Methane becoming dominant global climate force

ARTICLE SOURCE: http://ameg.me/
It will be impossible to adapt to the worst consequences of global warming, as IPCC suggests.

Governments must get a grip on a situation which IPCC, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, has ignored. A strategy of mitigation and adaptation is doomed to fail. It will be impossible to adapt to the worst consequences of global warming, as IPCC suggests.

The Arctic must be cooled, ASAP, to prevent the sea ice disappearing with disastrous global consequences. Rapid warming in the Arctic, as sea ice retreats, has already disrupted the jet stream. The resulting escalation in weather extremes is causing a food crisis which must be addressed before the existing conflicts in Asia and Africa spread more widely.

Dangerous global warming and ocean acidification must be prevented by reducing the level of CO2 in the atmosphere, especially by improved agricultural practice, thereby addressing the food crisis at the same time.

1. The Arctic is rapidly heading for meltdown. As snow and sea ice retreat, exposing land and sea with lower albedo (i.e. less reflectiveness), more solar energy is absorbed, thus leading to further melting and retreat in a vicious cycle. This cycle has been self-sustaining for many years – we are well past the tipping point. There is no sign of any natural process to break the cycle.

2. As the extent of snow and sea ice has been plummeting, even while global warming has stalled, Arctic albedo loss has rapidly overtaken CO2 as the main driver of climate change in the Northern Hemisphere, as witness the escalation of weather extremes. The Arctic has warmed well above global average, resulting in a reduction of the temperature gradient between tropics and pole, this in turn reducing the strength of the polar jet stream, with increased meandering and a tendency to get stuck in blocking patterns. This explains the recent escalation of weather extremes in the form of long periods of weather of one kind such as the months of high rain the UK has experienced this past winter 2013-14, and the protracted extreme cold in the US over the same period, crop failures and an upward trend in the world food price index.

3. While land and subsea permafrost thaws ever faster, methane could become the dominant climate forcing agent. Emissions threaten to break through the gigaton-per-year level within twenty years. AMEG has been continuing its research into the situation. A recent paper, co-authored by Peter Wadhams, a founder member of AMEG, has used the Stern Review economic model to show that the economic cost of a 50 megaton release of methane from the Arctic Ocean seabed will cost $60 trillion. Research in the East Siberian Arctic Shelf has suggested that such a vast release of methane was possible, and continued exponential increase of methane could, within 20 years, reach a level where methane dominated over CO2 in global warming. Some researchers warn of a 50 gigaton burst being possible “at any time”.

4. Therefore, urgent and strenuous efforts are needed ASAP to cool the Arctic, halt snow and sea ice decline, and suppress methane.

5. Techniques exist for cooling on the necessary scale. Both the brightening of low-level clouds and the production of a reflective haze in the stratosphere are techniques based on natural phenomena which have been studied extensively. Various methane suppression techniques have been proposed. However, all these techniques require technology development and testing before deployment.

6. Ocean acidification threatens to devastate the marine food chain. Atmospheric CO2 must be reduced to a safe level within twenty years or less.

7. Therefore, CO2 must be removed from the atmosphere faster than it is put in. The rate of removal should be increased until it is around double the rate of emissions and the CO2 level has fallen sufficiently to avoid dangerous ocean acidification. Funds could be raised by having a levy on carbon taken out of the ground, specifically to fund the return of carbon to the ground.

8. CO2 can be removed from the atmosphere utilising the photosynthesis of plants and certain algae to produce biomass. The carbon of this biomass must then be kept from returning to the atmosphere, e.g. by pyrolytic conversion to biochar. This process of capture and sequestration has to be massively scaled in order for the CO2 removal rate to exceed CO2 emission rate.

9. The profound economic, social, security and political impacts of the abrupt climate change, being witnessed as an escalation of climate extremes and crop failures, must be addressed. The underlying price of food as indicated by the food price index is already above the crisis level, leading to the food riots we have observed in several countries where income is insufficient to buy daily needs.


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