Methane emergency in the Arctic?


Methane emergency in the Arctic? August 20, 2013 12:32 AM | 7 Comments Thanks to Bob Baker for this. It really isn’t that hard to know what is true and what isn’t. From kindergarten to junior high to high school to college to graduate school, I cannot recall a lot of confusion or controversy. Within the education departments across the planet a fact is a fact. Two plus two is four. E=Mc2. Redding is really hot in the summer. It is only when politicians and media companies and Anthony Watts get involved that the science becomes distorted and confused. When money and power need the truth to be something it isn’t. And people are easy to fool. If their television tells them, they believe. And yet trustworthy sources exist. Like Skeptical Science, where “there is an ongoing effort to combat disinformation from those who maintain that climate change is a non-issue or non-reality.” And where sometimes, they must call out those who “overhype the impacts of climate change beyond the realm of plausibility. Some of this is well-intentioned but misguided. For those who advocate climate literacy or for scientists who engage with the public, it is necessary to call out this stuff in the same manner as one would call out a scientist who doesn’t think that the modern CO2 rise is due to human activities.” While I was in Colorado in June at AGU’s Communicating Climate Science Conference, I asked a question of one of the presenters who was an expert on the Arctic who worked with the National Snow & Ice Data Center. I asked about the Arctic Methane Emergency Group (AMEG) and whether current science had evidence that there is indeed an emergency in the Arctic and whether the global climate is at risk of an imminent release of a massive methane burst. The scientist was perplexed — she had never heard of AMEG — and seemed quite certain, that at least in the short run, we were not in danger of a methane catastrophe. Now I was confused until I spoke directly with another scientist with whom I was quite familiar and deeply trusted. And he stated with adamant certainty that AMEG could not be trusted with any of their doomsday scenarios. He said he had repeatedly confronted their bad math and science and appealed to AMEG directly to no avail. They ignored him and refused to correct their flawed calculations. According to Skeptical Science, “Many overblown scenarios or catastrophes seem to involve methane in the Arctic in some way. There are even groups out there declaring a planet-wide emergency because of catastrophic, runaway feedbacks, involving the interplay between high latitude methane sources and sea ice. “In this article, I will argue that there is no compelling evidence for any looming methane spike. Other scientists have spoken out against this scenario as well, and I will encompass some of their arguments into this piece. In summary, the reason a huge feedback is unlikely is because of the long timescale required for global warming to reach some of the largest methane hydrate reservoirs (defined later), and because no evidence exists for such an extreme methane concentration sensitivity to climate in the past record. Permafrost feedbacks are of concern, but there is no basis for assuming a dramatic ‘tipping point’ in the atmospheric methane concentration.” Read the whole article if you are interested. But here is the conclusion: “The observed methane venting from the East Siberian shelf sea-floor to the atmosphere is probably not a new component of the Arctic methane budget. Furthermore, warming of the Arctic waters and sea ice decline will likely impact subsea permafrost on longer timescales, rather than the short term. “Methane feedbacks in the Arctic are going to be important for future climate change, just like the direct emissions from humans. This includes substantial regions of shallow permafrost in the Arctic, which is already going appreciable change. Much larger changes involving hydrate may be important longer-term. “Nonetheless, these feedbacks need to be kept in context and should be thought of as one of the many other carbon cycle feedbacks, and dynamic responses, that supplement the increasing anthropogenic CO2 burden to the atmosphere. There is no evidence that methane will run out of control and initiate any sudden, catastrophic effects. There’s certainly no runaway greenhouse. Instead, chronic methane releases will supplement the primary role of CO2. Eventually some of this methane oxidizes into CO2, so if the injection is large enough, it can add extra CO2 forcing onto the very long term evolution of global climate, over hundreds to thousands of years.” And if you want to wade more deeply into the weeds on this issue, here is Joe Romm’s take from last year. – See more at:

Leave a Comment

You must be logged in to post a comment.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.