Arctic Methane Emergency
Here are two important stories, quite possibly the most important I’ve posted since I began running the WestCoastClimateEquity blog in September 2008:
Russian research team astonished after finding ‘fountains’ of methane bubbling to surface
Dramatic and unprecedented plumes of methane – a greenhouse gas 20 times more potent than carbon dioxide – have been seen bubbling to the surface of the Arctic Ocean by scientists undertaking an extensive survey of the region.
The scale and volume of the methane release has astonished the head of the Russian research team who has 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.”
Scientists estimate that there are hundreds of millions of tonnes of methane gas locked away beneath the Arctic permafrost, which extends from the mainland into the seabed of the relatively shallow sea of the East Siberian Arctic Shelf. One of the greatest fears is that with the disappearance of the Arctic sea-ice in summer, and rapidly rising temperatures across the entire region, which are already melting the Siberian permafrost, the trapped methane could be suddenly released into the atmosphere leading to rapid and severe climate change.
Click here to read more of this article and view a map of the area of concern.
This leads us to look at what the Arctic Methane Emergency Group is doing.
They’ve been at the American Geophysical Union (AGU) 2011 Fall Meeting in San Fransisco, and on December 8, Professor Peter Wadhams (Professor of Ocean Physics, Cambridge University) and Arctic Methane Emergency Group Chairman, John Nissen gave a presentation on the need for geoengineering in the Arctic to prevent runaway climate change.
And here are some of their conclusions, giving us great hope.
What is an Appropriate Response for a Planetary Emergency?
1. First and foremost, the meltdown of the Arctic summer sea ice, with the Arctic already emitting additional methane to the atmosphere, must be declared a planetary emergency.
2. The immediate emergency response is to stabilize Arctic sea ice and Arctic carbon by cooling the Arctic. This is certainly doable and can be done safely.
3. We also have to immediately and drastically cut global CO2 and methane emissions, which can be done. The science is definite on the need to reach zero emissions; we have to rapidly develop the capacity to extract CO2 directly from the air, which can be done by several methods, both biological and technological.
4. To achieve these urgent goals, it is necessary (as has been urged by peace and social groups for many years) that the vast amounts of funds and human resources devoted to the military and aerospace industries be diverted to the great enterprise of stabilizing the Arctic, protecting our planet, and rescuing our future.
5. There are, of course, also many personal lifestyle changes that will help reduce global carbon emissions and it is hoped that people will take advantage of them all when they become aware of the dire emergency we are now in.
6. The Arctic Methane Emergency Group is investigating all possible options for developing the capacity to safely cool the Arctic within a couple of years.
See their Brochure flipbook and have a look at their Workshop Report, where they identify means to reduce the threat of methane being emitted from sources in the Arctic in such quantities as to have a major impact on global warming. These include:
- cooling the Arctic, regionally or locally, using Solar Radiation Management (SRM-type geoengineering);
- management of the methane environment at the local level (see below); and
- capture or destruction of methane, already in the atmosphere.