Archive for May, 2011

Radley Balko at Reason Magazine interviews Stewart Rhodes ex-Ron Paul staffer and founder of "Oath Keepers", a group trying to train military and police in the Bill of Rights

May 8th, 2011 No comments

I have earlier commented on the interesting Oath Keepers group. I hope everyone will take a good read through the entire interview of Stewart Rhodes by Radley Balko at Reason Magazine, and give their support to Rhodes, Oath Keepers and others trying to keep the military and police honest.

Here are the first few paragraphs that lead into the interview, and a few other portions of interest to me (emphasis mine)

When you run down the list of issues the Oath Keepers are worried about, it reads a lot like a bill of particulars from the American Civil Liberties Union. The Oath Keepers don’t like warrantless searches. They’re upset that the executive branch has claimed the power to classify American citizens as enemy combatants, detain them indefinitely, and try them before military tribunals. They worry that a large-scale terrorist attack similar to 9/11 could lead to the mass detention of Arabs or Muslims, just as Japanese Americans were detained during World War II. They worry about crackdowns on political speech, protest, and freedom of assembly. They are concerned about the Army 3rd Infantry’s 1st Brigade Combat Team, a military unit that is training to deploy domestically in response to terrorist attacks or other national emergencies. And yet the group is a frequent target of the left.

Oath Keepers was founded in 2009 by Stewart Rhodes, a Yale Law School graduate and a former staffer for Rep. Ron Paul (R-Texas). Rhodes, 44, considers himself a constitutionalist and a libertarian. His organization’s mission: to persuade America’s soldiers and cops to refuse to carry out orders that violate the Constitution. On its website, Oath Keepers lists 10 orders its members will always refuse, including commands to conduct warrantless searches, to disarm the public, blockade an American city, or do anything that infringes “on the right of the people to free speech, to peaceably assemble, and to petition their government for a redress of grievances.” According to Rhodes, the group has about 30,000 dues-paying members.

Unlike the ACLU, the Oath Keepers are staunch defenders of the Second Amendment. They worry about the forcible disarming of American citizens, as happened after Hurricane Katrina, and as they fear could happen again after another terrorist attack or major natural disaster. The Oath Keepers are also federalists, vowing to disobey orders that violate state sovereignty. Most of their members are conservative or libertarian. Some of them espouse conspiracy theories that doubt President Barack Obama’s citizenship or blame the federal government for the September 11 attacks.

These latter positions have drawn suspicion and, at times, outright contempt from liberal groups such as the Southern Poverty Law Center, which lumps Oath Keepers in with militias and hate groups. (The Oath Keepers also have been denounced by some prominent conservatives, including Bill O’Reilly and Michelle Malkin.) Last year Mother Jones accused the organization of promoting treason.

Senior Editor Radley Balko spoke with Stewart Rhodes about these criticisms and more in January.

reason: What is the purpose of Oath Keepers?

Stewart Rhodes: The mission of Oath Keepers is to persuade the guys with the guns not to violate the Constitution. I look at it as constitutional triage. I worked for a congressman; I’ve worked with judges. And it seems clear to me that judges and politicians don’t really care about our rights that the Constitution is supposed to protect. So I’m focusing on the guys with the guns, the ones who ultimately enforce the laws, on educating them about the Constitution. I think most of them are honorable people, but there’s an ethos, especially in the officer corps in the military, that focuses on following orders. It’s almost as if they’re taking the oath to uphold the Constitution to mean that you should categorically defer to the president. Now I think civilian authority is important, but if the president asks the military to do something that isn’t constitutional, their loyalty is to the Constitution, not the president. 

In the police context, some have the mistaken idea that you’re always to enforce the law—leave it up to the politicians, lawyers, and judges to figure out what’s right and what’s wrong after the fact. That’s not what the Founders intended, and that’s not what the Constitution calls for. So the point of Oath Keepers is to remind the military and law enforcement that they are supposed to be thinking about the Constitution, and especially the Bill of Rights, and they need to be thinking about the lawfulness of the orders they’re given. And they actually have a duty to refuse when it’s unlawful or violates fundamental human rights. The military has learned this overseas, with the Nuremberg trials, with My Lai, with Abu Ghraib. And they get training in the laws of war, so they know when to refuse unlawful orders in the context of a foreign battlefield. 

But cops get very little training in the Bill of Rights. And when the military is used domestically—as we saw with Katrina, and as we’re seeing more and more—they’re also now butting up against the rights of American citizens. They need to know what those rights are, and how they can be sure they don’t violate them. They’re not getting that training either. And I find that disturbing.  ….


reason: So are Oath Keepers encouraged to refuse to enforce federal drug laws? 

Rhodes: We try to focus on the sorts of issues that could fundamentally alter our constitutional system. So we’re focused right now on the big picture stuff, the sorts of orders that could lead to the imposition of martial law, for example. So that’s what our “Ten Orders We Will Not Obey” mostly address. But if a member asks, I’ll tell them point blank that the drug war is unconstitutional. Under the concept of enumerated powers, most criminal law should be left to the states. 

reason: Oath Keepers seems to be primarily focused on the federal government. But state and local governments are certainly capable of violating the Constitution. Do you think the 14th Amendment allows the federal government to intervene if, say, a local sheriff is violating the rights of the residents of his county? 

Rhodes: I don’t think it allows it; I think it compels it. But that’s not incompatible with the idea that the states should be left alone to make and enforce their own criminal laws. They should be free to do that. But if a state or local government isn’t respecting the Bill of Rights, then yes, the federal government should intervene and investigate. Take Sheriff Joe Arpaio in Arizona. I think he’s a terrible sheriff. And I think it’s really unfortunate that he’s held up as some kind of a hero in parts of the freedom community. He’s a constitutional disaster, a Bill of Rights disaster. So yes, in that case, you have a sheriff who’s violating due process and who’s violating the Eighth Amendment. There’s definitely a role for the federal government to come in and say no. …


reason: There’s one criticism of your group that’s similar to those directed at the Tea Parties. You’ve said that Bush was just as hostile to the Constitution as Obama has been, indeed that most of the worst executive power grabs began under Bush. So why did Oath Keepers spring up only after Obama took office?

Rhodes: I just hadn’t gotten the idea yet. I got the idea during the 2008 election campaign. I worked for Ron Paul during the primary, and when it became clear that he wasn’t going to get the nomination, I started to think about what I wanted to do next. And that’s when the idea came to me that I wanted to do something involving the military and the police. And that was no matter who became president. At the time we didn’t know if it would be McCain, Obama, or Hillary Clinton

But it’s true. All of this began or really started to get worse under Bush. That’s when you had this wave of unconstitutional federal power. In particular, I was worried about this claim that the president could detain American citizens as unlawful enemy combatants. A president who would make that claim assumes powers that could be used in so many other ways too. I wrote a paper on that issue while I was at Yale Law School, during the Bush administration, which actually won the Yale Prize for best paper on the Bill of Rights. I was an outspoken critic of Bush then. I had a blog at the time that was very critical of Bush and his assumption of unconstitutional powers. I called the neocons in the Bush administration “national security New Dealers.” They expanded the power of the federal government at least as much as the New Deal did, but they did it through the lens of national security. The warrantless spying was unconstitutional. The detention of José Padilla was unconstitutional. The detentions without trial were unconstitutional. Most of the new powers Bush claimed were unconstitutional. 

But now you have Obama, who has not only not renounced those powers but has expanded them. He also now claims the power to assassinate American citizens his administration deems enemy combatants with no oversight. That’s just frightening. 

At this point I do really wish I had started Oath Keepers during the Bush administration. It would have been a good test. My guess is that I’d have started with a lot of liberals joining up, and you’d have seen conservatives and neocons howling that I’m a traitor. I think it’s just human nature and the cycle of politics. When the left is in power, they forget about the Constitution because it limits what they can do. So they characterize people who stand by the Constitution as reactionary or dangerous. But when they were out of power, they were citing the Constitution all of the time.  …

reason: Do you have any leftists or left-libertarians in your membership? 

Rhodes: We have some, but they’re few and far between right now. I wish we had more. And I suspect that when we get a Republican president again, we’ll get more members who identify with the left. I do think more and more people are understanding that neither party has any fidelity to the Constitution, and you are starting to see some honest liberals and some honest conservatives who are more willing to criticize their own side while in power. I think you saw a lot of that in the Ron Paul campaign, where he ran on a platform that was very critical of his own party’s president. On the left, you’re seeing it now with people like Glenn Greenwald. I hope there’s more of that.  …


reason: Let’s talk about a conspiracy theory often batted around on the right that’s more aligned with your mission. Do you think the Obama administration is secretly planning to set up detention camps through the Federal Emergency Management Agency? 

Rhodes: Well, something like that has already happened. Look at the internment of Japanese Americans during World War II. That was done very quickly. All they had to do was string some wire up around old military barracks. So do I think there are detailed plans sitting in an office somewhere? I don’t know, but that really doesn’t matter. I’m concerned about the structures in place that could enable it to happen. So what I am concerned about is the creation of NORTHCOM, which for the first time in our history is a standing military command for the deployment of standing military troops domestically. That’s very dangerous.

And there is reason to worry about FEMA. From its start in the Reagan administration, FEMA was never just about emergency relief. It was about continuity of government, about governing during a disaster. The structures put in place by people like Cheney, Rumsfeld, and Oliver North during the Reagan administration, they contemplate the executive branch taking over all three branches of government during an emergency. I think that’s very dangerous. And we saw later the limitless power Cheney thought the executive should have to fight terrorism. FEMA has always been part of that. And you have things like Garden Plot, which are actual plans to impose martial law in the event of a civil disturbance. 

And remember that during the Bush years we saw prominent conservatives such as Michelle Malkin openly defend the internment of the Japanese Americans during World War II as being necessary—as though that would make it constitutional—with an eye toward doing the same thing with Muslim Americans. Malkin even wrote a book called In Defense of Internment.

So it isn’t really about whether President Obama has specific plans for that sort of thing. It’s about questioning the constitutionality of the structures in place that could allow it to happen, no matter who is president. And for us, it’s about making sure soldiers and police know that if they’re ever ordered to carry out something like the Japanese internment camps again, their duty is not to follow orders but to respect the constitutional rights of their fellow citizens.  ….


reason: The scenarios Oath Keepers are most worried about seem like those that are least likely to happen. If you’re worried about constitutional rights, wouldn’t you do more good to educate police officers about Bill of Rights violations like stop-and-frisk searches, SWAT raids for consensual drug crimes, civil asset forfeiture, and other ongoing, everyday abuses? 

Rhodes: You have to start somewhere. Certainly the long-term militarization of the police, which I know you’ve covered, is a disturbing problem. And I think the drug war in general has been destructive of freedom in America. One thing to remember is that the 10 orders Oath Keepers won’t follow isn’t a comprehensive list. There are countless possible unlawful orders I’d hope our members wouldn’t follow. But when I was thinking about starting Oath Keepers, I tried to think of what sorts of policies the Bush administration could implement that would do long-term, irreversible damage to the Constitution, and what orders officials would have to give to the military to implement them. So I think when we’re talking about where to start, you start with the most potentially damaging policies, things like internment camps, martial law, detaining American citizens without a trial.

It’s part strategy too. These are also the issues where I think it’s easiest to build a consensus. So we should start there. But the bigger idea is to get police and soldiers to at least start thinking about the Constitution, and that their first loyalty is to the Constitution and the rights of American citizens. Their first loyalty shouldn’t be to their commanding officer. It isn’t really about me coming down from the mountain with tablets inscribed with what orders you should and shouldn’t obey. But there some core principles, things that should never happen, and things that the government should know we will never allow to happen. 

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Nick Sorrentino suggests that Left and Right can come together on "free market reforms"

May 7th, 2011 No comments

Nick Sorrentino is the Austrian-leaning editor of The Liberty and Economics Review blog and CEO of, a social media management company.

Being a sucker for building discourse and pursuing collaboration, I took a fancy to a recent post of Nick’s where he suggested just such things. Nick gracefully agreed to let me cross-post it in its entirety below.

I note that my own leanings on free-market reforms are toward ways to address corporate statism and over-regulation; e.g., Limited Liability, AvatarBP+Gulf, the “environment“, and  David Korten’s “10 Common Sense Principles for a #NewEconomy”

Without further ado, here’s Nick: 

 A chance for the right and left to come together on free market reforms. (April 30, 2011)


By Nick Sorrentino

What is a free market? It is the free exchange of goods or services without intervention from coercive elements. In a free market price signals can be found. Too much of something? The price goes down. To little? The price goes up. It’s a simple equation yet history has shown us that it is very difficult for humans to simply let the market work.

I won’t get into whether the market always works. I basically believe that it does, but some good arguments can be made against my position in some very limited situations. Generally speaking however I think that most people would agree that a non manipulated market is a market that serves the most people and does the most “good.”

What is interesting to me is that many folks on both the right and left agree on this principle. Sure there are those on the fringe who will argue that markets are somehow “immoral.” But most Americans I believe just want a level playing field. The left doesn’t want cozy deals for corporations and the rich, and the right doesn’t want cozy deals for corporations and the rich. Whoa, hey, here’s an area of real agreement.

Many on the left don’t believe that the GOP would ever seek to end sweetheart deals for corporations. Many see the Republican Party as a vehicle by which companies game the system for their benefit. Many on the left do not believe in their heart of hearts that rank and file Republicans would ever be against special deals for “big oil” or “big agribusiness” or “big pharma” or especially “big finance.”

Likewise many on the right don’t believe that the left would ever give business a fair shake. But the distaste that many on the left have for business is not simply a hatred of all things business. What I sense is that many of my liberal friends mostly object to the “unfair” aggregation of power by businesses. They see an ever expanding Military Industrial Complex, bailouts to banks which result in big bonuses for a relative few, lax regulations for oil companies, and so on.

I’m here to tell you that there are many on the right who are ready to look very closely at the special deals many businesses have been able to garner for themselves. In a time of extreme economic challenge lots of folks who may have looked the other way before now recognize that such deals are unaffordable and frankly indefensible from a free market perspective.

I am also here to tell you that there are quite a few thought leaders on the left are open to the idea of freer markets so long as the special deals for many entrenched business interests are eliminated.

There is an emerging consensus on both the right and left that we must put our economic house in order. Eliminating sweetheart deals for businesses and unions could be an area where right and left can come together and actually get something done that would help the country at large.

At this moment I think it is on the left to reach back out to the right. Right now the GOP has extended a hand.

On Monday Speaker Boehner was interviewed by ABC News and he stated publicly that oil subsidies for instance are on the table.

Also this week at a town hall meeting House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan said;

“We’re talking about reforming the safety net, the welfare system; we also want to get rid of corporate welfare. And corporate welfare goes to agribusiness companies, energy companies, financial services companies, so we propose to repeal all that,”

In addition to these two very important statements this week, last month a letter released by the National Taxpayers Union and signed by 30 conservative groups including Heritage Action for America (part of the Heritage Foundation), Taxpayers for Common Sense, FreedomWorks, Americans for Tax Reform, Americans for Prosperity, Club for Growth, and the Competitive Enterprise Institute called for the elimination of all energy subsidies and loan guarantees for the energy sector. This is a huge development. Subsidies are not free market, now it seems the freemarketeers are ready to come out and say it.

So, left, the ball is in your court. What are you bringing to the table?

This article was also published on The Republican Leadship Network site.

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Lund University, Sweden: Effects of climate change in the Arctic more extensive than expected

May 7th, 2011 No comments


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More on the "methane gun"

May 6th, 2011 No comments

This is the End blog, March 30, 2011: “It is High Time to Warn People”: Igor Semiletov and the Methane Time-Bomb (Feedback, Part 2) (emphasis added)

What Arrhenius didn’t have data on were the wild cards.  Two such factors are embedded carbon dioxide and methane – greenhouse gases locked by ice into glaciers, the sea-floor, Arctic permafrost and undersea shelves.

As glaciers retreat, and sea-ice disappears—and permafrost melts— both of these gases enter the atmosphere. This in turn raises temperature, which in turn melts permafrost and glaciers more quickly. This is not your parents’ feedback, not Jimi on a Marshall amp. This is bad feedback. An Earth-size headache

The amount of carbon dioxide trapped in the world’s thawing tundra and northern taiga landscapes is estimated at 1.5 trillion tons, more than twice what is currently in the atmosphere. As for methane, it’s a greenhouse gas 20 times as potent as carbon dioxide in trapping solar heat in the short term (over a twenty-year period it’s 72 times as potent).

Igor Semiletov and Natalia Shakhova, two Russian scientists with the International Arctic Research Center, have studied the increasing release of methane from a submerged land mass known as the East Siberian Arctic Shelf (ESAS). As temperatures rise in the Arctic and sea-ice disappears, the global warming picture is quickly changing.

“The amount of methane currently coming out of the East Siberian Arctic Shelf is comparable to the amount coming out of the entire world’s oceans,” said Shakhova in aNational Science Foundation (NSF) press release. “Subsea permafrost is losing its ability to be an impermeable cap.” The amount of methane stored in the shelf is estimated at 2,000 gigatons, equal to 250 years of carbon emissions at our current industrial levels of output.

If just one percent of ESAS methane escapes its crystal prison, Semiletov suggested at a geophysical conference in 2008, it might push total methane to 6 parts per million. Some researchers consider this is a tipping point towards ‘runaway climate change.’ If that term doesn’t summon up an image, you can take NASA scientist James Hansen’s suggestion of an “ice-free state” where the Greenland and Antarctic ice sheets melt entirely, raising global sea level by over 200 feet.

“It is high time to warn people,” Semiletov told the conference attendees, but then took a pause, and offered an apologetic smile before adding: “We can do nothing about it, of course.”

The usually staid NSF recently backed up Semiletov in a press release. “Permafrost under the East Siberian Arctic Shelf, long thought to be an impermeable barrier sealing in methane, is perforated and is starting to leak large amounts of methane into the atmosphere. Release of even a fraction of the methane stored in the shelf could trigger abrupt climate warming.”

This idea of a methane “time bomb” is the global warming equivalent of Dr. Strangelove’s Doomsday Machine, that apotheosis of Mutual Assured Destruction that once initiated, can’t be turned off. Even Kennedy and Khrushchev could come to detente during the Cuban Missile Crisis and agree to take their fingers off their red buttons. But you can’t reason with a frozen gas bubble.

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Oh well: Independent, Koch-funded group headed by ‘skeptic’ Berkeley physicist announces to Congress that climate change data is reliable

May 6th, 2011 No comments
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If we just ignore BP/corporate lobbying & risk-shifting – and Government's ownership of oil, coal and other natural resources – we can see clearly that enviros just want to destroy civilization

May 6th, 2011 No comments


1.  BP Spent $2 Million Lobbying On Offshore Drilling, Spill Liability, Other Regulations In First Quarter Of 2011 (Marcus Baram, Huffington Post, April 21, 2011): (emphasis added)

On the first anniversary of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill that killed 11 workers, oil giant BP revealed via mandatory disclosure forms that it spent at least $2 million on federal lobbying in the first quarter of 2011 on a wide range of issues, from advocating for an end to the offshore drilling moratorium imposed by President Barack Obama in the wake of the spill to caps on its contributions to the restoration of the Gulf Coast.

BP tapped five well-connected lobbying firms — Alpine Group; Fierce, Isakowitz & Blalock; the Podesta Group; Stuntz Davis & Staffier; and the Duberstein Group — to ply their influence on Capitol Hill and at federal agencies in the wake of the four-month-long spill, which devastated the environment and leaked more than 205 million gallons of oil into the Gulf of Mexico. Executive-branch agencies targeted by the beleaguered oil behemoth, which faces a criminal probe by the Justice Department, included the Environmental Protection Agency and the State and Treasury departments.

In addition to the drilling moratorium and coastal restoration contributions, BP lobbied heavily regarding implementation of the presidential oil spill commission’s recommendations, which included stricter oversight of offshore drilling.

BP also lobbied Congress on the Put the Gulf Back to Work Act, the legislation passed last week by the House Natural Resources Committee under the leadership of chairman Doc Hastings (R-Wash.) which speeds up the approval process for new drilling permits. That bill prompted Interior Secretary Ken Salazar to accuse House Republicans of having “amnesia” about the oil spill.

Among other issues of interest to BP: the Restoring American Offshore Leasing Now Act, which requires Salazar to conduct certain offshore oil and gas lease sales; financial reform legislation and proposed rules; and liability protection for producing and retailing motor fuel that contains 15 percent ethanol. In addition, the oil company lobbied on several proposed EPA rules relating to greenhouse gas emissions and ambient air quality standards, and lobbied Congress on energy tax issues, corporate tax reform and the export of Caspian gas into European markets.

Earlier this week, it was revealed that BP broke its self-imposed moratorium on political donations in the wake of the spill.

2.  Coal mining to expand on public lands in Wyoming, CNN, March 23, 2011: (emphasis added)

Coal mining on public lands will expand in the coming months in Wyoming, as the federal government makes more coal-rich land available for lease by mining companies.

“Coal is a critical component of America¹s comprehensive energy portfolio, as well as Wyoming’s economy,” Interior Secretary Ken Salazar said at a news conference Tuesday.

The leases are expected to bring in between $13.4 billion and $21.3 billion in leasing bids and royalties to the federal government and the state of Wyoming. Wyoming will receive 48% of those revenues, with the rest going to the federal government.

The four tracts of land in northeast Wyoming’s Powder River Basin are expected to yield about 758 million tons of coal, Salazar said.

“Wyoming is the No.1 coal producer from public lands, contributing more than 400 million tons annually to our domestic energy supply, providing nearly 40% or the coal used by power plants nationwide to provide electricity nationwide,” Salazar said.

Wyoming Gov. Matt Mead, a Republican, applauded the move.

“Coal is a big deal here in Wyoming,” Mead said. “We need the energy, we need the jobs that come with energy, and we need the electricity.”

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Hmm: Two independent satellite studies show that ice sheets are melting faster than expected by IPCC, and accelerating

May 6th, 2011 No comments

1.  See this March 8, 2011 Washington Post article:

The vast ice sheets of Greenland and Antarctica are melting faster than previously thought, and that melting is accelerating, according to a new report that verifies 18 years of melting via two independent techniques.

Left unchecked, the extra water dumped into the oceans could push average global sea level 6 inches higher by 2050, the report finds. That would mark the ice sheets as the largest contributors to sea level rise, outstripping melting from Earth’s two other huge, frozen reservoirs, mountain glaciers and polar ice caps.

The new estimate of ice sheet melting – and the subsequent rise in sea level – outstrips more modest figures offered by the International Panel on Climate Change in 2007, the last time that international body published a comprehensive assessment of the ice sheets.

Combined, the two ice sheets dumped 475 gigatonnes of ice (which then melted) into the ocean each year. (A gigatonne is one billion metric tons.) Averaged over the 18 years of the study, the ice sheets lost a combined 36 gigatonnes more each year than they had the year before.

A 2006 study found that the melting of mountain glaciers and the polar ice caps was also accelerating, but at a rate about three times slower than that of the ice sheets

2.   See also this more detailed blog post at Things Break: Greenland and Antarctica ice sheet decay update.

3.  But does this mean rapid sea-level rises?  One can’t say for sure, regarding what hasn’t yet melted. But sea levels continue to rise, as confirmed at this skeptical “Watts’ Up With That?” post on May 4, 2011.

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Callahan and Richman have asserted the efficacy of moral suasion in getting people and organizations to change climate behavior; here are two people's efforts to persuade, post-tornado

May 6th, 2011 No comments

I discussed Callahan and Richman at some length previously.

Since I hope they are right, I bring you some comments I recently ran across:

1. Peter H. Gleick, A Cost of Denying Climate Change: Accelerating Climate Disruptions, Death, and Destruction, Huffington Post, April 28, 2011. Gleick is a Water and climate scientist; President of the Pacific Institute, and a MacArthur Fellow.

While I agree with much of what he says, I would note that his headline is off – given the thermal inertia of the oceans, the warming and climate change phenomena were are experiencing now are largely a result of CO2 emissions and other radiative forcings decades ago, and not a consequence of inaction over the last decade. Those consequences will be felt, but LATER. (I post his piece in its entirety, with his permission; emphasis added.)

Violent tornadoes throughout the southeastern U.S. must be a front-page reminder that no matter how successful climate deniers are in confusing the public or delaying action on climate change in Congress or globally, the science is clear: Our climate is worsening.

More extreme and violent climate is a direct consequence of human-caused climate change (whether or not we can determine if these particular tornado outbreaks were caused or worsened by climate change). There is a reason it isn’t called global warming anymore. Higher temperatures are only one — and not the most worrisome — of the consequences of a changing climate.

Climate science tells us unambiguously that we are changing the climate and trapping more energy on the planet. Trapping more energy will cause more extreme events and worsen extreme events that would otherwise happen.

In the climate community, we call this “loading the dice.” Rolling loaded dice weighted toward more extreme and energetic weather means more death and destruction. And it is only going to get worse and worse, faster and faster, the longer our politicians dither and delay and deny. Climate deniers who have stymied action in Congress and confused the public — like the tobacco industry did before them — need to be held accountable for their systematic misrepresentation of the science, their misuse and falsification of data, and their trickery.

The conservative (and economically driven) insurance industry understands the reality of data and observations: Munich Re (one of the world’s leading reinsurers) has said:

“The only plausible explanation for the rise in weather-related catastrophes is climate change. The view that weather extremes are more frequent and intense due to global warming coincides with the current state of scientific knowledge.”

The extreme nature of the ongoing severe weather is well described by Jeff Masters on his Weather Blog. The 3-day total of preliminary tornado reports from this week’s outbreak is nearing 300, close to the 323 preliminary tornado reports logged during the massive April 14 – 16 tornado outbreak. That outbreak has 155 confirmed tornadoes so far, making it the largest April tornado outbreak on record.

Of course, tornado outbreaks have occurred before. In 1974 and 1965, collections of tornados killed hundreds of people. But according to NOAA’s Storm Prediction Center, it is unprecedented to have two such massive tornado outbreaks occur so close together. Loading the dice. At least 11 of these tornadoes were killer tornadoes; deaths occurred in six states. (Wikipedia maintains an excellent and growing compilation of historical tornado outbreaks for those interested, and raw data can be obtained from NOAA.) Only two other tornado outbreaks have had as many as 150 twisters — the May 2004 outbreak (385), and the May 2003 outbreak (401).

And it is not just the devastating tornadoes: parts of the Mississippi River are about to experience record flooding. As spring rain joins with winter snowmelt, a massive pulse of floodwater is moving south. As it joins with the record water levels coming out of the Ohio River it is expected to create the highest flood heights ever recorded on the Mississippi, according to the latest forecasts from the National Weather Service.

Yet while we call this a “1-in-a-100 year” flood event, that term is losing its meaning. The August 1993 flood event was a “1-in-a-500 year” event. Yet in June 2008 there was another such event. Now, three years later, we see another massive flood on the Mississippi, and record floods elsewhere. Loading the dice. As FEMA’s director, Craig Fugate, noted in December, “The term ‘100-year event’ really lost its meaning this year.” And that was last year.

The science community knows that we’re affecting the climate; in turn, that will affect the weather; and that, in turn, will affect humans: with death, injury, and destruction. There is a cost to tackling climate change, but there is a real, growing, and far larger cost of continuing to deny it.


2.  Lou Grinzo has an edgier reaction to Peter Gelick at his blog, also on April 28. Grinzo is Writer and editor of the blog, The Cost of Energy, 2004-present. He was a software programmer, designer, tester, IBM, 1980-1989; is a programmer, writer, editor, and consultant, 1989-present. In addition, he is author of Zen of Windows 95 Programming, Columnist and Contributing Editor, Windows Magazine, Columnist, features author, and Reviews Editor, Linux Magazine and Editor,

I don’t agree entirely with Grinzo, as I think much proposed climate policy has been counterproductive, inefficient and/or unprincipled. But I can sympathize with where he’s coming from, even as I think that his anger is more productive channelled into different approaches – such as at freeing energy markets specifically or reining in corporate statism arising from the grant of limited liaibility more generally.

Peter, whom I know somewhat from an e-mail group we both belong to, is far too decent a person to put the ragged and rusty edge on this issue that it deserves. Not being so burdened by politeness, I’ll do it.

Did you enjoy what happened yesterday in the US South, when blissful reality was shredded by the brute force physics of our atmosphere and hundreds of people died horrible deaths, many hundreds more were injured, and millions were terrified because they just happened to live too close this climatic ground zero? Did you like watching houses and businesses and possessions being ground into so many tons of rubble? Did you?

No, of course you didn’t enjoy it, because it was a sickening nightmare from which none of us could awake. What reasonable human being could have liked it? That unremarkable observation leads inexorably and directly to one question: If you’re not fighting as hard as you can to keep such situations — and hurricanes and crushing heat waves and floods and droughts and inundated coasts thanks to sea level rise — from happening much more often and with much more devastating effects in the coming decades, then you’re failing miserably as a responsible adult and member of society. You’re nothing more than the equivalent of an underage drunk driver who endangers everyone around him because he’s too selfish to stop doing what he wants in order to serve his own best interests as well as those of others around him.

You’re telling the world that rather than do your part you want to keep flying to vacation spots, keep driving your much larger than needed/less fuel efficient vehicle, keep running your home electronics for many hours a week when no one is even using them, keep refusing to change your bloody light bulbs because you claim you “don’t like the light from those new ones”, etc. The timing is different, the individual acts are different, but the lack of maturity, the toxic mix of ignorance and arrogance, and the utter insanity of such destructive behavior are the same.

So make sure the next time there’s a heat wave in Russia that kills tens of thousands of people, or a devastating flood in Pakistan, or tornadoes or hurricanes ripping up parts of the US or some other unlucky spot, or another country violently slips closer to or into being a failed state and suddenly becomes newsworthy, that you switch your immense screen TV from the latest reality show or NASCAR event for a few moments to watch the highlights on the news. It’s the least you could do.

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Feedbacks mean that the warming resulting from a doubling of CO2 may be much higher than 3 C, say more paleo-climate studies

May 6th, 2011 No comments

I have discussed climate “sensitivity” a number of times earlier; here is a good place to start for those interested:

I just ran across more bad news about the size of the risks we face. Given the risks, it seems rather perverse to me that the “do nothing (except externalizing risks and buckling our own seat belts for the longer haul)” approach is the one that is considered “conservative”.

Joe Romm, Climate Progress (emphasis added):

The disinformers claim that projections of dangerous future warming from greenhouse gas emissions are based on computer models.  In fact, ClimateProgress readers know that the paleoclimate data is considerably more worrisome than the models (see Hansen: ‘Long-term’ climate sensitivity of 6°C for doubled CO2).  That’s mainly because the vast majority of the models largely ignore key amplifying carbon-cycle feedbacks, such as the methane emissions from melting tundra (see Are Scientists Underestimating Climate Change).

Science has just published an important review and analysis of “real world” paleoclimate data in “Lessons from Earth’s Past” (subs. req’d) by National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR) scientist Jeffrey Kiehl.  The NCAR release is here: “Earth’s hot past could be prologue to future climate.”  The study begins by noting:

Climate models are invaluable tools for understanding Earth’s climate system. But examination of the real world also provides insights into the role of greenhouse gases (carbon dioxide) in determining Earth’s climate. Not only can much be learned by looking at the observational evidence from Earth’s past, but such know ledge can provide context for future climate change.

The atmospheric CO2 concentration currently is 390 parts per million by volume (ppmv), and continuing on a business-as-usual path of energy use based on fossil fuels will raise it to ∼900 to 1100 ppmv by the end of this century (see the first figure) (1). When was the last time the atmosphere contained ∼1000 ppmv of CO2? Recent reconstructions (24) of atmospheric CO2 concentrations through history indicate that it has been ∼30 to 100 million years since this concentration existed in the atmosphere (the range in time is due to uncertainty in proxy values of CO2). The data also reveal that the reduction of CO2 from this high level to the lower levels of the recent past took tens of millions of years. Through the burning of fossil fuels, the atmosphere will return to this concentration in a matter of a century. Thus, the rate of increase in atmospheric CO2 is unprecedented in Earth’s history.

I will repost the references at the end, since this is a review article (see also U.S. media largely ignores latest warning from climate scientists: “Recent observations confirm … the worst-case IPCC scenario trajectories (or even worse) are being realised” — 1000 ppm)


Kiel concludes: (emphasis in original)

Earth’s CO2concentration is rapidly rising to a level not seen in ∼30 to 100 million years, and Earth’s climate was extremely warm at these levels of CO2. If the world reaches such concentrations of atmospheric CO2, positive feedback processes can amplify global warming beyond current modeling estimates. The human species and global ecosystems will be placed in a climate state never before experienced in their evolutionary history and at an unprecedented rate. Note that these conclusions arise from observations from Earth’s past and not specifically from climate models.




 Romm has referred to other recent studies that indicate these extended feedbacks may occur  relatively quickly:

The conclusion from this analysis—resting on data for CO2 levels, paleotemperatures, and radiative transfer knowledge—is that Earth’s sensitivity to CO2radiative forcing may be much greater than that obtained from climate models (1214).

Indeed, in the release, Kiehl notes his study “found that carbon dioxide may have at least twice the effect on global temperatures than currently projected by computer models of global climate.”

Why is the ‘real world’ warming so much greater than the models?  The vast majority of the models focus on the equilibrium climate sensitivity — typically estimated at about 3°C for double CO2 (equivalent to about ¾°C per W/m2) — only includes fast feedbacks, such as water vapor and sea ice.  As Hansen has explained in deriving his 6°C ‘long-term’ sensitivity: (emphasis in original)

Elsewhere (Hansen et al. 2007a) we have described evidence that slower feedbacks, such as poleward expansion of forests, darkening and shrinking of ice sheets, and release of methane from melting tundra, are likely to be significant on decade-century time scales. This realization increases the urgency of estimating the level of climate change that would have dangerous consequences for humanity and other creatures on the planet, and the urgency of defining a realistic path that could avoid these dangerous consequence.

For background on the tundra (and methane), see Science: Vast East Siberian Arctic Shelf methane stores destabilizing and venting:  NSF issues world a wake-up call: “Release of even a fraction of the methane stored in the shelf could trigger abrupt climate warming.” …

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Have we already pulled the trigger on the methane gun? As Arctic warms, surprisingly large and uncontrollable releases of methane (much more potent than CO2) are growing from massive shallow seabed deposits and permafrost

May 6th, 2011 No comments

1.  Wikipedia, Clathrate gun hypothesis (emphasis added):

The clathrate gun hypothesis is the popular name given to the hypothesis that rises in sea temperatures (and/or falls in sea level) can trigger the sudden release of methane from methane clathrate compounds buried in seabeds and permafrost which, because the methane itself is a powerful greenhouse gas, leads to further temperature rise and further methane clathrate destabilization – in effect initiating a runaway process as irreversible, once started, as the firing of a gun. …


2.  Skeptical Science, Wakening the Kraken, April 23, 2011:

a major study in Science that found the vast East Siberian Arctic Shelf methane stores appeared to be destabilizing and venting.  The normally staid National Science Foundation issued a press release warning “Release of even a fraction of the methane stored in the shelf could trigger abrupt climate warming.”

Now there is a new Geophysical Research Letters study on a paleoclimate analog that may be relevant to humanity today, “Methane and environmental change during the Paleocene‐Eocene thermal maximum (PETM): Modeling the PETM onset as a two‐stage event.” …

We know that in the past there have been sudden changes in global warming associated with releases of greenhouse gases.  These rapid, massive releases were characterised by unusualdeficiency in carbon isotope 13 (∂13C ) and massive extinction of animals, most recently at the time of the Paleocene-Eocene Thermal Maximum (PETM), about 55.8 million years ago. …

The description of Stage 2:  Very rapid and massive release of carbon deficient in ∂13C, does put one in mind of the Methane Gun hypothesis. It postulates that methane clathrate at shallow depth begins melting and through the feed-back process accelerate atmospheric and oceanic warming, melting even larger and deeper clathrate deposits.  The result:  A relatively sudden massive venting of methane – the firing of the Methane Gun.  Recent discovery by Davy et al (2010) of kilometer-wide (ten 8-11 kilometer and about 1,000 1-kilometer-wide features) eruption craters on the Chatham Rise seafloor off New Zealand adds further ammunition to the Methane Gun hypothesis.

It has been known for many years that methane is being emitted from Siberian swamplands hitherto covered by permafrost, trapping an estimated 1,000 billion tons of methane.  Permafrost on land is now seasonally melting and with each season melting it at greater depth, ensuring that each year methane venting from this source increases.

Methane clathrate has accumulated over the East Siberian continental shelf where it is covered by sediment and seawater up to 50 meters deep.  An estimated 1,400 billion tons of methane is stored in these deposits.  By comparison, total human greenhouse gas emissions (including CO2) since 1750 amount to some 350 billion tons.

Significant methane release can occur when on-shore permafrost is thawed by a warmer atmosphere (unlikely to occur in significance on less than a century timescale) and undersea clathrate at relatively shallow depths is melted by warming water.  This is now occurring. In both cases, methane gas bubbles to the surface with little or no oxidation, entering the atmosphere as CH4 – a powerful greenhouse gas which increases local, then Arctic atmospheric and ocean temperature, resulting in progressively deeper and larger deposits of clathrate melting.

Methane released from deeper deposits such as those found off Svalbard has to pass through a much higher water column (>300 meters) before reaching the surface.  As it does so, it oxidises to CO2, dissolving in seawater or reaching the atmosphere as CO2 which causes far slower warming, but can nevertheless contribute to ocean acidification.

A significant release of methane due to melting of the vast deposits trapped by permafrost and clathrate in the Arctic would result in massive loss of oxygen, particularly in the Arctic ocean but also in the atmosphere.  Resulting hypoxic conditions would cause large extinctions, especially of water breathing animals, which is what we find at the PETM.

Shakhova et al (2010) reports that the continental shelf of East Central Siberia (ECS), with an area of over 2 million km2, is emitting more methane than all other ocean sources combined.  She calculates that methane venting from the ECS is now in the order of 8 million tons per annum and increasing.  This equates to ~200 million tons/annum of CO2, more than the combined CO2 emissions of Scandinavia and the Benelux countries in 2007.  This methane is likely sourced from non-hydrate methane previously kept in place by thin and now melting permafrost at the sea bed, melting clathrates, or some combination of both.

Release of ECS methane is already contributing to Arctic amplification resulting in temperature increase exceeding twice the global average.  The rate of release from the tundra alone is predicted to reach 1.5 billion tons of carbon per annum before 2030, contributing to accelerated climate change, perhaps resulting in sustained decadal doubling of ice loss causing collapse of the Greenland Ice Sheet (Hansen et al, 2011).  This would result in a possible sea level rise of ~5 meters before 2100, according to Hansen et al.

Evidence supports the theory that sudden and massive releases of greenhouse gases, including methane, caused decade-scale climate changes – with consequent species extinctions – culminating in the Holocene Thermal Optimum.

In summary, immense quantities of methane clathrate have been identified in the Arctic.  Were a fraction of these to melt, the result would be massive release of carbon, initially as CH4 causing deeper clathrate to melt and oxidise, adding CO2 to the atmosphere.  Were this to occur, it would greatly worsen global warming.

While natural global warming during the ice ages was initiated by increased solar radiation caused by cyclic changes to Earth’s orbital parameters, there is no evident mechanism for correcting Anthropogenic Global Warming over the next several centuries.  The latter has already begun producing methane and CO2 in the Arctic, starting a feedback process which may lead to uncontrollable, very dangerous global warming, akin to that which occurred at the PETM.

This extremis we ignore – to our peril.

– Agnostic & Daniel Bailey

3.  Joe Romm, Climate Progress, April 25, 2011

Methane release from the not-so-perma-frost is the most dangerous amplifying feedback in the entire carbon cycle (see “NSIDC bombshell: Thawing permafrost feedback will turn Arctic from carbon sink to source in the 2020s, releasing 100 billion tons of carbon by 2100“).

It is worth noting that no climate model currently incorporates the amplifying feedback from methane released by a defrosting tundra. Indeed the NSIDC/NOAA study I wrote about in February on methane release by the land-based permafrost itself doesn’t even incorporate the carbon released by the permafrost carbon feedback into its warming model!

4.  Doc alert: Siberian methane (Jan 14, 2011)

 5. Joe Romm, Climate Progress, Paleoclimate data suggests CO2 “may have at least twice the effect on global temperatures than currently projected by computer models”, January 13, 2011

Methane release from the not-so-perma-frost is the most dangerous amplifying feedback in the entire carbon cycle.  The permafrost permamelt contains a staggering “1.5 trillion tons of frozen carbon, about twice as much carbon as contained in the atmosphere,” much of which would be released as methane.  Methane is  is 25 times as potent a heat-trapping gas as CO2 over a 100 year time horizon, but 72 times as potent over 20 years!  The carbon is locked in a freezer in the part of the planet warming up the fastest (see “Tundra 4: Permafrost loss linked to Arctic sea ice loss“).  Half the land-based permafrost would vanish by mid-century on our current emissions path (see “Tundra, Part 2: The point of no return” and below).  No climate model currently incorporates the amplifying feedback from methane released by a defrosting tundra.

6.  Joe Romm, Climate Progress, Science stunner: Vast East Siberian Arctic Shelf methane stores destabilizing and ventingScience: Vast East Siberian Arctic Shelf methane stores destabilizing and venting:  NSF issues world a wake-up call: “Release of even a fraction of the methane stored in the shelf could trigger abrupt climate warming.” March 4, 2010

Methane release from the not-so-perma-frost is the most dangerous amplifying feedback in the entire carbon cycle. Research published in Friday’s journal Science 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 situation in the ESAS is far, far more dicey, as NSF explains:


The East Siberian Arctic Shelf, in addition to holding large stores of frozen methane, is more of a concern because it is so shallow. In deep water, methane gas oxidizes into carbon dioxide before it reaches the surface. In the shallows of the East Siberian Arctic Shelf, methane simply doesn’t have enough time to oxidize, which means more of it escapes into the atmosphere. That, combined with the sheer amount of methane in the region, could add a previously uncalculated variable to climate models.

“The release to the atmosphere of only one percent of the methane assumed to be stored in shallow hydrate deposits might alter the current atmospheric burden of methane up to 3 to 4 times,” Shakhova said. “The climatic consequences of this are hard to predict.”

And we also know that a key trigger for accelerated warming in the Arctic region is the loss of sea ice.

A 2008 study by leading tundra experts found “Accelerated Arctic land warming and permafrost degradation during rapid sea ice loss.” The lead author is David Lawrence of the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR), whom I interviewed for my book and interviewed again via e-mail in 2008. The study’s ominous conclusion:

We find that simulated western Arctic land warming trends during rapid sea ice loss are 3.5 times greater than secular 21st century climate-change trends. The accelerated warming signal penetrates up to 1500 km inland….

In other words, a continuation of the recent trend in sea ice loss may triple Arctic warming, causing large emissions in carbon dioxide and methane from the tundra this century.

Oh, and the Arctic warming could lead to another feedback according to a 2008 Science article:  “Continuation of current trends in shrub and tree expansion could further amplify this atmospheric heating 2-7 times.”  The point is that if you convert a white landscape to a boreal forest, the surface suddenly starts collecting a lot more solar energy (see “Tundra 3: Forests and fires foster feedbacks“).



“Our concern is that the subsea permafrost has been showing signs of destabilization already,” she said. “If it further destabilizes, the methane emissions may not be teragrams, it would be significantly larger.”

NSF explains:

“The amount of methane currently coming out of the East Siberian Arctic Shelf is comparable to the amount coming out of the entire world’s oceans,” said Shakhova, a researcher at UAF’s International Arctic Research Center. “Subsea permafrost is losing its ability to be an impermeable cap.”




Shakhova notes that the Earth’s geological record indicates that atmospheric methane concentrations have varied between about .3 to .4 parts per million during cold periods to .6 to .7 parts per million during warm periods. Current average methane concentrations in the Arctic average about 1.85 parts per million, the highest in 400,000 years, she said. Concentrations above the East Siberian Arctic Shelf are even higher.

The East Siberian Arctic Shelf is a relative frontier in methane studies. The shelf is shallow, 50 meters (164 feet) or less in depth, which means it has been alternately submerged or terrestrial, depending on sea levels throughout Earth’s history. During the Earth’s coldest periods, it is a frozen arctic coastal plain, and does not release methane. As the Earth warms and sea level rises, it is inundated with seawater, which is 12-15 degrees warmer than the average air temperature.

“It was thought that seawater kept the East Siberian Arctic Shelf permafrost frozen,” Shakhova said. “Nobody considered this huge area.”

The hardest of the hard core climate geeks (and we all know who we are) probably recognize the name Natalia Shakhova. She’s a Research Assistant Professor working with the International Arctic Research Center at the University of Alaska Fairbanks and is probably best know to people of our ilk for her work involving Siberian methane deposits. She gave a presentation at a US Dept. of Defense symposium and workshop last November, and it (and others from the event) are online.

Dr. Shakhova’s presentation is titled “Methane Release from the East Siberian Arctic Shelf (ESAS) and the Potential for Abrupt Climate Changes”, and you can download it in PDF format from the event’s site.

Based on that title and the things I write about here (and by “write about” you can substitute “obsess over”, if you’re feeling a need for unflinching accuracy), you’ve probably figured out that this is yet another unsettling collection of data about methane. A couple of tidbits to show that such a conclusion would be accurate, even without the benefit of context (emphasis in the original):

[Slide 34]

Interpretation of acoustical data recorded with deployed multibeam sonar allowed moderate quantification of bottom fluxes as high as 44 g/m2/d (Leifer et al., in preparation). Prorating these numbers to the areas of hot spots (210×103 km2) adds 3.5Gt to annual methane release from the ESAS. This is enough to trigger abrupt climate change (Archer, 2005).

[Slide 38, one bullet taken from the conclusion]

Considering the significance of the ESAS methane reservoir and enhancing mechanism of its destabilization, this region should be considered the most potential in terms of possible climate change caused by abrupt release of methane.

Methane (CH4) deserves attention it is such a highly potent greenhouse gas — 25-33 times more powerful than carbon dioxide (CO2) over a 100-year time-horizon, but as much as 100 time more potent over 20 years, according to the latest research!

Last year I reported on a major study in Science that found the vast East Siberian Arctic Shelf methane stores appeared to be destabilizing and venting.  The normally staid National Science Foundation issued a press release warning “Release of even a fraction of the methane stored in the shelf could trigger abrupt climate warming.” …

Most deposits of methane clathrate are in sediments too deep to respond rapidly, and modelling by Archer (2007) suggests the methane forcing should remain a minor component of the overall greenhouse effect.[10] Clathrate deposits destabilize from the deepest part of their stability zone, which is typically hundreds of metres below the seabed. A sustained increase in sea temperature will warm its way through the sediment eventually, and cause the deepest, most marginal clathrate to start to break down; but it will typically take of the order of a thousand years or more for the temperature signal to get through.[10]

One exception, however, may be in clathrates associated with the Arctic ocean, where clathrates can exist in shallower water stabilized by lower temperatures rather than higher pressures; these may potentially be marginally stable much closer to the surface of the sea-bed, stabilized by a frozen ‘lid’ of permafrost preventing methane escape. Recent research carried out in 2008 in the Siberian Arctic has shown millions of tons of methane being released, apparently through perforations in the seabed permafrost,[11] with concentrations in some regions reaching up to 100 times normal.[12][13] The excess methane has been detected in localized hotspots in the outfall of the Lena River and the border between the Laptev Sea and the East Siberian Sea. Some melting may be the result of geological heating, but more thawing is believed to be due to the greatly increased volumes of meltwater being discharged from the Siberian rivers flowing north.[14] Current methane release has previously been estimated at 0.5 Mt per year.[15]Shakhova et al. (2008) estimate that not less than 1,400 Gt of carbon is presently locked up as methane and methane hydrates under the Arctic submarine permafrost, and 5–10% of that area is subject to puncturing by open taliks. They conclude that “release of up to 50 Gt of predicted amount of hydrate storage [is] highly possible for abrupt release at any time”. That would increase the methane content of the planet’s atmosphere by a factor of twelve,[16][17] equivalent in greenhouse effect to a doubling in the current level of CO2.

In 2008 the United States Department of Energy National Laboratory system[18] and the United States Geological Survey’s Climate Change Science Program both identified potential clathrate destabilization in the Arctic as one of four most serious scenarios for abrupt climate change, which have been singled out for priority research. The USCCSP released a report in late December 2008 estimating the gravity of this risk.

The East Siberian Arctic Shelf is a methane-rich area that encompasses more than 2 million square kilometers of seafloor in the Arctic Ocean. It is more than three times as large as the nearby Siberian wetlands, which have been considered the primary Northern Hemisphere source of atmospheric methane. Shakhova’s research results show that the East Siberian Arctic Shelf is already a significant methane source, releasing 7 teragrams of methane yearly, which is as much as is emitted from the rest of the ocean. A teragram is equal to about 1.1 million tons.

Scientists learned last year that the permafrost permamelt contains a staggering “1.5 trillion tons of frozen carbon, about twice as much carbon as contained in the atmosphere,” much of which would be released as methane.  Methane is  is 25 times as potent a heat-trapping gas as CO2 over a 100 year time horizon, but 72 times as potent over 20 years!

The carbon is locked in a freezer in the part of the planet warming up the fastest (see “Tundra 4: Permafrost loss linked to Arctic sea ice loss“).  Half the land-based permafrost would vanish by mid-century on our current emissions path (see “Tundra, Part 2: The point of no return” and below).  No climate model currently incorporates the amplifying feedback from methane released by a defrosting tundra.

The new Science study, led by University of Alaska’s International Arctic Research Centre and the Russian Academy of Sciences, is “Extensive Methane Venting to the Atmosphere from Sediments of the East Siberian Arctic Shelf” (subs. req’d).  The must-read National Science Foundation press release (click here), warns “Release of even a fraction of the methane stored in the shelf could trigger abrupt climate warming.”  The NSF is normally a very staid organization.  If they are worried, everybody should be.

It is increasingly clear that if the world strays significantly above 450 ppm atmospheric concentrations of carbon dioxide for any length of time, we will find it unimaginably difficult to stop short of 800 to 1000 ppm. …

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