The Real Weapons of Mass Destruction: Methane, Propaganda & the Architects of Genocide | Part I

by on Jan.21, 2011, under Environment, Politics

An investigative report. [Part 1: http://bit.ly/fV8slf ]

By Cory Morningstar

Part I

World Marches to Methane Annihilation

“[T]he question is not will this methane be released, but when.” – Robert C. Hendricks, NASA, November 2007

The architects of death: The Real Weapons of Mass Destruction are the melting permafrost, the destabilizing methane hydrates and the corporations such as Halliburton, ChevronTexaco, BP, Shell, Exxon Mobil who, hand in hand with the US Department of Energy and the US Department of Defense, have been planning and waiting to exploit methane hydrates for decades. Methane hydrates are considered the ultimate in climate wealth opportunity because the control of these hydrocarbons could literally shift the balance of global power (US Department of Defense). It is clear that nothing has been done to prevent catastrophic climate change – and nothing will be done. Global emissions are set to skyrocket. This article attempts to clearly articulate why, almost two decades after the first international climate change summit, the world governments have failed to protect us from dangerous atmospheric interference. As we are now living in a world that is beyond dangerous, society must be aware of, be able to critically analyze, and ultimately reject the new onslaught of misinformation that is being perpetuated by the corporate elite and the current power structures that support their agenda.

The red dots indicate where researchers have proved that gas hydrates exist and where they are suspected to exist. But no matter where researchers now drill under the sea, they find methane, often in the form of a hydrate.

What the Governments and Environmental Groups Won’t Tell You

Thawing frozen soils could unleash a carbon bomb – massive volumes of carbon dioxide and methane frozen in the earth’s soils are a “time-bomb ticking under our feet.” – World Congress of Soil Science, 4 August 2010

For anyone interested in staying alive, the UNFCCC (United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change) in Cancún was a disaster. The world’s “leaders” – aside from those in Bolivia alone – have decided to trade off the lives of billions for insatiable corporate profits. And all the corporate-funded messages of progress and hope for the future pumped out by compromised and bought off NGOs do not make this reality any less true. Make no mistake, a mass genocide is in the making.

The end of the Permian Period, which happened 250 million years ago, was the greatest extinction event in the history of life. More than 90% of the species in existence perished. The end-Permian event was accompanied by a temperature rise of as little as 6ºC. Life took 50 million years to recover the diversity that had existed prior to this mass extinction. Although extinctions such as this one occurred long ago, today nature and science clearly indicate that such an extinction event is not far away in our future. The cataclysmic release of methane from Earth’s seafloor has already begun. This is our final warning – but is anyone listening? We must change our relationship with our planet – and fast. Market mechanisms and other false solutions that prey on ignorance and hope rather than acceptance of reality must be rejected. All fossil fuels must be left in the ground. There is no other way.

Gregory Ryskin, associate professor of chemical and biological engineering at Northwestern University, suggests that so much methane accumulated in stagnant seas at the end of the Permian, that when it finally erupted, it spontaneously ignited, creating a worldwide blanket of fire. He suggests that even marine organisms weren’t safe; the rising methane brought up anoxic water from the deep, suffocating them.

From Ryskin’s paper titled Methane-driven oceanic eruptions and mass extinctions: “The consequences of a methane-driven oceanic eruption for marine and terrestrial life are likely to be catastrophic. Figuratively speaking, the erupting region “boils over,” ejecting a large amount of methane and other gases (e.g., CO2, H2S) into the atmosphere, and flooding large areas of land. Whereas pure methane is lighter than air, methane loaded with water droplets is much heavier, and thus spreads over the land, mixing with air in the process (and losing water as rain). The air-methane mixture is explosive at methane concentrations between 5% and 15%; as such mixtures form in different locations near the ground and are ignited by lightning, explosions and conflagrations destroy most of the terrestrial life, and also produce great amounts of smoke and of carbon dioxide. Firestorms carry smoke and dust into the upper atmosphere, where they may remain for several years; the resulting darkness and global cooling may provide an additional kill mechanism. Conversely, carbon dioxide and the remaining methane create the greenhouse effect, which may lead to global warming. ”

For a deeper understanding of Ryskin’s methane theories, he suggests to watch this short video in which he discusses methane dangers. [Viewer discretion is advised – this video contains footage of 1986 Lake Nyos Tragedy, where a cloud of CO2 asphyxiated over 1700 people.]

Hells Bells

24 November 2010: “Greenhouse gases rise to record levels in 2009″ According to Michel Jarraud, secretary general of the World Meteorological Organization: “If we continue business as usual, we will not achieve the level of atmospheric concentration that would allow a two degree Celsius target.” Further, Jarraud stated that to start decreasing the levels of greenhouse gases, it is necessary to “stop totally the emissions.” Jarraud states unequivocally that “this means that the usage of fossil energy should be halted.”

Keep in mind that the two-degree target was adopted in order to protect economic interests rather than to protect life, while the low risk recommendation in 1990 of 1ºC, recommended by the United Nations Greenhouse Gas Advisory Group (UN AGGG) was effectively buried. After the Intergovernmental Panels on Climate Change (IPCC) emerged as the global voice on climate change, it quickly became controlled, directed and dominated by corporate-colluded governments, and economic interests soon crushed the best interests of the people. The IPCC, backed into a corner from its inception, is muzzled due to the interference and influence of corporate powers that have political control over all IPCC summary reports. For example, Exxon, the global catalyst for climate denialism, has been a member of the IPCC since 1992. Two Exxon scientists attend all meetings and have held positions as lead authors. By way of the IPCC unanimity rule, Exxon has a veto over the IPCC. Therefore, all science must be watered down until all parties – including Exxon – approve. One could perhaps compare this arrangement to having the Hells Angels write the legislation to define and protect women’s rights.

It’s a fine day for bananafish, mind pollution, delusion and boiling oceans

“A great deal of intelligence can be invested in ignorance when the need for illusion is deep.” – Saul Bellow, Canadian writer

The short story It’s a Fine Day for Bananafish by J D Salinger, first appeared in the January 31st, 1948 issue of the New Yorker. [1] It tells the story of the disillusionment of Seymour (the main character) with those around him, who are preoccupied and enamoured by the superficial. Seymour tells a young girl named Sybil a sad story of innocent fish that find a hole full of bananas in the ocean. Upon finding the bananas, the bananafish become glutinous. They eat so many bananas that they become too fat to get out of the hole. Seymour ends his story with “Well, I hate to tell you, Sybil. They die.” The story illustrates how affluence can foster materialism, thereby creating a life devoid of meaning. The story also illustrates how utter despair can lead one down the path of surrender. Perhaps Seymour is reflecting upon his own life – a life in high society where all too easily, he can have anything he wishes. Seymour perhaps views his own life as the banana hole where innocent fish are deceived by the appearance of a secure future – only to become trapped. Seymour is overcome with the feeling of isolation when he realizes he is no longer able to communicate in this shallow world. Perhaps believing his only hope is to escape – permanently – he sits “down on the unoccupied twin bed, [looks] at the girl, [aims] the pistol, and [fires] a bullet through his right temple.” Prior to the act of suicide Seymour’s actions are most poignant and revealing: “The young man suddenly picked up one of Sybil’s wet feet, which were drooping over the end of the float, and kissed the arch.” Seymour longed for truth, simplicity and innocence in an isolated, superficial world of illusions. This story could be and has been interpreted in many ways –  and it should be – as ultimately it is our shared humanity that connects us and challenges us. Nurturing and protecting this common thread is vital if we are to understand anything written or spoken with truth. Relentless advertising coupled with sophisticated propaganda results in mind pollution, the erosion of critical thinking and the crushing of independent thought, which effectively shuts out the truth – ultimately destroying ourselves.

Mind Pollution and Delusion

“Men die but the plutocracy is immortal; and it is necessary that fresh generations should be trained to its service.”  – Sinclair Lewis

In 2001, a documentary titled “The Day the Oceans Boiled” was released. Segments of the largely overlooked documentary were posted on YouTube in July 2009. To date, just over 200 people have been interested enough to watch it – on a planet of almost seven billion people. Compare this to the “New Mario Bros. Movie Trailer – The Game Station Exclusive!” video, which provoked over one million views in less than 48 hours, and which now exceeds over three million views. A Business Insider newswire reports that in 2010, Stefani Germanotta – known as Lady Gaga sold more magazines than anyone in the world. The “newswire report” features her “top 13 weirdest covers.” Germanotta’s covers reflect her country and mirror the underlying American culture. The New York Magazine cover caption states “I will kill to get what I need.” On Rolling Stone, dressed in a thong, Germanotta wields a machine gun. Most predominant in the images are the messages of sex, narcissism, violence and sadism that dominate our culture – enticing and fueling the acquiescent corporate collective. The Vogue Japan cover features Germanotta with her mouth open (most always predominant in the sexual commercialization of women), nude with raw red meat covering her breasts, hips and head. Germanotta, famous for stuffing dildos down her pants and spreading her legs, has been named by corporate media powerhouse Time magazine as one of the “100 most influential people in the world.” Corporate icon Forbes also lists Germanotta as one of “the 100 most powerful and influential celebrities in the world.” Time names Germanotta’s raw meat ensemble as the number one fashion statement of the year.

The question is – which no one asks – who exactly is Germanotta influencing and in what way? We know the answer to the question as to why. Governments and corporations have brilliantly and seductively kept absolute focus on the task at hand: keeping an entire global society stupefied, corporatized, numbed, dumbed down and in the dark using an onslaught of irrelevant meaningless nonsense, sophisticated propaganda and unrelenting, trivial distraction. This is an easy enough task if citizens are exhausted from working their lives away in order to pay debt that can never be paid off. This is an even easier task in the developing countries, whose exploited citizens toil daily in the grinds of the most tedious, horrific jobs in order to provide the stuff that no one needs in the developed wealthy countries. These grossly exploited people do not require the same degree of inundation and mind pollution; they are simply exhausted from the laborious, dangerous, exploitive work they must succumb to in order to feed their hungry children. Massive corporate profits, personal fortunes of the plutocracy, and the success of political efforts that will ensure the current power structures are not threatened are all at stake. Protect the current economic system at all costs. Protect the fossil fuel industry at all costs.

Above photo: Stefani Germanotta.  US Brand President Barack Obama: “It’s a privilege to be here tonight to open for Lady Gaga,” Obama goes on to say: “I’ve made it!” (These remarks were made by President Obama to a receptive audience during a Human Rights Campaign dinner in Washington, DC – all while innocent civilians continue to be killed in the US occupation in Iraq which continues today. The death toll to date is 1, 421, 933.) In a UK ‘Q’ Magazine interview Germanotta states: “Me and my fucking dick are out there for the world.” (Who knew that Obama and friends would be so receptive?) … God bless America. While that’s happening, please pass the Soma.

Toxins in, toxins out

Porn revenues top $96 billion worldwide in 2006. The more women are objectified and degraded, the higher the sales – women and young girls lose while corporate entities AT&T and General Motors 80% of the revenues. [2] Children’s social skills become inept and empathy becomes eroded as video games condition society to believe/accept violence is entertainment. Video games sales reach $46.2 billion in 2008 with the US military, psychologists and Coke executives playing pivotal roles in design, marketing and funding. Gambling brings in $92 billion in 2007. In 2009, US communications and media spending alone top $890 billion – AOL Time Warner, Viacom, General Electric, Disney and Rupert Murdoch’s NewsGroup control almost all of it. Yet, we have no money for clean, safe, renewable energy sources to save humanity. We have no money to feed our children healthy food – all while gluttony reins. Like the planet’s failing carbon sinks, our minds are failing our collective past ability to absorb information, filter it and then emit clarity to improve our collective existence. Today our minds simply take in the pollution and regurgitate the pollution – what we give back, like the failing carbon sinks, will eventually kill us.

In the meantime, governments and corporations are very quietly at work tapping into the most dangerous aspect of climate change, which no one speaks of – the methane hydrates.

Methane’s Warming Potential

Methane is a powerful greenhouse gas, approximately 23 times more powerful than CO2 over the long term (100 years). In the short term (10 years), methane is 72 to 100 times more powerful than CO2. [3]

Over a long period, methane’s impact appears less threatening than CO2. However, over a short period from its release, methane’s impact is dramatic. In the first five years after its release, methane’s impact is more than 100 times as potent as carbon dioxide. In the absence of OH (hydroxyl radicals) to oxidize methane, much methane could persist locally with its full global warming potential for years, causing a dramatic greenhouse effect and thus warming locally. A recent study shows that increases in global methane emissions have caused a 26% OH decrease. This coupled with other feedback mechanisms, many of which are now operational, can dramatically amplify local warming in the Arctic, causing large-scale thawing and melting over a period of years, rather than centuries. Arctic amplification is for the most part overlooked by the IPCC which uses a period of a century to calculate methane’s impact. [Carana, Sam. The Threat of Methane Release from Permafrost and Clathrates: How important is hydroxyl depletion? 2010 Mar 10.]

Below video: Methane hydrate formation and release. (2010 | 1:50). The instability is clearly demonstrated at the end of the video when the robot merely touches the hydrate.

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SiIqDLqY5TI&w=480&h=390]

Boiling Oceans

“Abrupt Planetary Catastrophic Global Warming. It’s happened before. We have the planet headed that way again.” – A November 2010 statement by the Geological Society of London regarding catastrophic climate change and methane hydrates

During the Paleocene-Eocene Thermal Maximum (PETM) extinction event that took place 55 million years ago, the oceans were warming just as they are today.

The 2001 documentary “The Day the Oceans Boiled” examined what was new evidence in 1999. [4] Scientists had discovered that the expected rise in global temperature in the near future could be only the start of a much greater increase. The evidence uncovered warned that our Earth’s temperature could rise by 20 degrees within the next three generations. The documentary follows scientists uncovering evidence for what caused massive, abrupt climate shifts that happened 55 million years ago. *This was the last time the Earth’s temperature accelerated quickly, causing many animals to shrink, with horses becoming the size of modern domestic cats. It took the planet 60,000 years to cool down again.

Sediment samples drilled from the ocean sea floor provide scientists with the ability to uncover what took place in our Earth’s history hundreds of millions of years ago. In 1999, Santo Bains of Oxford University’s Department of Earth Sciences was looking for clues as to what happened 55 million years ago during the Paleocene-Eocene. In particular, he was interested in one specific sediment core named core 690. Core 690 was to have the most detailed record of the Paleocene-Eocene climate change event. Bains took one sediment sample per centimeter of the entire core 690. Buried in the sludge along the bottom of the sea there are stories of the past. Within this sediment there are tiny sea creatures – deep-ocean microscopic foraminifera – that survived the asteroids that killed the dinosaurs. However, 55 million years ago, half of the tiny forams went extinct. Locked in their shells lies the story of why. As their shells were made of the carbon dioxide dissolved in the sea, their detailed composition revealed both the levels of CO2 in the atmosphere and the water temperature at the time of extinction. Bains dropped the tiny shells into acid, releasing the carbon dioxide that had last seen the atmosphere 55 million years ago.

Bains’s scientific analysis confirmed that at the time the mammals shrank, the atmospheric carbon levels had suddenly risen abruptly – causing a rapid warming of ocean waters. As he examined more samples, Bains discovered something extraordinary. There was not just one sudden rise in temperature. There were three. Temperatures accelerated dramatically in three succinct steps over a period of just a few of hundred years for a total temperature increase of approximately 8ºC. The rise in atmospheric carbon was just as dramatic. The jumps in Bains’s graph add up to one and a half trillion tonnes of carbon. His discovery was the first time this was recognized in the geological record. Where did all of the carbon come from? Methane hydrates are believed to be the only explanation. Methane hydrates quickly decomposed, releasing vast amounts of carbon into the oceans and into the atmosphere.

Bain’s research suggests that prior to the extinction, a massive release of methane caused a severe feedback, which then resulted in a second immense methane release. The second release caused an even greater amplifying effect, thereby causing a severe third release, which finally resulted in a runaway greenhouse event of mass extinction.

Methane hydrates have been formed over millions of years on the floor of our oceans and seas from decaying organic matter carried there by rivers. The methane takes the form of methane hydrates – methane gas frozen into lattices of ice (called clathrate [5]) that lie in ocean floor sediment off the continental coasts of our planet, storing massive amounts of carbon. When the frozen hydrates melt, 170 times the volume of methane gas comes bubbling out. The pressure only stays locked up if the pressure of the sea floor remains high and the temperature stays low. If this balance changes, the methane will quickly escape.

A more recent study in 2010 [6] uncovers that even though the Pliocene Epoch (5.3 to 2.6 million years ago) was approximately 19ºC warmer than today, CO2 levels were only slightly higher than they are now.

*In 2010, researchers from the University of Zϋrich found that more than 100 bird species have shrunk in size over the past half a century. Ary Hoffmann, evolutionary biologist at the University of Melbourne, says: “The surprise is that you’re seeing these consistent patterns across a large number of species.”

Above: A block of methane gas hydrate – the mud around the hydrate has recently been discovered by scientists to be teaming with life. [Discussed in part III]

Clathrate Gun Hypothesis

The clathrate gun hypothesis is the theory that rises in ocean temperature can trigger the sudden release of methane from the methane hydrates buried in seabeds and permafrost. Because methane is a powerful greenhouse gas, these releases would lead to feedbacks – further temperature rise and further methane clathrate destabilization – in effect initiating a runaway process as irreversible, once started, as the firing of a gun. In its original form, the hypothesis proposed that the “clathrate gun” could cause abrupt runaway warming in a timescale less than a human lifetime, and might be responsible for warming events in and at the end of the last ice age.

Methane Emergency

28 May 2008: The National Science Foundation issued an alarming press release largely ignored by mainstream corporate media. The report cautioned that methane release could cause abrupt, far-reaching climate change parallel to a catastrophic event of 635 million years ago – the ending of the last “snowball” ice age. The researchers believe that the catastrophic event was caused by the release of methane, which was released gradually at first and then very quickly from hydrates. When the ice sheets became unstable, they collapsed, releasing pressure on the hydrates, which then began to de-gas. Geologist Martin Kennedy of the University of California at Riverside (UCR), who led the research team, stated: “Our findings document an abrupt and catastrophic global warming that led from a very cold, seemingly stable climate state to a very warm, also stable, climate state – with no pause in between…. Once methane was released at low latitudes from destabilization in front of the ice sheets, warming caused other clathrates to destabilize…. Clathrates are held in a temperature-pressure balance of only a few degrees.” Kennedy further states that this trigger is a major concern, because it’s possible that very little warming could unleash our Earth’s trapped methane, which has been frozen for millions of years. Kennedy adds that uncovering the planet’s methane reservoir could potentially and rapidly warm our planet tens of degrees. ”Today we’re conducting a global-scale experiment with Earth’s climate system,” Kennedy says, “and witnessing an unprecedented rate of warming, all with little or no knowledge of what instabilities lurk in the climate system and how they can influence life on Earth…. Much the same experiment was done 635 million years ago, and the outcome is preserved in the geologic record. We see that strong forcing on the climate, not unlike the current carbon dioxide forcing, results in the activation of latent controls in the climate system that, once initiated, change climate to a completely different state.” The research team found the broadest range of oxygen isotopic variation ever reported from marine sediments, which they attribute to melting waters in ice sheets as well as destabilization of clathrates by glacial meltwater.

Video below: Year round methane bubbles create ice cavern (2010:0:30):

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fc2GH_6qEVY&w=480&h=390]

This is Not the Future – This is Today

March 2010: The National Science Foundation issues world a wake-up call: “Release of even a fraction of the methane stored in the shelf could trigger abrupt climate warming.” Research finds a key “lid” on “the large sub-sea permafrost carbon reservoir” near Eastern Siberia “is clearly perforated, and sedimentary CH4 [methane] is escaping to the atmosphere.”

The Arctic summer sea ice has now passed its tipping point to meltdown, having shifted to a new climate pattern where “normal” has become obsolete (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, 21 October 2010).

Our oceans are warming – and acidifying. In “The Day the Oceans Boiled” (2001), a satellite image captures what is thought to be a small plume of methane escaping from the Arctic ocean. Today, just over 3 years after the first official reports of venting hydrates, we now witness melting permafrost and leaking hydrates accelerating all over the world.

With the Cancún outcome supporting a catastrophic 2ºC threshold that climate scientists consider to be, at minimum, 4ºC in real life, how will an extinction event not be repeated? A 4ºC rise will ensure the disappearance of the Amazon rainforest adding further billions of tonnes of carbon to the atmosphere. Spontaneous releases of carbon 55 million years took global temperatures to a level perhaps 15 degrees higher than human beings have ever experienced – and we are in essence choosing to repeat the past. Yet we are doing so by way of anthropogenic carbon over a period of 200 years – versus 55 million years. This pace of change is unparalleled in Earth’s history. Insatiable corporate greed and the growth fetish virus have succeeded in setting the world on course for a series of events that will make this temperature rise inevitable.

Not in the future but today, the Arctic methane hydrate deposits are destabilizing, and if not re-stabilized will release vast amounts of methane into the atmosphere and add yet more acid to our oceans. The oceans will then become more acidified by dissolution of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. This scenario will lead to the end of virtually all life on Earth. Today, the rate of ocean acidification exceeds anything witnessed in the past 65 million years. The increasing acidity reduces the amounts of calcium carbonate available to plankton and other species that require it in order to form shells and skeletons. Charlie Veron, former chief scientist of the Australian Institute of Marine Science states that for our coral reefs, as acidification progresses, they will all suffer from some form of coralline osteoporosis. The result will be that corals will no longer be able to build reefs or maintain them against the forces of erosion. What were once thriving coral gardens that supported the greatest biodiversity of the marine realm will become red-black bacterial slime, and they will stay that way. If coral reefs fail, the rest will follow in rapid succession, and the Sixth Mass Extinction will be upon us — and will be of our making.” If we continue burning fossil fuels, this will further acidify the ocean to levels not witnessed in the past third of a billion years. Organisms with calcium carbonate skeletons will be hard pressed to survive.

Recently scientists discovered that plankton, the organism responsible for every other breath we take, has been decimated in a massive way. Studies show phytoplankton have died off more than 40% since 1950 and continue to do so at an accelerating rate. “This is an almost unprecedented geological event,” stated Andy Ridgwell, an earth scientist at the University of Bristol. Phytoplankton account for half of all photosynthetic activity on Earth. Thus phytoplankton are responsible for much of the oxygen present in the Earth’s atmosphere – half of the total amount produced by all plant life. Climate scientist James Hansen warns that humanity is putting carbon dioxide into the atmosphere today at a rate that is 10,000 times higher than the rate during the extinction event of 55 million years ago.

Above image illustrates the vulnerability of the Amazon rain forest and the Arctic. The Met study concludes that, by the end of the century, the Arctic could warm by up to 27°F (15.2°C) for a high-emissions scenario, enhanced by melting of snow and ice causing more of the Sun’s radiation to be absorbed.

Prior to the Cancún climate talks, Nobel Physicist and US Energy Secretary Steven Chu warned of potential runaway feedback, expressing that many scientists view this as a distinct possibility:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oHqKxWvcBdg

Hansen | The Venus Syndrome

“Two degrees Celsius is guaranteed disaster,” says Hansen scornfully. “It is equivalent to the early Pliocene epoch when the sea level was 25m higher.” - 4 January 2011

James Hansen, chief climate scientist at NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies, posits a possible future Earth in which a “runaway greenhouse effect” takes over. Anthropogenic global warming from greenhouse gases causes a massive increase of water vapor into the atmosphere as the heated oceans evaporate, which in turn causes further warming. Hansen (along with many other scientists from several disciplines) believes that methane hydrates played a crucial role in the largest mass extinction, the “end-Permian” event 251 million years ago.

Hansen: “The paleoclimate record does not provide a case with a climate forcing of the magnitude and speed that will occur if fossil fuels are all burned. Models are nowhere near the stage at which they can predict reliably when major ice sheet disintegration will begin. Nor can we say how close we are to methane hydrate instability. But these are questions of when, not if. If we burn all the fossil fuels, the ice sheets almost surely will melt entirely, with the final sea level rise about 75 meters (250 feet), with most of that possibly occurring within a time scale of centuries. Methane hydrates are likely to be more extensive and vulnerable now than they were in the early Cenozoic. It is difficult to imagine how the methane clathrates could survive, once the ocean has had time to warm. In that event a PETM-like warming could be added on top of the fossil fuel warming. After the ice is gone, would Earth proceed to the Venus syndrome, a runaway greenhouse effect that would destroy all life on the planet, perhaps permanently? While that is difficult to say based on present information, I’ve come to conclude that if we burn all reserves of oil, gas, and coal, there is a substantial chance we will initiate the runaway greenhouse. If we also burn the tar sands and tar shale, I believe the Venus syndrome is a dead certainty.”

Melting Permafrost

“Concerning permafrost there is – as with many other systems affected by global warming – a point of no return. Once we are beyond that point, the development can’t be stopped anymore. Permafrost is a slow system: The area is warming relatively slowly, but once it has started to melt, it goes fast. – Johann Stötter, geographer at the University of Innsbruck, head of the COMET K1 alpS – Centre for Climate Change Adaptation Technologies

“Warmer temperatures at high latitudes are already resulting in unprecedented permafrost degradation …Projections show that almost all near-surface permafrost will  by the end of this century exposing large carbon stores to decomposition and release of greenhouse gases.” – Dr. Pep Canadell, Executive Director of the Global Carbon Project at CSIRO (Australia’s Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization)

Permafrost is the vital component that has kept deadly methane safely locked away in methane hydrates for millions of years. It has been melting and continues to melt at an unprecedented and accelerating rate. The methane “vaults” (seeing as methane hydrates have become Pandora’s box) are now being eyed foolishly by corporations and states as the greatest climate wealth opportunity. Ever.

Although the rate of permafrost thaw will likely triple (NCAR study), with the Arctic permafrost disappearing almost completely (90%) this century, no IPPC climate model currently incorporates the amplifying feedback from methane released by a defrosting tundra. [7] Leading scientist Shakhova and colleagues estimate that roughly eight million tons of methane are now leaking into the atmosphere each year from the East Siberia Sea. Since 1992 it has been recognized that the shallow Arctic methane hydrates would be subject to melting by global warming, releasing methane gas into the atmosphere. [8]

Permafrost currently stores more than double the amount of all carbon in the atmosphere. Will our governments stop counting their GDP numbers long enough to comprehend the simple fact that there is absolutely no way we can possibly refreeze melting permafrost and the hydrates that are further deteriorating as I write? With the exception of Bolivia, the answer is no. Our governments were bought and sold long ago. We are on our own.

Arctic temperatures are rising 4 times faster than the global average. 50% of the permanent sea, ice that has existed for 64 million years, has disappeared since 1980. NASA predicts that the Arctic ice sheet will be gone by 2030. Others predict the Arctic Sea ice will disappear completely by as early as 2013. The loss of polar sea ice will further melt the Russian and Alaskan tundra. The release of tundra methane hydrates has the potential to double total atmospheric GHG emissions, adding 6,000 billion tonnes of CO2equivalent. By contrast, the total of atmospheric CO2 is projected to be 386 billion tonnes by 2030.

Permafrost serves as nature’s “cement” holding our “foundations” intact … a glue that holds steep mountain slopes together. Its degradation leads to not only venting hydrates, but to hazards such as falling rocks, “drunken” forests, landslides, broken pipelines, collapsing buildings and buckled highways like what we see happening already in the Arctic. Melting permafrost in northern Russia could lead to radioactive leaks from storage facilities and presents deadly scenarios for the  radioactive dump-sites on Novaya Zemlya, a former nuclear weapons testing range. More than half of Alaska’s surface, including its water, sits on permafrost. “The stability of Arctic ecosystems depends on the ice that holds them together,” according to University of Alaska–Fairbanks (UAF) permafrost scientist Vladimir Romanovsky.

According to scientists, such permafrost melting does not constitute a gradual change – it is a phase change, meaning that the ecosystem in such areas could be shifting within just a few years to an entirely different ecosystem. Scientist Dave Klein (UAF) explains, “So you could likely have a rapid transition from boreal forest to a grassland savannah, with groups of trees scattered around.” Permafrost, like the Boreal Forest, like peat, all former carbon sinks, have become carbon emitters, because we have failed to act. In Canada, our permafrost has moved north 80 miles in the past 50 years. In 2006 scientists announced that nearly 90 per cent of the permafrost in Arctic soils could melt in the coming century.

Consider this: if only 10% of the permafrost melts, scientists state that this will release enough carbon into the atmosphere to add a further 0.7°C of warming in addition to our current 0.8ºC of warming. This 10% melt consequence will be equivalent to all the warming that has already taken place since the beginning of the industrial age. Permafrost melt, even without methane hydrates destabilizing, could easily cause our planet to pass the tipping point where future melting becomes irreversible. If an additional 0.7°C is the result of 10% of permafrost melt, imagine what will happen if it all melts. And imagine, if you can, what will happen when the existing venting methane hydrates (below the currently frozen permafrost), already destabilizing at today’s temperatures, rapidly release the gases that have been locked up for 65 million years.

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YegdEOSQotE&w=640&h=390]

Brief Timeline on Venting Methane Hydrates

7 September 2006: As the permafrost melts in North Siberia due to climate change, carbon sequestered and buried there since the Pleistocene era is bubbling up to the surface of Siberian thaw lakes and into the atmosphere as methane, a greenhouse gas 20 times more potent than carbon dioxide.

8 September 2006: Frozen bubbles in Siberian lakes are releasing methane, a greenhouse gas, at rates that appear to be “… five times higher than previously estimated” and acting as a positive feedback to climate warming.

17 September 2007: Lakes Boiling With Methane Discovered In Alaska.

26 October 2007: A team of scientists has identified a new likely source of a spike in atmospheric methane coming out of the North during the end of the last ice age.

April 2008: A Storehouse of Greenhouse Gases Is Opening in Siberia. It’s always been a disturbing what-if scenario for climate researchers: Gas hydrates stored in the Arctic ocean floor – hard clumps of ice and methane, conserved by freezing temperatures and high pressure – could grow unstable and release massive amounts of methane into the atmosphere. Until now this idea was mostly academic; scientists had warned that such a thing could happen. Now it seems more likely that it will.

April 2008: NOAA – Carbon Dioxide, Methane Rise Sharply in 2007.

10 June 2008: Permafrost Threatened by Rapid Retreat of Arctic Sea Ice, NCAR Study Finds

23 September 2008: Exclusive: The methane time bomb: Arctic scientists discover new global warming threat as melting permafrost releases millions of tons of a gas 20 times more damaging than carbon dioxide

25 September 2008: Hundreds of methane ‘plumes’ discovered. British scientists have discovered hundreds more methane ‘plumes’ bubbling up from the Arctic seabed, in an area to the west of the Norwegian island of Svalbard. It is the second time in a week that scientists have reported methane emissions from the Arctic.

March 2009: A sleeping giant? “These deposits rival fossil fuels in terms of their size. It’s like having a whole additional supply of coal, oil and natural gas out there that we can’t control.” A temperature rise of as little as 1°C at the sea floor could dissolve shallow subsea clathrates. If temperatures in the deep ocean were to rise by about 3°C, nearly a trillion tonnes of carbon could be released from subsea clathrates.

1 July 2009: “The research shows that the amount of carbon stored in soils surrounding the North Pole has been hugely underestimated….Warmer temperatures at high latitudes are already resulting in unprecedented permafrost degradation…. Projections show that almost all near-surface permafrost will disappear by the end of this century exposing large carbon stores to decomposition and release of greenhouse gases.”

September 2009: Methane gas likely spewing into the oceans through vents in sea floor. [In this video University of Alaska Fairbanks scientist Natalia Shakhova discusses the East Siberian Arctic Shelf area:

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eD8hU-lbqpE&w=640&h=390]

September 2010: Nevada researchers find receding permafrost in Siberian Arctic: “We see the permafrost receding hundreds of yards each year, and the ancient carbon from Pleistocene era plants and animals being unleashed into the air, soil and water.”

August 2010: Frozen CO2, methane a time bomb: experts – Massive volumes of carbon dioxide and methane frozen in the earth’s soils are a “time-bomb ticking under our feet,” soil scientists say.

September 2010: A ticking time bomb in Siberian marshes. ”The fact is that the permafrost covers millions of kilometers of swamps. While melting, swamps send to the atmosphere tons of methane, which, in turn, leads to more significant changes in the climate. In the pseudoscientific press, this process has already received the name “methane bomb” and “methane flywheel.”

November 2010: “Abrupt Planetary Catastrophic Global Warming. It’s happened before. We have the planet headed that way again.” A statement by the Geological Society of London regarding catastrophic climate and methane hydrates.

22 November 2010: Siberian Methane Marks Climate Tipping Point: “Yet awareness of methane leaks from permafrost is so new that it was not even mentioned in the seminal 2007 report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, which warned of rising sea levels inundating coastal cities, dramatic shifts in rainfall disrupting agriculture and drinking water, the spread of diseases and the extinction of species.”

So why do states and “co-opted green” greens continue to stay silent on declaring a global planetary emergency, called for by esteemed climate scientists John Holdren and James Hansen since 2006 and 2008 respectively? [9] The answer is always the same. Just follow the money.

Our world is securely on the path to global methane hell.

This is not the future – this is now.

We may be doomed if we face the truth but we are certainly doomed if we do not.

Next: Part II:

  • Post Cancún: North America. The New Energy Kingdom
  • NASA Has Known All Along
  • Blinded by Addiction: Methane Hydrates – The Oil of the Future
  • Brief Timeline | Halliburton, ChevronTexaco, BP, Shell, Exxon Mobil and Friends
  • US Department of Defense
  • Warnings
  • UNEP Climbs in Bed with Shell and EDF Energy
  • Burn Baby Burn
  • Naïveté is Deadly
  • Yes, Virginia – There is a Santa Claus | BP, A&M University and Corporate Media

Cory Morningstar is climate justice activist whose recent writings can be found on Canadians for Action on Climate Change and The Art of Annihilation site where you can read her bio. You can follow her on Twitter: @elleprovocateur

References:

[1] It’s a fine day for bananafish – by JD Salinger | http://www.miguelmllop.com/stories/stories/bananafish.pdf

[2] The statistics are truly staggering. According to compiled numbers from respected news and research organizations, every second, $3,075.64 is being spent on pornography. Every second, 28,258 internet users are viewing pornography. In that same second, 372 internet users are typing adult search terms into search engines. Every 39 minutes, a new pornographic video is being created in the United States. It’s big business. The pornography industry has larger revenues than Microsoft, Google, Amazon, eBay, Yahoo, Apple and Netflix combined. 2006 Worldwide Pornography Revenues ballooned to $97.06 billion.

[3] Over a 20-year period methane’s GWP will be 72, while over a 100-year period its GWP will be 21, and over a 500-year period, its GWP will be 7.6. In AR4, the IPCC upgraded methane’s GWP to 25 over a 100-year period.

[4] Documentary – The Day the Oceans Boiled | http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iDBt07skLbQ

[5] Clathrate is derived from the Latin word for cage. Methane hydrates consist of molecules of methane trapped in cages of H20. Typically, six water molecules surround a single methane molecule, and many of those cages linked together form a crystal.

[6] Funded by the National Science Foundation, the Natural Science and Engineering Research Council in Canada, the Netherlands Organization for Scientific Research, and the European Research Council.

[7] U.S. Geological Survey Marine and Coastal Geology Program, Gas (Methane) Hydrates – A New Frontier, September 1992.

[8] According to another study by David Lawrence, this means that the rate of permafrost thaw will likely triple.

[9] John Holdren on 3 November 2006: “Climate change is coming at us faster, with larger impacts and bigger risks, than even most climate scientists expected as recently as a few years ago. The stated goal of the UNFCCC – avoiding dangerous anthropogenic interference in the climate – is in fact unattainable, because today we are already experiencing dangerous anthropogenic interference. The real question now is whether we can still avoid catastrophic anthro-pogenic interference in climate. There is no guarantee that catastrophe can be avoided even we start taking serious evasive action immediately; But it’s increasingly clear that the current level of anthropogenic interference is dangerous: Significant impacts in terms of floods, droughts, wildfires, species, melting ice already evident at ~0.8°C above pre-industrial Tavg. Current GHG concentrations commit us to 0.6°C more.” Holdren is advisor to President Barack Obama for Science and Technology, Director of the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy, and Co-Chair of the President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology.

Further Reading:

A Killer in Our Midst | http://www.killerinourmidst.com/

Only Zero Carbon | http://www.onlyzerocarbon.org/

Videos:

Media Education Foundation | http://www.mediaed.org/

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