Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Talk... or action?

The methane time bomb

Whatever your climate change combo of choice (man-made, nature only, etc), I would imagine few would argue that methane being released is not a good thing.
Now... is this rather serious, and relatively immediate concern going to be tackled directly, with thought and deed, or will it just get rolled into the ongoing, endless debate about 'global warming' and calls to devote money (in large amounts) to combat 'it'? And oodles on 'awareness', of course.

As with the logic of not cutting down trees (ok, it is inaction, but still counts) that surrounds deforestation as part of the totality, I rather feel this little scenario rather deserves some thought perhaps not so much on stopping it (which seems unlikely as any global fix is still being discussed endlessly) by dealing with it.

No idea how, even if it is possible. But if we can cover half the Atlantic in plastic maybe that's an avenue for here, with a a hole connected to a pipe to capture and then use it.

(Sadly the replies to the theme have tended to fall into the 't'is/t'isn't' camp already.)

I didn't have space to raise the point in more detail, but by way of contradiction/devil's advocacy there is also the need to understand the problem more, or at least to the point that addresses the enviro vs. ecomomic challenges. Still huge, but maybe more manageable than dealing with the whole planet.

Indy - The ultimate gas leak that scientists have long dreaded

Indy Letters - NEW - Methane threat to the climate

In the article "The methane time bomb" (23 September), the common misconception is reiterated that methane is "a greenhouse gas 20 times more potent than carbon dioxide". In fact the situation is worse than this, and methane is actually around 100 times more potent than CO2.

If equal masses, say one tonne each, of CH4 and CO2 were emitted simultaneously into the atmosphere, over 100 years the effect of methane would be 20 times that of CO2, 60 times over 20 years but 100 times when their warming potential is compared directly. If both methane and CO2 are being emitted continually, rather than as one-off events, the factor of 100 is the more salient.

Thus, alarming though the tale of the melting permafrost is, as told, its consequences may prove far worse. Runaway melting of permafrost will almost certainly cause a steady or accelerated release of methane over decades, and so climate models will need to be compensated.

Professor Chris Rhodes

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