Friday, June 27, 2008

The Ticking Time Bomb

"If we trigger this runaway release of methane, there's no turning back. No do-overs. Once it starts, it's likely to play out all the way." John Atcheson

Ticking Time Bomb
"The Arctic Council's recent report on the effects of global warming in the far north paints a grim picture: global floods, extinction of polar bears and other marine mammals, collapsed fisheries. But it ignored a ticking time bomb buried in the Arctic tundra.

There are enormous quantities of naturally occurring greenhouse gasses trapped in ice-like structures in the cold northern muds and at the bottom of the seas. These ices, called clathrates, contain 3,000 times as much methane as is in the atmosphere. Methane is more than 20 times as strong a greenhouse gas as carbon dioxide.

Now here's the scary part. A temperature increase of merely a few degrees would cause these gases to volatilize and "burp" into the atmosphere, which would further raise temperatures, which would release yet more methane, heating the Earth and seas further, and so on. There's 400 gigatons of methane locked in the frozen arctic tundra - enough to start this chain reaction - and the kind of warming the Arctic Council predicts is sufficient to melt the clathrates and release these greenhouse gases into the atmosphere.

Once triggered, this cycle could result in runaway global warming the likes of which even the most pessimistic doomsayers aren't talking about.

An apocalyptic fantasy concocted by hysterical environmentalists? Unfortunately, no. Strong geologic evidence suggests something similar has happened at least twice before.

The most recent of these catastrophes occurred about 55 million years ago in what geologists call the Paleocene-Eocene Thermal Maximum (PETM), when methane burps caused rapid warming and massive die-offs, disrupting the climate for more than 100,000 years.

The granddaddy of these catastrophes occurred 251 million years ago, at the end of the Permian period, when a series of methane burps came close to wiping out all life on Earth.

More than 94 percent of the marine species present in the fossil record disappeared suddenly as oxygen levels plummeted and life teetered on the verge of extinction. Over the ensuing 500,000 years, a few species struggled to gain a foothold in the hostile environment. It took 20 million to 30 million years for even rudimentary coral reefs to re-establish themselves and for forests to regrow. In some areas, it took more than 100 million years for ecosystems to reach their former healthy diversity.

Geologist Michael J. Benton lays out the scientific evidence for this epochal tragedy in a recent book, When Life Nearly Died: The Greatest Mass Extinction of All Time. As with the PETM, greenhouse gases, mostly carbon dioxide from increased volcanic activity, warmed the earth and seas enough to release massive amounts of methane from these sensitive clathrates, setting off a runaway greenhouse effect.

The cause of all this havoc?

In both cases, a temperature increase of about 10.8 degrees Fahrenheit, about the upper range for the average global increase today's models predict can be expected from burning fossil fuels by 2100. But these models could be the tail wagging the dog since they don't add in the effect of burps from warming gas hydrates. Worse, as the Arctic Council found, the highest temperature increases from human greenhouse gas emissions will occur in the arctic regions - an area rich in these unstable clathrates.

If we trigger this runaway release of methane, there's no turning back. No do-overs. Once it starts, it's likely to play out all the way.

Humans appear to be capable of emitting carbon dioxide in quantities comparable to the volcanic activity that started these chain reactions. According to the U.S. Geological Survey, burning fossil fuels releases more than 150 times the amount of carbon dioxide emitted by volcanoes - the equivalent of nearly 17,000 additional volcanoes the size of Hawaii's Kilauea.

And that is the time bomb the Arctic Council ignored.

How likely is it that humans will cause methane burps by burning fossil fuels? No one knows. But it is somewhere between possible and likely at this point, and it becomes more likely with each passing year that we fail to act.

So forget rising sea levels, melting ice caps, more intense storms, more floods, destruction of habitats and the extinction of polar bears. Forget warnings that global warming might turn some of the world's major agricultural areas into deserts and increase the range of tropical diseases, even though this is the stuff we're pretty sure will happen.

Instead, let's just get with the Bush administration's policy of pre-emption. We can't afford to have the first sign of a failed energy policy be the mass extinction of life on Earth. We have to act now. " By John Atcheson

Special report on methane.

The strange world of oceanic methane

Breaking News! The Pole Could Be Ice Free this Summer.

For the first time since in the history of man the North Pole could be free of ice, decades ahead of when it was thought it might happen. While Russia, Canada, Denmark and the United States argue over mineral rights the real consequences of this is overlooked.
"Alarm has ratcheted up every summer as the ice gets thinner and thinner. In a study released June 10, scientist said the rapid melt-off in the Arctic could threaten permafrost in continental soil elsewhere above the Arctic circle in a warm version of the snowball effect."(Live Science)

Recommended Book:
Buy *With Speed and Violence: Why Scientists Fear Tipping Points in Climate Change* by Fred Pearce online

With Speed and Violence: Why Scientists Fear Tipping Points in Climate Change
Fred Pearce
Beacon Press
278 pages
March 2007
rated 4 1/2 of 5 possible stars

buy this book now or browse millions of other great products at
From Publishers Weekly
Pearce (When the Rivers Run Dry) presents some climate modelers' frightening predictions about the consequences of increased global warming. After studying the history of the earth's climate changes, these scientists have learned that, under pressure from natural forces, major shifts can happen abruptly. Today, with the added stress of human interference, irreversible changes could threaten the habitability of our planet. For example, drought and fire could cause the Amazon rainforest to disappear; huge amounts of methane, a greenhouse gas that can be 100 times more powerful than carbon dioxide, could be released by the meltdown of Siberian peat; and aerosol emissions in India and China could end the indispensable Asian monsoon. Hard-line skeptics disagree, of course, but Pearce cites highly respected scientists who assert that the threats have been underestimated, especially by the U.N.'s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. Even President Bush's chief climate modeler notes that the glaciers and ice sheets at the poles are disintegrating at alarming rates and warns that we may be only a decade and one degree of warming away from global catastrophe. The science behind climate studies is complex, but Pearce makes it accessible enough to terrify even the most uninitiated layperson. (Mar.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

Citing Need for Assessments, U.S. Freezes Solar Energy Projects, (New York Times, June 27th, 2008)
Evidently it is fine to produce more oil and damage the planet. This is the hight of stupidity on the part of the Bush administration, hey but what's new.
DENVER — Faced with a surge in the number of proposed solar power plants, the federal government has placed a moratorium on new solar projects on public land until it studies their environmental impact, which is expected to take about two years.
The Bureau of Land Management says an extensive environmental study is needed to determine how large solar plants might affect millions of acres it oversees in six Western states — Arizona, California, Colorado, Nevada, New Mexico and Utah. (Source: New York Times) The effect would be less reliance on oil and that does not sit well with the Bush Administration.

Arnold Schwarzenegger's speech on Republicans, business and the planet. A rational Republican view and common sense. Arnold for president!

You can fool some of the people all of the time but you can't fool all of the people all of the time.
In my opinion Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reed are dishonest, disingenuous and lying Democrats. Rolling Stone address the failure of the Democratic congress to act on the reason they were elected.
The story of how the Democrats finally betrayed the voters who handed them both houses of Congress a year ago is a depressing preview of what's to come if they win the White House. And if we don't pay attention to this sorry tale now, while there's still time to change our minds about whom to nominate, we might be stuck with this same bunch of spineless creeps for four more years. With no one but ourselves to blame.

If Dr. James Dobson ran America no one would be safe and witches would be burned at the stake.
What ever happened to separation of church and state?
Obama's recent speech made sense on his interpretation of the bible, and how we should see it in light of our American way of life. The Rev. James Dobson has the word from god personally, this pathetic moron attacked Obama for reinterpreting the bible. Dobson is a jerk, hypocrite and demigod, we are not a theocracy, we are a democratic republic. America is a secular state were an individuals religious belief or lack of is his own business. No religion should interpose their ideas on how and what our government does. We have to be careful of these radical bible thumping crazies and their cult followers.
These people pick and choose what they want from the bible and twist it to their sophomoric ideas of how everyone should live. These people are dangerous, witch burnings would be the least of our problems if they ever took power.

Yahoo helps jail bloggers in Iran, China and other authoritarian countries.
I guess money speaks louder than world to Yahoo. Since 2006 dissidents in China have been arrested. "Yahoo! helps imprison Chinese dissident Filed under: Blogs and bloggers, Developing world, Media — Ethan @ 12:56 pm Reporters Sans Frontieres has just reported that cyber-dissident Li Zhi was imprisoned in China in 2003 on charges of “inciting subversion” based on evidence provided by Yahoo! Hong Kong. This case echoes the previous case of Shi Tao, a reporter sentenced to ten years in prison for “revealing state secrets” based on information from Yahoo! Hong Kong.

The information about Li Zhi came out in court proceedings posted by Li’s lawyer. RSF is now asking Yahoo! to come clean about the information they’ve revealed to the Chinese government - they wonder how many of the 81 dissidents they’re lobbying for the release for have been arrested with Yahoo’s assistance. Yahoo has replied by saying that they’ve provided “only responded with what we were legally compelled to provide, and nothing more”. This may be true, but it clearly illustrates the irresponsibility associated with putting servers that contain critical user information in governments with a long track record of failing to protect basic human rights."

Egypt jails blogger Kareem Amer
Kareem Amer will on 28 June mark his 600th day in Borg el Arab prison, which is situated around 40 kilometres from Alexandria on the Mediterranean Sea. 22-year-old student Kareem Amer has been imprisoned for at least 600 days simply for what he wrote on his blog".


Honor the Fallen

Army Spc. Ryan J. Connolly, Died: June 24, 2008
24, of Vacaville, Calif.; assigned to 173rd Special Troops Battalion, 173rd Airborne Brigade Combat Team, Bamberg, Germany; died June 24 in Khogyani, Afghanistan, of wounds sustained when his vehicle struck a suspected landmine.

Army Capt. Gregory T. Dalessio, Died: June 23, 2008
30, of Cherry Hill, N.J.; assigned to the 2nd Battalion, 6th Infantry Regiment, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 1st Armored Division, Baumholder, Germany; died June 23 in Baghdad, Iraq, of wounds sustained in Salman Pak, Iraq, when his patrol encountered small arms fire during combat operations.

Army Sgt. Nelson D. Rodriguez Ramirez Died: June 21, 2008
22, of Revere, Mass.; assigned to 2nd Squadron, 101st Cavalry (Reconnaissance, Surveillance and Target Acquisition), New York Army National Guard, Geneva, N.Y.; died June 21 in Kandahar, Afghanistan, of wounds sustained when his vehicle encountered an improvised explosive device and small-arms fire. Also killed were Lt. Col. James J. Walton, Spc. Anthony L. Mangano and Sgt. Andrew Seabrooks.

Army Spc. Anthony L. Mangano, Died: June 21, 2008
36, of Greenlawn, N.Y.; assigned to 2nd Squadron, 101st Cavalry (Reconnaissance, Surveillance and Target Acquisition), New York Army National Guard, Geneva, N.Y.; died June 21 in Kandahar, Afghanistan, of wounds sustained when his vehicle encountered an improvised explosive device and small-arms fire. Also killed were Lt. Col. James J. Walton, Sgt. Nelson D. Ramirez Rodriguez and Sgt. Andrew Seabrooks.

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