Although the sudden high rate Arctic methane increase at Svalbard in late 2010 data set applies to only a short time interval, similar sudden methane concentration peaks also occur at Barrow point and the effects of a major methane build-up has been observed using all the major scientific observation systems. Giant fountains/torches/plumes of methane entering the atmosphere up to 1 km across have been seen on the East Siberian Shelf. This methane eruption data is so consistent and aerially extensive that when combined with methane gas warming potentials, Permian extinction event temperatures and methane lifetime data it paints a frightening picture of the beginning of the now uncontrollable global warming induced destabilization of the subsea Arctic methane hydrates on the shelf and slope which started in late 2010. This process of methane release will accelerate exponentially, release huge quantities of methane into the atmosphere and lead to the demise of all life on earth before the middle of this century.
It is rather disturbing. Another article I read indicated that methane vents in permafrost the measured just meters in diameter a few years ago have now formed huge vents that measure kilometers in diameter. There does appear to be a prospect that in the coming few decades we might see enormous temperature increases of 10C or so. If that happens we are finished. A general rule of thumb is that for every 1C temperature increase a projected 10% loss of agricultural output is expected. That could indeed mean that by 2050 we are complete toast.
I have been teaching on this subject as part of my “World Problems” course for more than ten years. This is not new information, and quite a number of books and articles exist linking the idea of methane clathrates to mass extinctions.
Scientific American has done several articles, probably going back at least ten years or so, on the specter of this problem. This article deals with the possibility of using bacteria to “defuse” the problem:
I seem to remember this problem also making the cover of Scientific American maybe about ten years ago as well, but I couldn’t quickly find the article.
This site has a lot of resources for the potential development of methane clathrates as a fuel: http://www.netl.doe.gov/technologies/oil-gas/FutureSupply/MethaneHydrates/MH_ReferenceShelf/RefShelf.html
I have been interested in this possibility for a long time, because in a world growing short of fossil-fuel energy, these vast deposits of frozen natural gas are an obviously attractive resource. You’d have to find a way to limit the amount of methane that entered the atmosphere, but in this case, since the methane is so obviously going to enter our atmosphere anyway, it seems like we should try to control how it happens and at least benefit from it by burning the methane as fuel and finding ways to control the atmospheric waste products.
I was also very interested in the potential use of methane clathrates as in-situ rocket fuel on Mars. There is some (remotely sensed) evidence of unexplained methane signatures on Mars, and one proposed explanation has been the possibility of subsurface methane clathrates. I have no idea whether this is a viable explanation, but if subsurface clathrates were periodically triggered to outgas due to variations in temperature, possibly this could explain why traces of unexplained methane are sometimes detected in the Martian atmosphere.
I am attaching a piece I wrote up a few years back as a preliminary examination of this possibility. I never developed it for publication, because as I got into the subject, it seemed that manufacturing of the fuel from clathrates (even if present on Mars) would require a prohibitively complex industrial infrastructure to refine the methane into fuel. I am aware of the shortcomings of the piece, and it was never finished for actual publication, but I am attaching a copy in case anyone is interested. It contains a certain amount of background information on methane clathrates on Earth.
I think it’s more a case of linear thinking than genetic encoding. Notice that when someone dies who has not had some long-term life threatening illness, our habitual reaction is one of surprise. IMO it’s linear thinking in evidence. After all, the person has been around for many yesterdays — yesterday, the day before, the day before that, and so on — it’s a shock when they pass away permanently without warning, even though such occurrences happen with regularity. In any event, my take on the situation is that it’s extremely dire as LC has consistently warned, and I don’t think we have the knowledge or tools to avert the worst case scenario. In our ignorance, we’ve tinkered with nature and are beginning to reap the whirlwind. With that in mind, I would encourage LC to continue his research in this matter, and to post whatever he comes up with, for value-added criticism and comment. AG
You may be right about the genetic programming. After all, as we can see from Vic’s thread (Is faith reasonable), when early humans evolved, storms, earthquakes, volcanoes, etc… were attributed to beings too powerful to combat, with humans as passive victims. Threats from other creatures, human and otherwise, could be resisted. So we have developed the ability, albeit unwitting, to influence the planet, but there is an underlying belief that its forces are too powerful to influence, so we remain passive before the evidence of what we are doing, or deny it. Of course, there are powerful human forces at work too (corporations, religions, political entities) which have a strong vested (if short-term) interest in maintaining the status quo and keeping us passive. John Crisp