Wednesday, December 13, 2017

It Must be Wednesday. New Study. Arctic Permafrost. Worse Than We Imagined.

Not welcome news, especially in petro-pimp Canada, but NOAA, the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association, has released a new report on Arctic permafrost, the repository of vast amounts of once safely sequestered methane. The permafrost is thawing faster than ever. Think of it as leaving the freezer door open on a hot day.

Permafrost in the Arctic is thawing faster than ever, according to a new US government report that also found Arctic seawater is warming and sea ice is melting at the fastest pace in 1,500 years.

“What happens in the Arctic doesn’t stay in the Arctic; it affects the rest of the planet,” said acting NOAA chief Timothy Gallaudet. “The Arctic has huge influence on the world at large.”

Permafrost records show the frozen ground that many buildings, roads and pipelines are built on reached record warm temperatures last year nearing and sometimes exceeding the thawing point. That could make them vulnerable when the ground melts and shifts, the report said.

So why does this matter? There's a simple answer. This crosses the barrier  between man-made greenhouse gas emissions, primarily CO2, and the even more powerful methane greenhouse gas emissions from a natural feedback loop.  We're the trigger. We create the tipping point. However, once that tipping point is reached, and we've crossed a number of them, nature begins to release its own stored greenhouse gases creating what's called runaway global warming

We notionally strive to limit global warming to 2, if not 1.5 degrees Celsius by slashing man-made CO2 emissions, primarily by abandoning fossil fuels. We're not even doing a convincing job of that. Yet the rationale for cutting man-made emissions was, and supposedly remains, to ensure we don't trigger natural feedback loops, runaway global warming, just like that now underway across the Arctic.

Science is now scrambling to analyze how the loss of Arctic sea ice will affect the climate elsewhere. A report last week forecast a significant decline of rainfall and worsening of droughts in California due to Arctic changes. California supplies a significant part of America's food supply and it's the source for much of the fruit and nuts on Canadian grocery shelves. That's the insidious nature of climate change. Everything seems to have knock-on or ripple effects. Disruption of one kind in one place can trigger entirely different but equally or worse impacts thousands of miles away.


Toby said...

No argument there, Mound. I just keep wondering when our various mainstream media will start taking this stuff seriously. I wonder when our political leaders will take it seriously. Our Prime and Environment Ministers seem to think that a small gas tax will fix it.

The Mound of Sound said...

I have little confidence they ever will, Toby, and I think it's a much greater longshot that they'll deal with this effectively in time. The reality is that we don't know if that window remains open. We seem to learn about opportunities foreclosed ten or more years after the closure.

Lorne said...

I am always struck, Mound, by the vast disparity that exists in how climate change news is handled by the majority of the mainstream press in North America and media like The Guardian. That the latter is operated as a trust for the public good seems to be the main reason it does this kind of reporting largely shunned on our side of the pound. Ignorance that facilitates the status quo, no matter how deadly it is, seems to be the MSM's prime directive here.

The Mound of Sound said...

Well, hello and welcome back, my rum-besotted friend. Did you remember to say hi to Raoul for me? Pity you had to endure Cuba instead of reveling in the cold and damp of the Pacific coast.

I'm currently "soaking" a post about how intelligent, educated people who understand and accept the scientific consensus nonetheless find it too overwhelming to bear. Some simply suppress it while others resort to magical thinking and the hope that "we'll figure something out."

I reel from this reality as much as most and yet I continue to file these posts.

My guess is that we're lapsing into an odd form of Andean fatalism. Resignation as a coping mechanism. How else to explain this?

Hope you had a fine time in the land of the Cuba Libre.

Lorne said...

Thanks, Mound. It was a lovely visit, and the weather was grand, but it is not lost on me that my annual hegira to the island nation, via jet travel, contributes to the problem of climate change. I sometimes feel sharply my hypocrisy in this matter, especially after reading a recent article by George Monbiot which I may write about in the near future.