THE world is on the cusp of a "tipping point" into dangerous climate change, according to new data gathered by scientists measuring methane leaking from the Arctic permafrost and a report presented to the United Nations on Tuesday.The garbage count begins to rise even before the text begins. There's an interactive graphic at the top "The permafrost carbon feedback loop", the first caption reading "More of the sun's heat reaches the earth because of human contributions to global warming". Really? How does that work, Ben? Do those "contributions" make the days longer and the nights shorter?
That's just for the graphic - much more textual bullshit emerges from the frozen layers of Ben's brain, seemingly in a feedback loop driven by alarmist drivel from a few who call themselves "scientists".
Human-induced emissions now appear to have warmed the Arctic enough to unlock this vast carbon bank, with stark implications for international efforts to hold global warming to a safe level. Ancient forests locked under ice tens of thousands of years ago are beginning to melt and rot, releasing vast amounts of greenhouse gases into the air."Appear to have" - have they or haven't they?
Until very recently permafrost was thought to have been melting too slowly to make a meaningful difference to temperatures this century, so it was left out of the Kyoto Protocol, and ignored by many climate change models.
"Permafrost emissions could ultimately account for up to 39 per cent of total emissions," said the report's lead author, Kevin Schaefer, of the University of Colorado, who presented it at climate negotiations in Doha, Qatar. "This must be factored in to treaty negotiations expected to replace the Kyoto Protocol."
What isn't known is the precise rate and scale of the melt, and that is being tackled in a remarkable NASA experiment that hardly anyone has heard of, but which could prove to be one of the most crucial pieces of scientific field work undertaken this century.You mean no-one knows, Ben?
The findings, for now, are still under wraps. "But I think 'tantalising' is probably the right word," said Charles Miller, the principal investigator in NASA's Carbon in Arctic Reservoirs Vulnerability Experiment, or CARVE.Not conclusive or even indicative then, but just "tantalising"? Charles means that he doesn't precisely know what the results mean. After a touching little anecdote concerning caribou and grizzly bears (scientists have feelings too, dontcha know?) Charles finally gets down to the nitty-gritty (or is it the nitty-slushy?).
"We're finding very, very interesting changes, particularly in terms of methane concentrations," he said. "When scientists say 'interesting', it usually means 'not what we expected'. 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."You've just earned your self a button Charlie boy!
Is Charlie telling us that CO2 doesn't vary much from place to place? I have news for him which might be "interesting" in that it might not be what he expected - CO2 varies all over the globe. Locally it'll vary a lot more. "...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. That's pure and unadulterated bullshit Charlie. Highly localised sources and sinks exist just about everywhere. That 10 or 12 ppm is, when compared with the global average of 395 ppm just a 3% variation.
The findings of the first year of the experiment are so complex that Professor Miller and his team at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory are still trying to work out exactly what they have found. The results are being kept secret, which is standard practice while the numbers are crunched and the work is submitted to a peer-review process.They're still trying to work out what they've found - that means they don't know.
"What we can say is that methane is significantly elevated in places – about 2000 parts per billion, against a normal background of about 1850 parts per billion," he said. "It's interesting because the models are predicting one thing and what we are observing is something fairly different."Is that it? A 6% increase over the global average? There's no such thing as a "normal background" - methane, like CO2, varies across the globe, so it's hardly surprising to find a slight elevation "in places", and not all places then? So there we have it - they went looking for additional methane and CO2 in places where they expected to find higher levels, and where higher levels must be found even if permafrost isn't melting much at all, and found a little more "in places". Earth shattering.