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Earth Science

How Much Should You Worry About an Arctic Methane Bomb? 416

Posted by Soulskill
from the TSA-now-banning-all-carbon-based-gases-on-airplanes dept.
barlevg sends this excerpt from an article at MotherJones: "It was a stunning figure: $60 trillion. Such could be the cost, according to a recent commentary in Nature, of 'the release of methane from thawing permafrost beneath the East Siberian Sea, off northern Russia... a figure comparable to the size of the world economy in 2012.' More specifically, the paper described a scenario in which rapid Arctic warming and sea ice retreat lead to a pulse of undersea methane being released into the atmosphere. How much methane? The paper modeled a release of 50 gigatons of this hard-hitting greenhouse gas (a gigaton is equal to a billion metric tons) between 2015 and 2025. This, in turn, would trigger still more warming and gargantuan damage and adaptation costs. ... According to the Nature commentary, that methane 'is likely to be emitted as the seabed warms, either steadily over 50 years or suddenly.' Such are the scientific assumptions behind the paper's economic analysis. But are those assumptions realistic—and could that much methane really be released suddenly from the Arctic? A number of prominent scientists and methane experts interviewed for this article voiced strong skepticism about the Nature paper.'"
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How Much Should You Worry About an Arctic Methane Bomb?

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  • by BillCable (1464383) on Friday August 09, 2013 @12:05PM (#44522289)
    I supposed the 15-year pause in global warming has prompted alarmists to come up with even more extreme catastrophes.
    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by jbolden (176878)

      There is no 15 year pause in global warming.

      • I live just outside Vancouver British Columbia Canada, and I own a convertible. I have not had the top up in 5 weeks
        If the current weather is caused by global warming, then I say BRING IT ON!
        • by jbolden (176878)

          Your weather may get quite a bit better. There is a good argument to be made that there are huge land masses which will benefit from warmer weather. But that's a different argument than warming isn't happening.

    • You may be interested in this [skepticalscience.com].

      After enjoying the review of the creationist tactic of combating science by means of a letter signed by mostly non-experts, scroll down to the plot and consider it carefully. Notice anything?

      OTOH, the link contains facts, which may cause you irreparable harm if you click it.

    • The "15-year pause" in global warming is bunk:

      http://www.metoffice.gov.uk/research/news/recent-pause-in-warming [metoffice.gov.uk]

    • And of course the solution will be some sort of taxation system.
    • by Meeni (1815694)

      Would you care to substantiate your claim? Data show no such thing as a 15 year pause in global warming. They show it is accelerating.

  • Control (Score:3, Insightful)

    by amiga3D (567632) on Friday August 09, 2013 @12:05PM (#44522291)

    I worry about things about as much as I have control over them. Things like this I have Zero control so I have Zero worries. About the same I worry about a comet impacting the planet. It might happen and there is nothing I can do. Why worry?

    • Re:Control (Score:4, Insightful)

      by ackthpt (218170) on Friday August 09, 2013 @12:18PM (#44522481) Homepage Journal

      I worry about things about as much as I have control over them. Things like this I have Zero control so I have Zero worries. About the same I worry about a comet impacting the planet. It might happen and there is nothing I can do. Why worry?

      According to some studies we've already crossed the tipping point and it's going to happen. So even if every government and every state and every person suddenly did everything they could to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, we're going to get that methane anyway.

      Where we'll see it is where it affects the flora and fauna directly (altering availability of species in the food chain) and weather - more greenhouse gasses mean more disruption to weather patterns. Some places will get hotter, some will actually get cooler, some will get more precipitation and others will get less, over time this will shape the world we live in and our own food sources.

      Time to put REM - End of the World on the iPod and look at housing on higher ground.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Danathar (267989)

        "Some places will get hotter, some will actually get cooler, some will get more precipitation and others will get less, over time this will shape the world we live in and our own food sources."

        Isn't that the way it's always been?

        • Re:Control (Score:5, Informative)

          by ackthpt (218170) on Friday August 09, 2013 @01:00PM (#44523053) Homepage Journal

          "Some places will get hotter, some will actually get cooler, some will get more precipitation and others will get less, over time this will shape the world we live in and our own food sources."

          Isn't that the way it's always been?

          Yes, but generally these changes have been gradual. We're seeing significant changes in the start of seasons, insect life cycles, migration of birds, etc. over a short time span.

          • The only long term solution for human race is colonizing other planets. Having all our eggs in one basket is a bad idea regardless of who is right about the severity of the impact of global warming.

            • by tnk1 (899206)

              Global warming or not, you're absolutely correct. The longest we've got is about 400 million years or so before the Sun starts making it impossible to live on the planet. And an incoming rock or some other unexpected, catastrophic occurrence is likely to show up much sooner than that. We'll need to leave eventually, one way or another, or perish. That is simply a fact.

            • by rolfwind (528248)

              Yeah, about that, there's no habitable planets close by, like within even a generation or two of constant travel, and seeing as my weatherman has problems predicting 5 days out, I think terraforming the moon or Mars or whatever is a pipe dream right now.

              OTOH, humanity can change it's tactics, if forced to. The only question will that force going to be strong leadership or nature herself? I think strong leadership will be much more forgiving in the long haul.

              What we have to do is put real money into fusion

      • by JTsyo (1338447)
        well if we can't stop it, I say we capture it and sequester it in cows.
    • by Danathar (267989)

      Yea, you might as well be worrying about a gamma ray burst from a distant star blasting it's way over the Earth. Or maybe a stray black hole wandering it's way through the solar system.

      What point is there in worrying about it.

      • by gmuslera (3436)
        Odds? People worry about shark attacks and not about car accidents, even if car accidents are 200.000 times more probable. And could be some way of control damage, to protect against some of their effects (i.e. not moving to coastal cities, that should be under sea in some yars), or at least stop paying, cheering and defending the culprits of screwing us all.
    • by Aighearach (97333)

      I worry about things about as much as I have control over them. Things like this I have Zero control so I have Zero worries. About the same I worry about a comet impacting the planet. It might happen and there is nothing I can do. Why worry?

      You actually do have some control over how it affects you based on how you respond to it if it happens.

    • Having a better idea of what the future will bring regardless of your control still should be something you think about. What if your doctor told you had incurable cancer and will die within 6 months? Would you continue to go to work as normal, because you have no control over it, or would you party like there is no tomorrow?

      What if were studying advanced basket weaving in college and the job market soured in basket weaving? Would you not worry about it because have no control over the job market, or would

  • by Andrio (2580551) on Friday August 09, 2013 @12:05PM (#44522293)

    Oh god, here come the jokes.

  • by no-body (127863) on Friday August 09, 2013 @12:09PM (#44522343)
    Very - like 1000 %. The ignoring of all the environmental issues by the people able to change track will surely lead to a runaway situation in earth climate.

    There seems to be a large part of the US population thinking global climate change is a non-issue. Good luck with all of that!
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by jellomizer (103300)

      So I should be in a pure panic right now because of everything.

      There are a lot of issues in the world to worry about. I choose not to worry about global warming, not because I don't think it is a problem, but because I have my own sets of things I worry about and feel like spending my time advocating.

      I find that it is a big deal on how American Education puts such little focus on Math and Science, and passes it off as something that is OK not to know.

      As far as I am concerned, if my cause got priority, the

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Anonymous Coward

        Wait, what? You sound like you believe climate change is problematic, but you're going to leave it for the next generation of people to do something about it. Time is a bit of a factor when it comes to what we can do about climate change, and I don't think even if education instantly became the biggest priority of everyone in the country that it'd still do that much good in, say, the two years till 2015.

        • Yes I will leave it to the next generation, however I would like to make sure the next generation has better tools then I do.

        • by dgatwood (11270)

          Time is a bit of a factor when it comes to what we can do about climate change ...

          No, no, it really isn't. Remember that all of that carbon was in the atmosphere before. Therefore, Earth had a functioning biosphere even under much worse circumstances than the current state of affairs. The assumption that the greenhouse effect will "run away" and kill all life is preposterous. If it were going to do so, it would have happened billions of years ago, and we wouldn't be here having this discussion.

          Instead,

          • by tnk1 (899206)

            No, no, it really isn't. Remember that all of that carbon was in the atmosphere before. Therefore, Earth had a functioning biosphere even under much worse circumstances than the current state of affairs.

            That carbon may have been in the atmosphere before, but it may not have been the atmosphere *at the same time* at these levels. And more to the point, if it ever was at those levels, the climate might not have been quite as calm as we might like it to be.

            Plants and other lifeforms have been working for hundreds of millions of years to sequester large amounts of carbon in the crust. We are putting that back into the system in just a few centuries. It is possible that a rate of change like that could cause

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by gl4ss (559668)

      worry 1000%? what the fuck.

      that makes as much sense as the methane "costing" the worth of world economy.

      let's triple worry on a sorry lorry, that'll make it better.

    • At least most of them live near the coast.
      I am sitting pretty at over 200 meter above sea level.

    • There is basically no scientist that is worried about the scenario in the paper. The IPCC, for example, didn't even mention it in their report because they decided the possibility was so remote. Even the paper itself fully admits it's a hypothetical scenario.

      It's ok for scientists to examine hypothetical scenarios. Nature and Science both are general interest science magazines (where 'general' means people who are somewhat science literate). They published this story because people might find it interesti
  • Catastrophe? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday August 09, 2013 @12:09PM (#44522349)

    Why does it seem that around every corner there is a new totally natural and cyclical process that the news is going to kill us? I am tired of all this. The Earth is a very complex system and we and it will adapt. I think we should actually understand the natural cycles and integrate ourselves so we are not fighting against it all the time.

    Permaculture is the future.

    • Because pending DOOOOOOM is News.

      The problem I see it, is that we already passed the threshold. But we didn't know where the threshold was until we passed it. Now we just need to factor in how are we are going to adapt to the changes, not as much trying to stop it.

      • by ackthpt (218170)

        We're all doomed. Some are more doomed than others.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by dcw3 (649211)

        For the same reason that the media loves to use the word pandemic at every opportunity. How many people actually died from SARs or Bird Flu? Compare that to how many die on the highway every single day. Scare people, and they'll always come back to hear more.

        • by ackthpt (218170)

          For the same reason that the media loves to use the word pandemic at every opportunity. How many people actually died from SARs or Bird Flu? Compare that to how many die on the highway every single day. Scare people, and they'll always come back to hear more.

          More than all these and others, the media loves the comparison like a war zone Perhaps the media are behind the increase in conflict linked to global warming - so they can use those words more often.

    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by icebike (68054)

      Exactly.

      When was the last seabed warming, and how devastating to life on earth was it?
      Over the history of earth, there were much warmer periods with far smaller ice caps.
      Do those periods correspond with huge species die off?
      Or was it exactly to opposite?

    • Re:Catastrophe? (Score:5, Informative)

      by UnknowingFool (672806) on Friday August 09, 2013 @12:32PM (#44522671)

      I think we should actually understand the natural cycles and integrate ourselves so we are not fighting against it all the time.

      The whole point of climate change is that it is not natural that we put large quantities of CO2 into the air.

  • by mrjb (547783) on Friday August 09, 2013 @12:10PM (#44522355)
    Anyone got a match?
  • by Old VMS Junkie (739626) on Friday August 09, 2013 @12:18PM (#44522493)
    Seems to me we should be figuring out how to tap into this stuff and use it for fuel.
    • You're not the only one. In fact, the Japanese are doing exactly that [nytimes.com]. May be available within 5 years.
  • by Provocateur (133110) on Friday August 09, 2013 @12:18PM (#44522495) Homepage

    Instead of the Arctic, let's work with the Antarctic, to get opposite results. Less methane, and more good news all round., leaving the cows to rejoice at still being Number One methane producer.

  • If it happens, there is not much you can do about it.
  • by sjames (1099) on Friday August 09, 2013 @12:21PM (#44522533) Homepage

    This is no crisis, it's an opportunity! I vote we send the entire TSA to the arctic right now with orders to pat the polar bears down for arctic methane bombs! We'll get those terrorists this time!

  • Given consequences as grave as those predicted, it seems like this should be looked at very closely, despite the skepticism of prominent scientists.
  • According to Betteridge's Law of Headlines, this is a question, so the answer is "no". I'm not sure how well that works, though...

    (Though my favorite unexpected use of that "law" was a thread a few months back titled something like "Will your computer run Crysis 3?")

    • by vlueboy (1799360)

      Thanks, that was intersting
      A slashdot search (wow, didn't have to resort to google!) showed that is here: But Can It Run Crysis 3?

      Since Betterigde is mentioned so much, I'll share what I found on Yammer (a social network I haven't heard of here): 5 Data Insights into the Headlines Readers Click [moz.com]

      There are various headline types, and they "resonate better". Pasting their reasons (go to article to see numbers and stuff):
      Explosion in content competing for readers' attention
      80% of readers never make it past the h

  • Just had one after lunch. Pew.
  • Suppose the $60T estimate is right. Isn't that good? In a closed economy, income equals expenditure. Earth, for now, is a closed economy. Therefore, if we spend $60T on goods and services to deal with methane, then we will have $60T in income.
    • by ceoyoyo (59147)

      Except I'd rather spend my $80T on electronic gizmos, food and shelter instead of $20T on those things and $60T helping you losers who insist on living on flood plains move to higher ground.

    • Not really, because then after all that expense, all we have is exactly what we had before. If we're going to spend that money, I'd rather spend it on blackjack. Or the betterment of mankind.

      It's not like we're going to get free money. We're going to have to divert resources from other things to take care of this.
    • No, that's not how value works. In this hypothetical you would end up with 60 trillion dollars that are worth less than they were before. There's no such thing as a closed economy in the sense of a fixed amount of value. Total value always fluctuates.

  • There is no realistic way of stopping the warming that would lead to such a release; short of imposing some kind of totalitarian worldwide government and destroying the world economy, people are not going to stop burning fossil fuels in massive quantities.

    Compared to that basic fact, the fact that these predictions are pure guesswork based on many untested assumptions doesn't even matter that much.

    • This. Apart from the totalitarian world government you mention (and there's honestly no guarantee even that would work), there is no way to significantly alter the rate of consumption of fossil fuels, let alone stop it.
      If you truly believe that catastrophic warming is going to happen then the only rational response is preparation, not prevention.

  • beano prevents gas. we're gonna need a lot of it
  • I'd be worried more about all the methane leaking from drilling and fracking sites... just saying.
  • the FBI raided MotherJones offices because they were talking about some dangerous new kind of bomb, confiscating a pressure cooker from there as evidence.
  • by qwijibo (101731) on Friday August 09, 2013 @01:12PM (#44523229)

    Why haven't we heard about this from the Department of Homeland Security? What are they hiding?

    It's just a matter of time before al queda gets its hand on this methane bomb. $60 trillion is just the kind of impact they'd like to unleash on us heathens and infidels.

  • I have my bug out needs all in order, Looking forward to the collapse and the resulting thunderdome.
    Welcome to the new age!

  • They bottled up their flatulence within their ancient graveyards to one day reap revenge on the Hominids that hunted them.

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