… and they were told

24th February, 2010 - Posted by admin - Comments Off

In August 2008 the Climate Change Committe were asked:

13. Climate modelling and Methane from Siberia

One concern underlying question 1 was that methane from the Siberian tundra had not been incorporated in the Hadley Centre’s Earth Systems models. These models were an important feature of IPCC AR4. I now have a communication from Professor Wadhams indicating that clatherates are releasing methane from the sea off Eastern Siberia. He says:

” I have been very slow in answering your message! My excuse is that I was away in the Arctic. The US study of accelerated warming within 1000 miles of the coastline of an Arctic Ocean where the sea ice is retreating is, I think, a sound piece of science. It is very worrying because here we seem to have a multiple positive feedback: global warming causes sea ice to retreat; retreating sea ice enhances the warming rate on land in the Arctic; this causes permafrost to melt more rapidly; this releases methane which is a powerful greenhouse gas. Already there is a paper in press by a group at University of Alaska which has measured plumes of methane rising from melted underwater permafrost in the East Siberian Sea, so the process of methane release is already under way.

This and many other factors seems to always come down to the same thing: change is happening faster than our predictions, because our predictions are based on imperfect knowledge of the physics and chemistry, and we unfortunately find that increasing knowledge is always leading to the discovery of new positive feedback loops rather than negative ones.

My fear is that we have already gone too far. Unthinkingly we have put so much CO2 into the atmosphere that it has initiated a rapidly accelerating warming which will go on now whatever we do to cut down our emissions, because of the persistence time of decades that CO2 has in the earth system. This doesn’t look good, and the fact that in reality, for all the talk, no serious concrete action has been taken by anyone to cut down on CO2 emissions, leaves me feeling very pessimistic about the future of our planet. ”

QUESTION 13: Is Professor Wadhams correct?
Is it too late to stop dangerous climate change?

Posted on: February 24, 2010

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