Arctic thaw raises stakes

29 Nov, 2012 07:19 AM

THE massive release of methane and other gases from the Arctic will make it tougher to meet human greenhouse gas cuts, but the scale of the problem will still be determined by how much fossil fuel is burned by humans over coming decades, scientists say.

A UN report issued at climate change negotiations in Doha, Qatar, found that human greenhouse gas emissions were triggering the Arctic thaw. ''The picture isn't completely dire though - this isn't an all-or-nothing scenario,'' said Ben Abbott, a scientist working on permafrost melt at the University of Alaska.

''The take-home message to me from those numbers is that we can still make a difference if we are able to limit fossil fuel carbon emissions.''

The amount of greenhouse gases that are likely to be released from the Arctic melt this century is still uncertain. The UN report looked at a range of scenarios that would put between 43 and 135 billion tonnes of extra carbon dioxide from the Arctic into the air this century.

''Based on these ranges, you would have potentially anywhere between 3.8 per cent and 12.3 per cent more carbon being put into the atmosphere, on top of all the other sources that are emitted,'' said Pep Canadell, a CSIRO scientist and executive director of the Global Carbon Project, which tallies up CO2 emissions.

Using the most conservative figures, Dr Canadell calculated that, if the cost of abating these extra emissions was set according to the current Australian price of $23 per tonne, the process of trying to negate the Arctic emissions would be about $35 billion.

On current trends, the UN goal of trying to hold global warming to two degrees, by limiting the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere to 450 parts per million, will be missed by a wide margin.

The federal government's official position at the Doha negotiations is to support the development of a global response to climate change, consistent with Australia's national interest, to hold temperature rises to two degrees.

Asked if it would take account of the new rates of permafrost emissions in its planned emissions cuts, a spokeswoman for the Climate Change Minister, Greg Combet, said the Climate Change Authority would take it into account when it starts operating in 2014.

The government currently intends to cut emissions, with the help of the carbon price, to 5 per cent below their levels in the year 2000 over the next eight years. Its 2020 target would only be made more ambitious if other developed countries like the US, Canada and Europe commit to emissions cuts on the same level, as part of a legally binding global agreement.

The opposition's position is the same as the government's minimum commitment - to cut Australia's greenhouse emissions to 5 per cent below their 2000 levels by the year 2020.

''The thawing of the permafrost is extremely concerning and highlights the importance of achieving real action on reducing emissions,'' said the Coalition's climate spokesman, Greg Hunt.

Asked if the Coalition would be in favour of deeper cuts in light of new scientific developments, he said it would not.

The Greens want much deeper cuts, of 25 to 40 per cent by 2020, to set Australia up for being ''carbon neutral'' by the year 2050.

This is roughly in line with the trajectory outlined by the International Energy Agency, and other groups that track global carbon emissions.

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Ian Mott
29/11/2012 10:43:48 AM

As this was a UN funded McResearch we know that no probability of occurrence has been attached to any of the listed scare-narios. They just pluck some stories out of their backsides and run with it. Meanwhile, the Russian experts in permafrost have consistently and comprehensively debunked the whole scam. They pointed out such inconvenient facts like the observed cyclical nature of such thaws and the fact that the studies assume that the entire depth of permafrost will release methane and CO2 when only very minor surface profiles will thaw, and only during the brief arctic summers.
Bill Pounder
29/11/2012 12:08:58 PM

Oh! Here's an inconvenient undeniable truth. Observe the polar ocean temperatures. Both the Arctic & Antarctic waters are at -2C. /sfc_daily.php?plot=ssd&inv=0&t=c ur&inv=0 Further, the current sea surface temperature anomaly image shows considerable coolness, especially in the polar regions & especially in the Pacific which indicates a tendency towards La Nina. /sfc_daily.php?plot=ssa&inv=0&t=c ur So who's taking warming bets? Bushie the Brave? nico the nobody?
Boonah Bob
29/11/2012 12:26:12 PM

It has been hotter and colder, wetter and dryer before. These so called scientists neglect to tell us and push the most popular barrow of the day. Our stupid politicians run with it and fork out heaps of our taxpayer dollars for something that is most times a load of crap.
Bill Pounder
29/11/2012 6:27:43 PM

More inconvenient truths, for the next two weeks most of Alaska & Canada to hit -25C, T-shirt territory, lucky the cloud berries are good for -40C, can't have them sinking into the permafrost, like. Fairbanks, Alaska, canary in the coalmine, ark, ark, ark! -30.4C (night time there). /Fairbanks.html Doh!a Warmists accept oil money hospitality, now compromised and on the take. Please explain.
Ian Mott
29/11/2012 6:55:27 PM

Worst of all it is just another recycling of the same old "big fart" theory that never stacked up under proper scrutiny.
Bushie Bill
30/11/2012 10:57:33 AM

Interesting you should be talking about an "old big fart", Mutt. Truth finally dawning?
30/11/2012 12:18:05 PM

Again! Mounder, did you actually look at the maps which you cite? Pott seems unable to give any reference for his bizarre claims. Where does he get his (mis-) information? No one denies natural and regional variability. No one denies seasons - it's cold, in winter, near the North Pole. But only denialists deny the observed and measured fact that the globe is accumulating warmth. See: bal/2012/10
Ian Mott
1/12/2012 11:02:40 AM

Coldest UK winter for a hundred years, fastest Arctic refreeze since satellite records beagan, greatest Antarctic sea ice on record, and 16 years of flat global temperature trend. So where, exactly is this "warmth" accumulating, sico? In your feeble brain, thats where.
Ian Mott
3/12/2012 10:50:22 AM

Sico, 1/permafrost-far-more-stable-than -claimed-german-expert-calls-dang er-of-it-thawing-out-utter-imbici lity/ Thats "absolute imbecility", sico, the view of experts in permafrost on the latest climate beat-up.
Bill Pounder
3/12/2012 11:16:35 AM

Yeah, I looked at the maps, did you? Meanwhile, 1910, New York-Paris rally: "Another danger that threatens them is that they may be delayed .. on the way, so that summer overtakes them, in which case they will run grave risk of being engulfed, together with their machines, in the thawing tundra." rticle/66386801 & 1880 "The Tundras .. along the border of the Arctic .. are of the dreariest description, covered with ice and snow in winter, and in summer metamorphosed into mosquito-haunted marshes." rticle/95042351 Yawn.
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