scientists who say, we’ll probably avoid a massive methane release, for all sorts of reasons that, if listed, would make you think you’re back in chemistry class.

But science keeps finding things; that’s its beauty. As we learn more about methane and how it acts, and as we measure its emissions in the field, we could all get a surprise, like the Arctic ice surprise in the first chart above. That surprise has catastrophe written all over it.

2. The mythical “carbon budget” that supposedly allows us to emit an IPCC-blessed “limited” amount more of the various GHGs and still “stay safe” depends in part on the absence of a methane emissions feedback loop.

The IPCC calculates that, to have a ⅔ (66%) chance of staying below a “safe” 2°C of warming since pre-industrial times, we can emit no more than about 250 GtC (per their recent AR5). There are a lot of questionable assumptions built into that “budget”:

▪ That a ⅔ chance of not-death is a good enough chance.

▪ That “2°C warming is safe” isn’t just a guess that got frozen into wisdom.

▪ That Exxon, the Saudis and the Kochs somehow deserve any of the loot they have yet to monetize from carbon.

I’ll deal with each of those assumptions later, in a piece I’m preparing. But the biggest assumption of all is — they absolutely have to be right about methane. The people worried about methane say we could see on the order of 30 GtC, as methane, emitted in the next few decades.

That number is still within the reputed “budget” … until you consider the enhanced GWP of methane. Multiplied by 85 (the GWP of methane in the first 20 years), 30 Gt of atmospheric methane has the same warming effect as more than 250 GtC in CO2 form. Oops. No budget left.

Now consider that a mass release of methane could cause heating that causes … another mass release of methane, and so on. No one knows how these things might be connected. Do you feel lucky?

I’ll be writing a lot more about this mythical carbon budget. The money that can be made from future emissions is the one thing holding up all negotiations. The carbon-heavy countries and carbon-rich companies want the “budget” to exist and be large. The heavy carbon users — like India, China and the like — also want it to exist and be large. They think they can “win the century” by burning it. (Hint: No one will win the century if they burn it. Human civilization will begin its collapse.)

Do you want it to exist at all, this monetizable “carbon budget,” if it means only ⅔ chance that your grandchildren will not be hunter-gatherers? Do you want to make David Koch, worth over $50 billion at last count, even richer, with a rapid future loss of civilization as a downside? After all, David Koch will be dead by then, and we’ll be living in the world we let him leave to us. Something to think about.

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  1. Banger

    Methane and the threat of massive methane release and its consequences have been well-known and largely ignored so thanks to Mr. Publius for bringing this aspect of the problem to our attention it makes every other issue appear trivial.

    If we were even remotely rational (let alone moral) in this country we would understand that we have one overwhelming issue and that is climate-change. It is also the one issue that could unite the country and, indeed, most of the human beings on the planet into engineering a new political economy and thus deal with the issues of poverty, income inequality, and war. Imagine a big project with, more or less, definable goals that would have as its main goal the common good! But is the mass of the professional and intellectual class of the U.S. interested in this? Not really. Sure, most reasonable educated persons see it as a concern but their ideas, with some very notable exceptions, isare muddled and more on the level of complaining about the ignorance of the right. Instead of coming together across culture and disciplines to come up with a vision of the world like the Zeitgeist Movement has attempted to do, which most educated people are either ignorant of or ignore because they “sound” kind of like maybe life has meaning.

    I submit to you that the majority of American intellectuals are neo-nihilists. They sound the right politically correct notes but don’t really care–what they appear to care about are their little narrow concerns, their pissing contests, their specialties, their egos, their glorious opinions and, above all, to make sure that few if any dots are ever connected (God forbid there is meaning in the world or things are, like, connected)–that holistic views are banned and ridiculed. Where is the concern the United States’ flat out refusal to do anything significant about climate change despite its status and the center of Empire–the U.S. is the only country who could, basically, impose sanctions on countries who did not act on helping ameliorate climate-change–we are the big cheese of the world and what we do and think matters most as the financial capital of the world.

    I pick on the intellectuals because they (we) have failed at the one job they are required to do–to rationally explain our situation to the population that does not have either the skills (most Americans lack critical thinking skills) nor the information needed to understand climate-change and the challenge it presents us with. Even here there’s going to be an argument that, well we don’t “know enough” or whatever–but we know plenty. We know enough to construct a risk-analysis matrix–even giving a low-probability to catastrophic changes would still indicate that the risk is simply too large to take while the down side of taking action, I would argue, would actually be incredibly beneficial and begin to move society out of the stranglehold of narcissistic culture into a convivial culture.

    1. Jackrabbit

      It may be that intellectuals (which is sort of code-word for ‘the left’) haven’t done enough but your criticism is overblown and unbalanced. What about the massive effort to reshape society into a neolibcon paradise? Ordinary people have been mislead and disenfranchised by a corrupt system where only short-term commercial gain and the concerns of the wealthiest among us really matter.

      Progressives HAVE fought against this system that puts profits before people but arrayed against them is corporate media and monied interests with huge resources. Maybe we should start to recognize and celebrate these people instead of bashing them.

      How did we get here? Because groupthink. Because markets. Because Obama.

      H O P

      1. Banger

        Look at various journals and web sites and tell me how much attention is paid not just to climate-change and the implications thereof. Now, if as I believe is the case that there is cause for alarm on a linear basis of change, sea level rise, acidification of the ocean, agricultural problems and so on then why not more coverage? But nature does not operate in a linear way–in fact it mostly doesn’t operate that way. We are facing catastrophe which trumps all other issues. For the left it is the ideal issue that brings together all traditional concerns of most people on the left, that is, the commons. In the face of that how am I being harsh?

        1. Jackrabbit

          Time and time again, you blame the victim (the people) and those who fight for the victim (‘the left’). Then you excuse yourself claiming something like ‘tough love.’ You offer NO rebuke for the abusers and when called out, plead ignorance (“how am I being harsh?”).

          Progressives haven’t FAILED to identify the problems (there are many and they are inter-related) or get the message out AS MUCH AS neolibcons have SUCCEEDED in capturing the population with propaganda, bread and circuses, rigged markets and trumped-up enemies.

      2. Globus Pallidus XI

        A true pleasure to hear some despite Obama – for the right reasons!!!!

        Obama is not a ‘liberal’, he is the corporate shill par excellence. Anytime someone despises Obama because he is a scumbag carpetbagger kiss-ass for the oligarchs, it is a minor victory.

        Hate Obama (for the right reasons!) and it shall set you free.

    2. mellon

      This is, I think what people are scared will happen.. a global runaway release of methane ice trapped along the continental shelves, and under permafrost, caused by warming, a release which would of course warm the planet still more, causing more and faster release….

      We should cut back on our ambitions to become the Saudi Arabia of natural gas (and methane) .

      Responding to massive pressure from the energy industry, the administration is quietly negotiating to (irreversibly?) vastly expand US fracking and export most of it – (the profit could be substantial because prices are 3-5 times higher elsewhere) – using the secretive TTIP trade deal.

      Natural gas may (it looks that way to me) have a major downside in the methane that is released – so it may not offer an environmental advantage at all.

      1. mellon

        Yves, could you fix the link in my post above? I accidentally didn’t close the HTML tag for the methane clathrate gun hypothesis link.

  2. John

    We have policy makers that are not alarmed enough. There needs to be a set new set of politicians which fully embrace the science because those in place now are just not bothered. They are too comfortable at the nipple of David Koch, enjoying every drop of oil money.

    It is clear the IPCC needs updating.

  3. Ed

    Guy McPherson has a site that I don’t recommend visiting because it can only lead to mental health problems. The site is devoted to arguing that humans are going extinct in the next few decades, and the problem is that there is actual, hard to dismiss evidence for this.

    Anyway his argument in fact centers around the methane bomb. There is a point where the Earth’s climate changes to one where humans can’t survive. Sufficient releases of CO2 can warm temperatures in the Artic to the point where enough methane is released to push the climate to that very point. The one ray of hope is that something like there has never happened when humans were around to record it, so we can’t be completely sure it will work out this way.

    However, I do think scientists soft-pedalled the implications of their findings about climate. The consequences have always been framed that if the climate warms enough, there will be all these inconveniences. There seems to have been an assumption that carbon emissions would be decreased after the initial warnings, not increased (due mainly to increased industrial production in China) as they were. Well enough people like industrial civilization as it is and can put up with some droughts and flooded coastal areas and will dismiss the warnings. A warning that if you keep smoking you will get cancer and die (even ironically though you will die anyway) is always more effective than if you keep smoking you will get a bad cough.

    1. Generalfeldmarschall von Hindenburg

      It’s thought that a massive and sudden release of methane globally was one of the primary causes of the Permian Extinction event. 96% of all species got erased.
      The problem I have with most of these discussions is that the assumption that humans are the only cause of the climate fluctuations. The behavior of the sun is also important as well as a host of other factors. I understand that it took 20 years for the idea that we shouldn’t be pumping massive amounts of filth into the atmosphere to gain any political traction, so it’s anathema now to admit possibly that it’s not entirely our fault that the global climate is in turmoil with as yet unpredictable results. The idea that humanity deserves to die is just another insidious form of hair shirt monotheist eschatology that was part of the political “sell” to get some recognition that we can’t go on forever as we have been. We could still all asphyxiate like poor old gorgonops, but maybe if we can rise above ourselves just once and work through this rationally….well good luck with that.

      1. susan the other

        or, “… massisve amounts of toxins into the air, the water, and the soil; as well as directly into the oceans.”

        1. mellon

          Whenever there is very high humidity (>90%) combined with massive numbers of plants or animals dying, that must happen. (Because of the fungi that then would appear to consume them.) The fungi compete with one another and to kill the other fungi, they produce an innumerable number of highly toxic compounds, some of which can be very difficult to break down. They will have the effect of using up the cellular repair capability of every living thing in a very short amount of time. It’s similar to radiation.

      2. mellon

        Permian-Triassic extinction event was possibly caused by a combination of basaltic volcanism over a very large area. (Deccan Traps/Siberian Traps or some such) and other factors, such as methane ice being subsequently liberated by heat.. It may have been initiated by a meteor hitting the opposite side of the planet but that not been supported by findings of any crater, etc. as far as I know (although it was so long ago that the continental migrations might make that hard to figure out) It was probably simply a period of extreme volcanic activity over a large area (one example of what happens is the Palisades along the Hudson River across from NYC which are largely composed of basalt) that released a great deal of hydrogen sulfide and similar, combined with the methane from the methane hydrates (ice) melting.

      3. Fiver

        “The idea that humanity deserves to die is just another insidious form of hair shirt monotheist eschatology that was part of the political “sell” to get some recognition that we can’t go on forever as we have been.”

        To which I respond:

        1) And in whose estimation does humanity deserve to live if we cannot bring ourselves to survive with less and destroy the basis for higher-order life forms on this world?

        2) It isn’t the public that needs to be ‘sold’ on the idea of necessary, fundamental change – the trick is to convince the leadership elite it cannot solve its own looming existential crisis by eliminating most of the rest of us.

    2. Fair Economist

      I don’t see how human extinction is a likely possibility. Hansen has estimated that if all carbon were released, we’d get a 30 degree warming. Even at that level, high mountain regions are still inhabitable, including Mexico City, and possibly polar regions as well. That’s an incredibly grim scenario, I agree, because 90%+ of people would die, but human extinction due to climate events just isn’t in the cards.

        1. Fair Economist

          Yes, that’s possible, although *extinction* is really difficult to cause for such a large and widely-distributed species able to survive in almost every environment on the planet.

      1. Banger

        Clearly you know nothing about either ecology or systems theory as applied to biological and phhysical systems. Let me give you the simple version: usually my temperature is around 98 degrees–if it were to go up two degrees I wouldn’t feel great but I would still be able to work. Now, assume that I had a temperature of 105–I would be very ill and delirious but alive–a two degree rise would cause death or a phase change.

        We have no way of knowing the tipping point of the Earth’s ecology but, like all systems, it has one. What stuns me, unless you are joking, is that what I just said is so obvious–nature does not operate in a linear fashion other than inside a homeostatic range. My own guess is that a thirty degree rise would result almost complete extinction of all mammals and almost all sea life. All cycles would be disrupted a radical positive feedback loops could cause anything from the atmosphere diminishing, to no oxygen or storms like those on Venus–for sure there is no way of knowing.

        1. Fair Economist

          You are an evolved system that spends lots of energy maintaining its core temperature. The earth is not an evolved system; it doesn’t result from millions of generations of earths where the most stable earths survive and the less stable ones die off. Your homeostatic mechanisms are a poor model for the earth’s, precisely because yours are evolved to maintain a given temperature, but the earth’s have just happened. In terms of a Venus-style runaway greenhouse, we just don’t have the insolation to drive that.

          It would certainly produce the worst extinction in earth’s history, but the various biochemical cycles we rely on are all basically microbial or geological and they’ll be just fine in 110 degree seawater.

          1. Banger

            Ok, how is the earth not an evolved system. If you look at the history of the Earth it has gone through stunningly complex transformation over time. It’s still a system and depends on homeostasis not only in the holistic system but in all the subsystems very much like ours–temperature is just one indicator of a balance in our system. The earth is not just a rock anymore than we are just a skeleton.

          2. John Crandell

            Insolation: the treatment of disease by exposure to the sun’s rays. Sunstroke. The rate of received radiation per unit surface area.

            You’re telling us that even in desert areas, no matter how laden the atmosphere becomes with methane, that there’s nothing to worry about because whatever geological type biochemical cycle that human life depends upon (!) will be ‘JUST FINE’ in 110 degree seawater.

            If ever we were to get a handle on whatever agent that causes pollution in our environs, there will still remain the question of heat pollution. Can earth’s atmosphere throw off heat fast enough? Heat: the ultimate pollutant. As well, the more intense level of storms will cause increased dust pollution – adding to the level of entrapment.

          3. Fiver

            Fair Economist,

            No sale. Your first mistake, and indeed, the root of the constellation of crises ripping this epoch asunder in front of our eyes is to view ‘us’ as something fundamentally different from ‘the world’. Dinosaurs were so good at what they did they lasted 200 million years, yet essentially went ‘poof’ in a relative eye-blink. We are so bad at what we do the idea that God destroyed the World because we are so evil, and left it to one deserving – because he loved animals – fellow with a farm and a boat is a foundational myth of our civilization.

            Our wondrous economy would crash and burn within weeks if something were to neutralize the measly Internet – such an event could in itself trigger a global war with scant survivors. Bad for us, good for everything else. But when we mess with the workings of the World as a whole, we court the wrath of Life itself.

          4. Nathanael

            Incorrect biologically, “Fair Economist”. Humans depend on an *awfully specific* food chain. The ocean food chain we depend on won’t survive ocean acidification. Global warming means the land food chain won’t be viable south of somewhere in Canada.

            That means mass extinction by itself, but there are yet other problems which will line up to kill the rest of us.

            Or, we could recapture the carbon and shut down the fossil fuel burning. This remains physically possible. I don’t know how to do it politically though.

      2. mk

        just because YOU don’t see it, doesn’t mean it’s not going to happen. have you ever seen a dinosaur? they used to be everywhere, now they are birds.

      3. mellon

        All it takes is one “limited” nuclear war anywhere for the price of food globally to double or more. That would kill billions of people, mostly children, by starvation, all over the planet. If billions of children died, that would reduce the chances of the human race making it through this century a lot, I think. A similar global disaster could happen for non-human causes, such as a huge volcanic eruption.

        Thats why the human race has to get its s*** together soon. We have to truly cooperate.

  4. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

    We will get surprises, like the first chart above.

    ‘The best current explanation’ really doesn’t relate to how close it is to its target.

    And so , surprises are and will be always in store for us.

    We really don’t know whether it’s too late or, like a good movie for people like us who grew up with movies, we will be saved in the nick of time.

    All we can do to is do our best and to consume less…there will always be surprises with any new human-invented technology…because unless the mental disorder to endlessly and needlessly consume is cured, any solution is bound to be a temporary solution, until we either exhaust the useful limits of that technology or we eventually confront the latent negative consequences of it

  5. Ed

    True, but with species as well with individuals, the goal isn’t immortality, its to live out your natural lifespan and avoid shortening it.

  6. susan the other

    One scary topic that has only been raised by Chris Hedges is that the methane excaping now due to arctic warming is going to be enough to displace oxygen, or dilute it on its way up to the higher stratosphere and in so doing will leave us all breathless. It will displace oxygen. Mmmmm.

    1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

      First, privatized water.

      Then, privatized oxygen.

      “How many canisters do you want?”

    2. jrs

      I often think that people should have picked out a painless suicide method, just in case climate change gets bad enough and death isn’t instant. How do you want to go?

  7. susan the other

    So maybe design Chia Pet helmets. Or maybe just consider yourself a Chia Pet and grow your own seeds. Shower gently if at all. Best to just mist yourself. Odor problems? Just grow more chia in those cracks.

  8. susan the other

    And on that same thread. Southern California, Arizona, New MExico and Texas all need to plant and nurture trees. Lots of trees; and make sure they survive. To establish a new zone of ecology that at least balances methane. Oh, ha, ha, ha. Not at all. There is no time to waste.

    1. mac

      Have you ever tried to grow trees with 110 plus temperatures and 5 inches of rain per year?
      That is called a desert, check on it!

      1. mellon

        Southern California is naturally arid, and many streams dry up except for springs and where there are snowcapped mountains. If they lose the snowcaps, there won’t be any solution besides scaling back new development drastically and learning to save every drop of water.

        Lawns should be replaced by native plants that can live with long dry summers and fall. The mountains in some areas get summer rains, but everywhere else is bone dry.

    2. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

      One non-economic-stimulating, but surgically-helping-the-jobless project* is to pay those out of work to meditate at home.

      When meditating, one exhales less carbon, as one calms oneself, exiting previously excited state.

      It also eliminates these people from participating in, and the idea itself of paying people to pour concrete on, infrastructure projects, as cement is a big source of carbon emission.

      * Here we distinguish between stimulating the economy (and more growth) and helping the needy live (survive). Government spending money into existence is stimulating the economy (and hoping for trickle down). The People spending money into existence is getting money, directly and quickly, without any middlemen, to the needy to help them survive (live).

      We can further distinguish between growth and happiness. But that’s for another day.

    3. mac

      Good plan? Plant a forest in the desert, temp 100 plus less than 10 inches of rain per year, yep! good plan!

  9. well being fitness

    Eat lots of raw vegetables and fruits – a plate full of raw vegetables and fruits has higher satiety value and low caloric count, replace it with junk foods like burgers, pizzas, soft drinks etc. com to shows people How to Lose weight fast and also how to build muscle in the comfort of your own home. If you have a favorite app, or think there’s something we’ve left out of our diet and fitness guide, then please leave a comment below.

  10. MRW

    To put this in perspective, the American population (assuming 318,000,000 pop.) exhales 376.0668 teragrams of CO2 annually.

    Nowhere, not anywhere, in Gaius Publius’s report does he mention the radiative absorption band of methane, and its effect. He’s physics-free.

  11. different clue

    Some deserts are natural, some are man-made. Perhaps the man-made deserts can be man-reversed with the right approach.
    Trees in a desert? Well, maybe . . . .
    Resupply of missing mycorrhizae to rootzone of planted trees in dry area to re-stimulate the production of in-soil hydrophilic glomalin, leading to more tree growth and more root-exudation of root-nectar to feed more mycorrhyzae who will produce more glomalin and onward and upward? Well . . . . maybe.

  12. Rosairo

    The coming years are likely to be very interesting ones for those that delight in the novel.

  13. different clue

    I watched the Mcpherson video. If he is unalterably correct, then there is nothing we can do and lets just party till we die.

  14. wb

    @ different clue

    ..then there is nothing we can do and lets just party till we die.

    This has been discussed exhaustively by his followers. Once one has got passed the angst and trauma of the conclusion, it is, in the abstract, a most fascinating philosophical conundrum. I think your offering ‘party till we die’ – hedonism – proves to be unsatisfactory. One is just trying to escape the thought of what is in prospect by ‘having fun’ and the more one tries to ‘have fun’ the more it seems like hard work and the less fun it is.

    Mcpherson suggests ‘live a life of excellence’ and ‘do what you love’.

    I’m not sure myself, if those answers are adequate. For people who really face what he’s saying, the effect is, or can be, absolutely devastating, and one has to go through a process of shock, grief, and then some sort of adjustment and recovery, to realign with a different worldview, if that’s the correct term.

    A great many people seem to take it, that this is a counsel of despair and can only lead to hopelessness and suicide, but this has also been discussed at great length, and in great depth, and the opposite is true. What it means, is a far greater appreciation of what we have now, of what we STILL have now, and if Mcpherson’s conclusion was ‘give up’, then he would not be spending all of his time, unpaid, telling everyone what he thinks, at every opportunity. We still have time, and choices, the option to make the best of our lives.

    The way I see it, we are, at this moment, on the peak of a wave, Peak Everything. It’s about to crash, so enjoy the view, make the most of it, do whatever you can that is good, avoid anything that will be detrimental. Next we hit peak horror… I suspect. We are here to help one another deal with this, in whatever way we can. Partying is too shallow. It soon gets boring.

    1. wb

      I guess so, different clue. It bears comparison with Buddhist Right Livelihood, for example, and maybe similar teachings. However, there has to be some fundamental difference. All the traditional spiritual paths address death in the context of one’s own personal ending. The assumption being that, otherwise, life will be continuing.

      The ending of ‘life on Earth’, all, or very nearly all, humans, and most other larger life forms, has not been addressed in their stories. Other than in Apocalyptic eschatology, of course.

      There is sometimes an overlap, where some people seem to confuse a mass extinction event, based upon science, and our knowledge of events in geological history, with mystical prognostication, the fulfilment of apocalyptic prophecy, whatever. It’s quite curious to contemplate, that in the end, both approaches may amount to the same thing. We become extinct.

      The range of responses to the idea (Near Term Extinction) as it becomes more widely diffused, is becoming very familiar. Most people deny it outright. That’s a common reaction. It’s simply impossible. This reaction is not based on any factual or intellectual consideration, it’s purely an inability to entertain or assimilate such a terrible, horrible mental concept. Which, of course, it is.

      Then there are people who think about it, and evaluate the science and the evidence, to greater or lesser degrees. Many still reject the idea. Often because they don’t really understand the technicalities, and cannot see how they link together. So they conclude, it’s probably all wrong. Mainstream consensus in the media, will help them to forget all about Mcpherson.

      Then there are those who take it as a challenge to demolish the position, and show how it is mistaken, with various arguments. Usually they will insist that problems will be solved by technology. (Unfortunately, typically technology we don’t have, so it’s sort of magical techno fixes from a Fairy Godmother.)

      And so on and so on.

      1. Nathanael

        The problem can be solved with existing technology if the political problem can be solved.

        I see no way of solving the political problem. The group of powerful people in denial is too large, and too powerful. I mean, it’s nothing a civic-minded warlord couldn’t fix with a few mass murders of the elite, but civic-minded warlords are practically nonexistent in history.

  15. different clue

    Peak Everything sounds a little like the Crisis Crisis. Perhaps we can mindfully and gracefully surf the backside downslope till we all reach our final rest at the bottom of Hubbert’s Pit.

  16. wb

    @ different clue

    Yes. :-)

    Re your links related to growing trees, biochar, etc. I’m all in favour of permaculture, Geoff Lawton, forest gardens, etc, etc. But as I understand it, from the best calculations available, the existing and potential biomass of the Earth’s surface is not capable of reabsorbing anything like the quantities of CO2 necessary, in the time frame necessary, to have any relevant impact. All that such efforts do, is maybe slow the disaster. Which is a good thing. I’m trying to help other species survive for as long as possible. Even if it is pointless. It’s something interesting to do. To pass the time. Do what is right, without being attached to outcomes, or results.

  17. different clue

    Well, if we are indeed riding the wave of the Peak Everything Crisis Crisis, then everybody who wants to pick a crisis and work on it should feel free to do so. People will do their most effective work in the things they care and know most about. And its hard to say which is the most important crisis, the Keystone Crisis if you will . . .

    I read somewhere that on average plants effectively use about 5% of the visible light they intercept for photosynthesis. If we could enable plants to on average effectively use about 10% of the visible light they intercept for photosynthesis, we would be enabling twice as much photosynthesis as now goes on. That could achieve some major Carbon Suckdown. Maybe worth pursuing as if it could still matter, even if it no longer can.
    We could also separately suppress the emission of NOXs and black carbon soot particles. Those contribute to heat conversion and retention right there, and effective suppression would slow down the heatup. Maybe buy enough time to enable enhanced plant growth to suck down enough carbon to matter in time. If we enhance that plant growth.

  18. wb

    I don’t doubt that there are all kinds of neat tricks that clever folk can work on, different clue. I agree in principle, people should do what their heart tells them, what they are good at, apply themselves to what needs doing, give themselves permission to be great, follow their bliss, all these cliches. Life is very short, anyway, without NTE. So this is not really new wisdom, is it.

    I don’t have the sums or the link handy, but a recent lecture at the Smithsonian on youtube, the sheer volume of carbon that has been released from the geology, it just cannot be squeezed back into the vegetation, even if you cover everything with forest.

    Most people have no idea what’s happening. This is the fastest, most dramatic change, pretty much, in the entire history of the planet. Is it even ethical to tell them ? When they can’t do anything ? I don’t know for sure.
    Do you wake passengers up, to tell them the plane is about to crash and they are going to die ? Or let them sleep ?

    My feeling is that this idea, NTE, is going to break into popular consciousness, and then what happens ? There will be demands for action. But there do not appear to be any solutions. I think priority should be to close down the nuclear plants and try to stop any more Fukes, but then that is not popular.

    1. Nathanael

      Azolla bloom in the oceans would do the trick of recapturing the carbon. Nobody’s even trying, though.

  19. different clue

    A program of enhanced photosynthesis might not just put carbon back into the plants. It could also put carbon back into the soil under the plants. A lot of carbon could be stored there. How much skycarbon is oxidised and skydumped soil carbon from the last 150 years of agriculture to begin with? I have read that the average topsoil depth of Iowa is half of what it was a hundred years ago. A lot of that shrinkage is outright oxidation and skydumping of soil carbon. Could the right approaches re-soildump the skycarbon?
    If all the worlds former wetlands were re-wetted and set to work regrowing their former layers of peat and muck, how much carbon would that suck down?
    About nuclear power, I was recently skimming the book Storms Of My Grandchildren by NASA climate scientist James Hansen. Halfway through it he wrote about the difference between highly moderated “slow” reactors and lightly moderated “fast” reactors ( liquid sodium cooled) and how “fast” reactors consumed most of the radionuclides they created by neutron destabilization of nucleii . . . to the point where almost all the destabilizable nucleii were destabilized and fissed all the way down to refractorily stable nucleii. Hence leaving very little radwaste to deal with. He wrote something about the fast reactor research program at
    Argonne National Laboratory and how certain people, feeling threatened by its success, belligerently stopped the program and suppressed all possible data. I dimly remember seeing a PBS Nova program about this years ago.
    Are these reactors as different from the Fukes as I think they are? Could they all be made to one design instead of every reactor a different design as now? Could they be run by a trustworthy government agency up to Rickover safety standards?

    Hansen wants it explored. Actually, Hansen wants them built.

  20. wb

    From what I recall, the figures just won’t work, different clue, the carbon from the coal and oil that was sequestered in the geology, is just much more than can fit into all the biomass plus soil. And you’ve still got to get the CO2 out of the oceans, to stop acidification, which is an extinction event all on its own, quite separate from climate warming.
    I have not read Hansen’s book. I assume he’s trying to keep civilisation going by providing energy via nuclear power. My thesis is that civilisation will collapse, and then the 400 nuclear plants meltdown like Fukushima only worse, because there will be no way to contain them in any sort of orderly fashion.

    Yes, there are all the ‘if’s’, but we are in the real world, no, where we still have Hanford, that leaks, and nobody knows what to do with it…

  21. different clue

    Where might one go to learn some of these figures on amounts of carbon in the air, the ocean, plantmass, soil,etc.? And how much could be put where? Any links? It occurs to me that I just really don’t know.

        1. wb

          Here, I found the Smithsonian lecture I mentioned for you, it’s long. Dr, Scott Wing.
          I gather that there is an unofficial consensus amongst certain scientists, he may or not be one, not for me to say, to avoid the Mcpherson line, because ‘people might lose hope’, so they try to stay upbeat, positive and optimistic :-)

  22. Joely Balazs

    Potential solution:

    What if we could financially incentivize a global shift to solar energy, using bitcoin technology and a currency backed by electricity? Seriously, we don’t have much time but if we could do an end run around the carbon burning elite with a peer-to-peer currency solution that accelerates solar energy adoption, why the hell wouldn’t everyone get on board with that???

    I have been involved with SolarCoin since just after its release in January 2014. This is a solution that can work if enough people get involved. People generating solar energy can claim their coins right now on a 1 SolarCoin = 1 MWh of electricity produced. The Foundation has recently streamlined the granting process to cover off-grid solar until the technology comes along in the near future to automatically clain them via smart metre technology and the Foundation is looking to adopt decentralized contracts so no third party is involved with the granting assuming the generator verification is met. There are many parts to this and we could use some assistance.

    It IS a solution to mitigate the coming catastrophe. If we’re lucky and can get solar ramped up in the next 5-10 years to displace the need to burn fossil fuels, then we have to do it. It’s just exhausting to realize we have so little time left. I’ve been promoting SolarCoin for 6 months and I don’t feel like we are making any sort of progress. So frustrating when humanity is in the crosshairs of the clathrate gun that could literally go off at any moment and 99.9% of the population remain absolutely clueless even when the evidence is right there to see.

    I don’t like being an alarmist any more than the next person, so I am trying to find a solution. But it’s hard. :( If any of you have an interest in helping SolarCoin get off the ground, then I desparately beg you to help.

      1. Joely Balazs

        99.5% of the distribution of coins can only be recieved with “proof of generation”. If you generate solar electricity and apply for a solarcoin grant, there is a verification procedure in place to confirm you do indeed generate that amount in terms of MWh. So parity exists such that 1 solarcoin = 1 MWh of solar electricity produced. AKA a currency backed by electricity, in this case solar electricity. There are 97.4 billion coins to be distrubuted over the next 40 years, this figure comes from the IAEA estimation of electricity to be provided in MWh from solar over that time frame. The founders of solarcoin wrote a paper in 2011 discussing the stability and utility value of currency backed by electricity, at that time the paper was a suggestion to the federal reserve to do 30% like this rather than gold or debt. It’s a fantastic economic paper to read if you haven’t seen it. Here is a link: As blockchain technology started picking up steam, they recognized it as a way to create such a currency.

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