Sunday, September 10, 2006

Melting Pot

With as much as 450 billion tonnes of methane and CO2 locked in the world's permafrost, the prospect of it being released does not bode well. That release is now being observed in both the Arctic and Siberian permafrosts. The observed melting of the Siberian permafrost was first reported over a year ago and it was, at the time, something that had never before been observed. (At right, methane bubbles trapped in forming lake ice, October, 2005.)

But a recent report has confirmed both the reality of the Big Melt in Siberia and the larger consequences. As an enormous frozen repository of methane, a gas that is five times more efficient greehouse effect, the melting of Siberia represents the tiggering of a positive feed back loop; released methane increases the greenhouse effect, which in turn warms the climate and melts more of the permafrost. Given the massive quantity of methane and CO2 sequestered in the permafrost, the process can easily cause its own run-away. Many now believe that, with the observation of such signals, we may be at the tipping point of whether there is anything we can actually do to turn this process back. Some believed it may be already too late.

As a species we do know what it is we do to this planet, even though some are steadfast in conscious denial. The debate as to whether the planet is warming is a non-existent one, especially in light of the fact that intrepid entrepreneurs -- the ones usually asserting that global warming is fiction -- are leaping at the opportunities presented to them by the obvious effects.

The ice caps are melting. Siberia is melting. These things will feed themselves now and we certainly are not helping by torching the Amazon and clear cutting Borneo. I fear that these forces, now unleashed, may be too great to counter with any insipid Kyoto protocol. On top of all this is perched an American Congress populated with idiot fiends like James Inhofe, the Oklahoma Republican who pronounced his excitment about a "market-based approach" to environmentalism and how he looked forward to rolling back emissions regulations so as "not to impede clean air progress."

Skeptics have and will argue that global warming and cooling cycles are the natural order and this is true. We do know the earth's biosphere is warming. We don't know for certain that we are the entire cause. We are surely part of it. We also don't know that anything we might do now will halt the processes that have been set in motion. But one thing is certain, as citizens of this planet, we need to stop dithering while the evidence mounts, proclaiming the calamity, and get serious about what we're going to do. But certainly, following the Bush energy doctrine of simply finding more oil and drilling for it in the arctic to ensure our oil profligacy doesn't appear to be the most beneficial approach we might take.


Post a Comment

<< Home