World on edge of disaster

28 Nov, 2012 06:59 AM

THE world is on the cusp of a ''tipping point'' into dangerous climate change, scientists measuring methane leaking from the Arctic permafrost and a report to the United Nations have warned.

Independent lines of evidence now show that human greenhouse gas emissions are warming the Arctic and triggering the release of more methane, carbon dioxide and other gases.

''The permafrost carbon feedback is irreversible on human time scales,'' says the report, Policy Implications of Warming Permafrost. ''Overall, these observations indicate that large-scale thawing of permafrost may already have started.''

The report's researchers led by Kevin Schaefer, of the University of Colorado, summarised recent permafrost research and found that even if humans made deep cuts to their greenhouse gas emissions, the thaw would go on for centuries, increasing global warming. "Anthropogenic emissions targets in the climate change treaty need to account for these emissions or we risk overshooting the 2 degrees Celsius maximum warming target," Professor Schaefer said.

The findings are buttressed by other research in the air and on the ground in the Arctic.

A NASA expedition in Alaska is measuring the methane and carbon dioxide filtering out of the thawing permafrost as frozen organic matter warms up and begins to decay. ''We're finding very, very interesting changes, particularly in terms of methane concentrations,'' the expedition's principal investigator, Charles Miller, told Fairfax Media.

''We're seeing biological activity in various places in Alaska that's much more active than I would have expected, and also much more variable from place to place. There are changes as much as 10 to 12 parts per million for CO2 - so that's telling us that the local biology is doing something like five or six years' worth of change in the space of a few hundred metres.''

Researchers at the University of Alaska agreed it was now clear a massive thaw was under way.

The extra emissions are not accounted for in the Kyoto Protocol agreement that some nations, including Australia, are using as a guide for their greenhouse gas cuts.

''It's a significant problem in the carbon budget,'' said Pep Canadell, a CSIRO scientist and executive director of the Global Carbon Project. He calculated, using data in Professor Schaefer's report, that the extra greenhouse gases would cost an extra $35 billion to abate if they were valued under the federal government's $23-per-tonne carbon price.

UN Environment Program executive director Achim Steiner called on nations to cut fossil fuel emissions faster and start accounting for permafrost emissions.

"Permafrost is one of the keys to the planet's future because it contains large stores of frozen organic matter that, if thawed and released into the atmosphere, would amplify current global warming and propel us to a warmer world," he said.

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Ian Mott
28/11/2012 10:32:00 AM

Yet more moronic alarmism from the climate plodders. The permafrost is many metres deep while the CO2 that is supposedly warming the atmosphere is only in contact with the uppermost 5 millimetres. And last time I checked the Arctic summer is still only 6 weeks duration. The Russian experts on permafrost have already labelled this methane bull$#it as a complete fantasy. But work it out for yourself. If surface melting of permafrost is impacting on two hundred metres of latitude every 5 years then we are only looking at a thin band of 2km every 50 years over 1000km of latitude.
Bill Pounder
28/11/2012 11:51:22 AM

In all of Earff's history there has never been a tipping point. Berkeley Earth sees fit to publish a graph incorporating volcanic activity into the temperature trend from 1750 to now, conveniently brushing aside the fact that 1650 was the depths of the Little Ice Age (LIA). So, any warming shown is just the flip side of the temperature descent of the Medieval Warm Period (MWP)into those same depths of the LIA. s/ Further, basics suggest that should there be a permafrost retreat, the resulting increase in vegetation will counter any CO2 increase.
Bill Pounder
28/11/2012 2:11:17 PM

Canada - the wedge of disaster. "..radiocarbon-dated bowhead whale remains indicate... whales were able to range along the length of the (NW) Passage during two intervals (centered on 9000 years ago and 1000 years ago) and that they were able to access the central part from the east about 4000 years ago." Which suggests temps of 3C to 1C higher than today. nces/climate-change/landscape-eco system/paleo-environmental/3947 Conclusion, modern Arctic warming is not unusual Vs previous warmings and that the Arctic has been ice free, in summer, before.
Bill Pounder
28/11/2012 2:23:54 PM

From Russia: "..conifers have not yet recolonized many areas where trees were present during the Medieval Warm period (ca AD 800–1300) or the Holocene Thermal Maximum (HTM; ca 10 000–3000 years ago)." rticles/PMC2606780/ There. That covers both sides of the Arctic. Only a plodder won't grasp the significance of this. Ben?
28/11/2012 2:40:29 PM

The permafrost Report described by Ben Cubby is based on original research by the research team, and on five pages of references to scientific papers by researchers investigating the the probable consequences of permafrost thaw. But are we worried? No, of course not. That reliable comedy duo Pott and Mounder tell us - without reading the Report - that it's just "moronic alarmism". Why? Because it conflicts with their fixed ideological stance. And where does Pott get his nonsensical information?
28/11/2012 3:06:19 PM

Temperatures rising, oceans rising, ice melting at both poles, permafrost melting, record breaking storms, droughts and floods. Looks to me like Mother Nature has joined the conspiracy of the climate scientists. Bill, if this boost in vegetation occurs, it will follow, not balance CO2. Ian, the 200m is recent history, equivalent to the first few minutes of defrosting your fridge. The rate of melt grows as the volume of ice reduces, even without an increase in temp.
Bushie Bill
28/11/2012 4:46:17 PM

I could tell you, nico, but the Moderator, in his/her wisdom certainly would not let my post through. However, no matter; everyone, including Billy Boy himself, knows exactly where he pulls his information from.
john from tamworth
28/11/2012 10:03:05 PM

How predictable.Another gloom and doom report issued to coincide with a UN talk fest on climate change.How about the part where it is only going to cost us another $35billion a year in carbon tax to compensate for this.
Pro Freedom
29/11/2012 3:16:11 AM

OH, quick, let's do something! We've never had such dire warnings ever before!! We're dooooomed. Dooooomed....they say.
Bill Pounder
29/11/2012 9:14:25 AM

Bummer, wedgie for BB & bg: "..observed increase in temp. does not lead to a destabilization of methane-bearing subsea permafrost or to an increase in methane emission. The CH4 supersaturation, recently reported from the eastern Siberian shelf, is believed to be the result of the degradation of subsea permafrost that is due to the long-lasting warming initiated by permafrost submergence about 8000 yrs ago rather than from those triggered by recent Arctic climate changes." 2011/2011JC007218.shtml Not hot! Ojmjakon, Russia, -32C @
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