A team of Russian research scientists have been surveying the seabed of the East Siberian Arctic Shelf off northern Russia for nearly 20 years.
In an exclusive interview with The Independent, Igor Semiletov, of the Far Eastern branch of the Russian Academy of Sciences, said that he has never before witnessed the scale and force of the methane being released from beneath the Arctic seabed.
“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 in diameter. It’s amazing,” Dr Semiletov said. “I was most impressed by the sheer scale and 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.”
I realise this has been linked to three times in the previous thread, but it’s important and not everyone reads the comments threads.
A separate study has found that the methane stored in permafrost is three times larger than earlier estimates. It could release 1.7-5.2 times more carbon than previously thought, depending how rapidly the world warms.
In a cautionary note here, James Hansen reckons we are forcing the system 20,000 times faster than commonly happened through natural caused in the past 50 million years.
Schmittner on climate sensitivity
Andrew Revkin at Dot Earth comments on the second methane study above, then on a paper by Schmittner et al, suggesting that climate sensitivity may be over-estimated, giving us more time to avoid dangerous climate change. This is in fact suggested by the author in this BBC piece.
Revkin asks various scientists for their reaction. I can only urge people to look at what Ray Pierrehumbert said, and in his post at RealClimate.
Pierrehumbert mentions a study by Lunt et al which puts climate sensitivity 30 to 50% higher than normally thought when all feedbacks are taken into account. See also a study by Pagani et al which looked at 4.5 million years ago, when CO2 levels were between about 365 and 415 ppm. Temperatures back then were about 3–4 °C warmer than pre-industrial values.
Pierrehumbert also mentions the difficulty of definition and what Schmittner leaves out of consideration, as does James Hansen.
There’s more at Skeptical Science.
Two degrees a recipe for disaster
Hansen above reckons that each degree of temperature rise will give us 20m of sea level rise on average eventually. It’s no surprise then, that he thinks 2C temperature rise is a very bad idea.
Hansen in a paper with Makiko Sato found that
global mean temperatures during the Eemian period, which began about 130,000 years ago and lasted about 15,000 years, were less than 1 degree Celsius warmer than today. If temperatures were to rise 2 degrees Celsius over pre-industrial times, global mean temperature would far exceed that of the Eemian, when sea level was four to six meters higher than today, Hansen said.
Two degrees Celsius of warming would make Earth much warmer than during the Eemian, and would move Earth closer to Pliocene-like conditions, when sea level was in the range of 25 meters higher than today.
Economic growth v climate mitigation
David Roberts at Grist looks at work done by Kevin Anderson and Alice Bows on climate mitigation. They reckon we are planning for 2C but actually only mitigating for 4C, which is “incompatiblke with an organised global community”. A market mechanism such as carbon pricing won’t cut it, they say. Their conclusion:
“The logic of such studies suggests (extremely) dangerous climate change can only be avoided if economic growth is exchanged, at least temporarily, for a period of planned austerity within Annex 1 nations and a rapid transition away from fossil-fuelled development within non-Annex 1 nations.”
The most important news story of the day/millennium
What’s behind the grim Anderson and Bowes conclusions is what Bill McKibben called The most important news story of the day/millennium, namely the Global Carbon Project’s Carbon Budget 2010, where emissions were found to have increased in 2010 by 5.9% and the 2000-2010 average was 3.1% compared with the previous decade’s 1%. Further, the crossover between the developed and developing countries was stark:
The problem is that if the developing countries are allowed to peak in 2025 this has to be compensated by even greater cuts in the developed countries. That means peaking in 2015 and cuts of 10% per annum thereafter. That implies putting the developed economies on a war footing.
Won’t happen of course, but “4 degrees C must be avoided at literally any cost.”
Trigeneration comes to Sydney
After all that gloom, time for some good news:
What we’ve established within 250 kilometres of the city there’s enough resource out there, enough waste – and here we’re not just talking about commercial and domestic waste. I’m also talking about agriculture and farming waste, forestry waste.
All that stuff that’s currently being land-filled or just burnt – that can be converted into renewable gas to supply 150 per cent of the gas that we need for peak and shoulder electricity and something like 95 per cent of 24 hour a day, 365 days. So to get 100 per cent we just need to go out a few kilometres more.
The oldest decentralised system in the world is in Manhattan, first put in my Edison in the 1880s. London, Paris, Berlin, Seoul in South Korea – there are cities all around the world.
This is how they do it. This is how grown-ups supply their energy. They don’t get it from coal fired power stations hundreds of kilometres away. They generate it locally in the city.
Copenhagen – 98 per cent of their buildings are connected to their decentralised energy system.
I think my next post will have to be on some new solar technology being developed that could make electricity virtually free. Yes, and it can be stored and shared without the grid, or so we are told.
Peak water is thought to have been reached, with melting glaciers in Peru and Ecuador. Glaciers in the Rockies in North America are forecast to disappear during the century.
Glaciers have shrunk in Nepal and Bhutan by as much as a fifth in the last 30 years.
Walnuts off the menu?
The latest food that we may have to do without is walnuts. Possibly not as serious as coffee and beer.