Saturday, July 5, 2014

blog034 Will Any Humans Become Post-Carbon?

Probably nobody will read this blog because it is far too long, far too horrifyingly detailed, and far too realistic for most tastes.

But I write it anyway, to fulfill a promise I made.

Back in 2007 I read the book High Noon by J. F. Rischard (also available in German). Rischard’s information shattered my Box’s long-standing defenses against the outside world. In a state of shock, two friends and I tracked J. F. Rischard down in Paris and interviewed him for 2 days in 2008. What a kind and intelligent man he is. As a result of Rischard’s intense download I began studying up on several global situations, in particular methane clathrates and depleted uranium.


The year 2007 is interesting. According to David Spratt’s September 2013 report, “Is Climate Already Dangerous?” we crossed the planetary Rubicon in 2007 at about 0.76 degrees centigrade of global warming. Maybe I felt it… Maybe you felt it too? At this point, not only had Arctic sea-ice passed its tipping point, but the Greenland Ice Sheet was not far behind.

Adding to the mounting evidence behind 2007 as the point of no return, Malcolm Light concluded on 22 December 2013, “We have passed the methane hydrate tipping point and are now accelerating into extinction as the methane hydrate ‘Clathrate Gun’ has begun firing volleys of methane into the Arctic atmosphere.”

According to Light’s analysis, the temperature of Earth’s atmosphere will resemble that of Venus before 2100. Two weeks later, in an essay stressing near-term human extinction, Light concluded: “The Gulf Stream transport rate started the methane hydrate (clathrate) gun firing in the Arctic in 2007 when its energy/year exceeded 10 million times the amount of energy/year necessary to dissociate subsea Arctic methane hydrates.”

The clathrate gun began firing in 2007, the same year the extent of Arctic sea ice reached a tipping point. But who knew it?

Because of my research, my new collaboration partners at asked me to submit a blog paragraph about what the United Nations needs to know about methane and global warming for a paper they will read at the United Nations’ Climate Summit set for 23 September 2014 in New York City.

I took Planetary Culture’ writing offer seriously. Perhaps I was na├»ve. My commitment threw me hard down into a rabbit hole in which I have not yet hit bottom. I quickly found intense new information published since my 2008 research spree that pertained to the methane “clathrate gun” (which I would now name the “clathrate cannon”).

Maddeningly, every shred of new evidence only reveals that the situation we are in is far more menacing and frightening than anyone anywhere ever suspected, even in their worst nightmares. We are talking here, folks, about near-term human extinction due to global warming, possibly as soon as 2050.
That’s probably why I recently posted a cute little comic on my facebook page with the caption: “My desire to be well-informed is currently at odds with my desire to remain sane.” Anyone selling tickets to Mars?

Methane (CH4) is the most abundant organic molecule in the Earth’s atmosphere. (Brasseur et al., 1999). It’s presence was first noted in 1948 from features in the infrared absorption spectrum (Migeotte, 1948) and it is now routinely measured. CH4 is the third most important greenhouse gas after H2O (water) vapor and CO2 (carbon dioxide) and has a Global Warming Potential (GWP) 25 times that of CO2 on a 100 year timescale (Forster et al., 2007) [but over 70 times the Global Warming Potential of CO2 on a 10 year timescale, which turns out to be extremely relevant, because recent evidence indicates that climate can shift far more suddenly than previously suspected, in decades. Not only that, but when CH4 degrades it does not vanish. It simply morphs into CO2 and then sticks around another 100 years continuing to warm the globe.]

Methane records, along with paleo-temperature data, from both Antarctica (Petit, et al., 1999) and Greenland (Chappellaz, et al., 1993) reveal the close correlation between methane and millennial-scale warming and cooling. Indeed, CH4 more closely parallels the rapid variations of polar temperature records than any other measured gas (Chappellaz, et al., 1993). Humans have perturbed the atmospheric methane budget to a remarkable extent. Ice core records have shown that the CH4 concentration had remained between 350 and 800 parts per billion (ppb) for the past 650,000 years (Brook et al., 2000; Spahni et al., 2005); whereas in 2007 global mean CH4 concentration was 1775 ppb (Forster et al., 2007) [and now in 2014 it exceeds ~1820ppb (Morrison et al., 2014)]

The following is the paragraph (or two) which I think the United Nations needs to know about methane. After that comes the latest Earth-shattering data with references.

If coordinated international actions are not immediately implemented to end fossil fuel burning, cut greenhouse gas emissions, and sequester present atmospheric carbon and methane, new evidence suggests that even if we could create a post-carbon society, there won’t be humans alive to live in it.

The consensus findings among authoritative scientific institutions (NASA, NOAA, NSIDC, Hadley-Met, Tyndale, Potsdam, CSIRO, BOM, the world’s academies of science, IPCC and so on) indicate beyond reasonable doubt that continuing open-ended emissions of greenhouse gases incontestably leads to the demise of humans as well as most of life on Earth in a frighteningly near term (by ~2050). Therefore, any governing body that tolerates or promotes further greenhouse gas emissions through burning fossil fuels or burning forests or fracking, etc., contravenes international laws, violates human and animal rights and national sovereignty, and commits a monstrous crime against humanity and nature.
(Reference: private communication of a work in progress by Andrew Glikson, The Legal Dimension Of Overwhelming The Atmosphere With CO2

If the United Nations will do no more than offer suggestions to member states and continues to refrain from enforcing stringent restrictions, then humanity is wasting its time trying to reverse climate change under the auspices of the United Nations. The UN should be immediately dismantled and an action-oriented global survival agency should be activated, more appropriately named United Peoples.

A war is required now if there is to be a human presence on planet Earth in the next century: an urgent war against the status quo and all its institutions and laws, a war that causes immediately changed political and corporate behaviors, a war of action-oriented responsibility for consequences, a war of instantaneously enforceable restrictions, a war of internationally-coordinated engineering efforts to pull down atmospheric CO2 and methane (CH4) concentrations.

How ridiculous it would be to stand there arguing with your neighbor about fairly consuming the last remaining minerals when a piano is falling from above and will kill the both of you. The methane “clathrate gun” has already been fired. Life on planet Earth is the victim.

The United Nations will either convert scientifically founded imperatives into immediate and enforceable actions, or become guilty by complicity of ending human civilization on Earth. Those individuals, special interests and organizations spouting adolescent non-negotiable stances need to be sent to their room without dinner by a United Peoples authority with more “guns” than the teenagers have.

A recent global warming denial argument challenged that if greenhouse gases are trapping so much more heat, why has the Earth’s average air temperature only risen 0.8 Centigrade? The answer is: we have been putting the thermometers in the wrong place! They should have been set in the depths of the oceans. 93.4% of incoming solar energy is being absorbed by the oceans of the world, converting water from its solid state as ice to its liquid state as water, called the latent heat of fusion (melting) or enthalpy of fusion. Only 2.3% of incoming heat is absorbed by the air.

The sun’s energy is being absorbed on the Earth by the ice in glaciers, methane-clathrates, and frozen tundra as it melts into water. It takes 80 calories of heat energy to change 1 cubic centimeter of ice at 0 degrees Centigrade into a puddle of water at 0 degrees Centigrade. The remarkable thing is that the added heat is needed for the phase change, that is, to change the H2O from a solid to a liquid, from ice to water. But after absorbing the 80 calories of heat, the now melted water remains at 0 degrees Centigrade. It did not get warmer. However (and here is the shocker), if you add the same amount of heat energy, another 80 calories (just like the sun continues to add heat each day to the oceans) the little puddle of water that used to be ice now quickly jumps to 80 degrees C. 

What does this mean? It means that the vast majority of newly trapped solar energy has been absorbed by the oceans to melt Arctic and Antarctic glaciers, permafrost, and methane clathrates. In the moment they are melted enough the incoming heat shifts from melting the ice into rapidly raising the water temperature. That is when you will see sudden global air temperature increases. We are on the verge of this.

The Change in Earth’s Total Heat Content graph also underscores just how much global warming the planet is experiencing. Since 1970, the Earth's heat content has been rising at a rate of 6 x 10 to the 21st power Joules per year. In more meaningful terms, the planet has been accumulating energy at a rate of 190,260 gigawatts. Considering a typical nuclear power plant has an output of 1 gigawatt, imagine 190,000 nuclear power plants pouring their energy output directly into our oceans. Our climate is still accumulating heat. Global warming is still happening.

Hallor Thorgeirsson, a senior director with the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, said on 17 September 2013: “We are failing as an international community. We are not on track.” These are the people who know about, and presumably could do something about, our ongoing race to disaster.
(Reference: Climate Change Summary and Update

We have already triggered 38 self-reinforcing feedback loops. 34 of those are irreversible. The most deadly is the arctic methane tipping point.
(Reference: Guy McPherson )

“A 4 degrees C warmer world can, and must be, avoided – we need to hold warming below 2 degrees C," said World Bank Group President Jim Yong Kim.

The World Bank’s climate models do not include any of the 38 self-reinforcing feedback loops.
(Reference: Guy McPherson, and Climate Change Summary and Update

Globally in 2011 fossil fuel subsidies topped half a trillion dollars.
(Reference: Global Fossil Fuel Subsidies

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) admits global warming is irreversible without geoengineering in a report released 27 September 2013.

As pointed out in the 5 December 2013 issue of Earth System Dynamics, known strategies for geoengineering are unlikely to succeed: “climate geo-engineering cannot simply be used to undo global warming”

Our path leads directly to the 4 degrees C mark. The conservative International Energy Agency throws in the towel on avoiding 4 degrees C in this video from June 2014.
(Reference: World Energy Investment Outlook – especially at the 25-minute mark

The 19th Conference of the Parties of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (COP 19) held in November 2013 in Warsaw, Poland, was warned by professor of climatology Mark Maslin: “We are already planning for a 4degrees C world because that is where we are heading. I do not know of any scientists who do not believe that.”
There is a paper in the 16 December 2013 issue of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences concluding that 4 degrees C terminates the ability of Earth’s vegetation to sequester atmospheric carbon dioxide.

In the above chart, Reg Morrison, a climate scientist in Australia, compares three sets of data on one time scale of 420,000 years:
1.     atmospheric carbon dioxide (CO2) concentrations
2.     atmospheric methane (CH4) concentrations
3.     global average temperature variation from the present in degrees C.

[As you can see, CO2, CH4 and Earth’s temperature follow a nearly identical path. The shock comes from noticing that the current 400ppm (and quickly rising) concentration of CO2 indicates we have already arranged for a minimum increase of global temperatures of 4 degrees C above normal.]

CO2 has hovered around 280ppm for the past 12,000 years, and has not been over 400ppm for 15 million years, when sea levels were at least 25 meters higher, temperatures were at least 3 degrees C warmer, and there was no arctic sea ice.

At no time in the last 20 million years have levels of carbon dioxide increased as rapidly as at present. In addition to that, the current 1820ppb (and quickly rising) concentration of CH4 (methane) indicates we are rapidly on our way to an increase of over 16 degrees C which is consistent with climate disruptions during the Permian Mass Extinction event 250 million years ago.

By the end of the Permian Mass Extinction 95% of all life on planet Earth was dead. It took 10 million years for life to come back. This is referred to as “the Great Dying.” We are already well into Earth’s sixth mass extinction event, and species are dying at an unprecedented rate of 200 species per day.

A typical species will live for 10 million years. On Earth now, amphibians are going extinct at a rate of 45,000 times the ordinary background extinction rate.

The Gulf Stream has sped up three times since 1940, and then in 2010 the Gulf Stream melted through the Arctic ice wall and began carrying gigajoules of heat along the Gakkel ridge onto the East Siberian Shelf and the Laptev Sea.

There are over 2,200 gigatons of methane frozen under Siberian tundra and the Laptev Sea. Easily 50 gigatons could be released. There are only about 5 gigatons methane present in the global atmosphere now. Methane is 70-80 times stronger than CO2 as a greenhouse gas when compared over a 10 year span. The methane does not then become harmless. It oxidizes into CO2.

Global temperature can jump up 5 degrees C in as little as 13 years.

387 ppm CO2 is already catastrophic. The world has to be taken back to the 280 ppm of the pre-industrial era if global calamities are to be avoided.

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”.

“In a very small area, less than 10,000 square miles, we have counted more than 100 fountains, or torch-like structures, bubbling through the water column and injected directly into the atmosphere from the seabed,” Dr Semiletov said. “We carried out checks at about 115 stationary points and discovered methane fields of a fantastic scale – I think on a scale not seen before. Some of the plumes were a kilometre or more wide and the emissions went directly into the atmosphere – the concentration was a hundred times higher than normal,” he said.

Vast amounts of methane are held in sediments under the Arctic Ocean. The Laptev Sea is part of the Eastern Siberian Arctic Shelf (ESAS). Shakhova et al. (2010) estimate the accumulated methane potential for the ESAS alone as follows:
-        organic carbon in permafrost of about 500 Gt
-        about 1000 Gt in hydrate deposits
-        about 700 Gt in free gas beneath the gas hydrate stability zone.
Shakhova et al. in 2008 considered release of up to 50 Gt of predicted amount of hydrate storage as highly possible for abrupt release at any time. By comparison, the total amount of methane currently in the atmosphere is about 5 Gt.

An uncomfortably high proportion of current estimated arctic methane releases come from a source which is very poorly understood, and that could conceivably change considerably in the very near future. Both the HIPPO program and researchers at the Wegener Institute have estimated emissions from an unexpected source – the ocean surface itself – which demands far more scrutiny in predicting near-term evolution of arctic conditions. This is the opposite of discussing the drama of methane hydrate – it is a very mild source of methane emission, and is very diffuse. However, it is deeply dependent upon sea surface conditions, which are rapidly changing with changes in summer sea ice cover, and thus has a potential for very large changes in its emissions rate in the very near future. The estimates of current emissions make this source currently about the same as the total combined emissions from subsea permafrost, free gas and some hydrate which have, cumulatively, been widely discussed in the media, stemming from the research of Natalia Shakhova, Igor Semiletov and others, and usually attributed in the media to methane hydrates. The hypothesized but somewhat mysterious biochemistry of this surface production is based on the assumption that shifts in the N:P (nitrogen to phosphorous) ratio (one of the so-called Redfield ratios), make aerobic methanogenesis possible in arctic surface waters, and the estimates are that this is probably releasing about 8Tg methane annually now. Could these emissions suddenly increase? If losses of sea ice induce further emissions from this source, then increases could be very considerable.

A 2014 paper has found strong evidence for a bacterial source of the carbon-cycle disruption: the methanogenic archaeal genus Methanosarcina. Three lines of chronology converge at 250 mya, supporting a scenario in which a single-gene transfer created a metabolic pathway for efficient methane production in these archaea, nourished by volcanic nickel. According to the theory, the resultant super-exponential bacterial bloom suddenly freed carbon from ocean-bottom organic sediments into the water and air [contributing the Permian Mass Extinction].

One thousandth of the thermal energy presently transported in the Gulf Stream is enough to trigger Arctic methane release. Only a few percent of the 1000 gigatons is enough to complete the methane greenhouse veil already blanketing Earth. By comparison, the industrial revolution has until now only emitted 250 gigatons of carbon equivalent.

(Red color indicates >1950ppb methane concentrations. Graph Reference:

[Taking CO2 concentrations back to 280ppm and methane (CH4) concentrations back to 1250ppb ( involves illegalizing profit-driven corporations, illegalizing stock and currency exchanges, and illegalizing land and mineral-rights ownership, because these social structures have already proven to be suicidal at a global level. Taking CO2 concentrations back to 280ppm involves collapsing civilization intentionally and immediately. Could we do this? Yes. Will we do this?]

Only a few hundred people in the world are actually discussing these ideas. More than 200,000 people would have to understand these ideas each day for us just to keep up with population growth.
(Reference: Guy McPherson


Question: Did you read this whole blog?

If so, you might want to join the Near Term Human Extinction Evidence and Support Group. (Not kidding… about it being perhaps a good idea to join… I did.)

For love of the living Earth,
(still in the rabbit hole, tunneling sideways at a furious rate, seeking other dimensions, and perhaps some friends on the same journey…)