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Permafrost Loss Greater Threat Than Deforestation

samzenpus posted more than 2 years ago | from the keeping-the-cool dept.

Earth 272

Pierre Bezukhov writes "Emissions from thawing permafrost may contribute more to global warming than deforestation this century, according to commentary in the journal Nature. Arctic warming of 7.5 degrees Celsius (13.5 degrees Fahrenheit) this century may unlock the equivalent of 380 billion tons of carbon dioxide as soils thaw, allowing carbon to escape as CO2 and methane, University of Florida and University of Alaska biologists wrote today in Nature. Two degrees of warming would release a third of that, they said. The Arctic is an important harbinger of climate change because the United Nations calculates it's warming at almost twice the average rate for the planet. The study adds to pressure on United Nations climate treaty negotiators from more than 190 countries attending two weeks of talks in Durban, South Africa that began Nov. 28."

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And half the Arctic countries don't care (2)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38222108)

Based on their inaction and their stated desire for inaction: Canada, Russia, and the USA.

Re:And half the Arctic countries don't care (4, Insightful)

war4peace (1628283) | more than 2 years ago | (#38222186)

That's because both politicians AND industrialists just see lots of fast profit from permafrost thawing, namely more usable land (and whatever might reside beneath).
What would happen with the planet 100 years from now is irrelevant to them; they will be all dead at that time.

Re:And half the Arctic countries don't care (4, Informative)

Llyr (561935) | more than 2 years ago | (#38222480)

Not sure the Canadian North can count as "more usable land" once thawed -- it's largely frozen muskeg swamp at the moment, somewhat usable due to permafrost since at least that way you don't sink into it.
There's some interest in the northern seabed for gas exploration.

Re:And half the Arctic countries don't care (5, Informative)

ackthpt (218170) | more than 2 years ago | (#38222532)

Not sure the Canadian North can count as "more usable land" once thawed -- it's largely frozen muskeg swamp at the moment, somewhat usable due to permafrost since at least that way you don't sink into it.

There's some interest in the northern seabed for gas exploration.

Great bit on the construction of the trans-Alaskan highway, in Mitchner's Alaska. When they tore the top layer off the tundra their equipment, paving, everything sunk into mud. The only way to build roads was on top of the Permafrost. Nobody going to do any mining, drilling or anything else if the ground is thawed and you have the biggest plain of mud in the world between you and your dreamed of profits.

Re:And half the Arctic countries don't care (3, Informative)

Luckyo (1726890) | more than 2 years ago | (#38222692)

There is some really good footage when this happened to already build tracks in Russia. Google for it.

In short: You're going to have to spend HUGE amounts to built any kind of a steel track (and even more to build and maintained a paved road that carries a lot less) to tundra if it thaws. Essentially start hoping that whatever resources you're extracting are close enough to the shore.

Re:And half the Arctic countries don't care (2)

khallow (566160) | more than 2 years ago | (#38222818)

Or one can make a corduroy road [wikipedia.org] . It's made of logs and not particularly hard to put together.

Re:And half the Arctic countries don't care (2)

Luckyo (1726890) | more than 2 years ago | (#38223144)

You do realize that this wouldn't work? Logs would shift, and the road would destroy itself in a matter of months.

If solution was that simple, they wouldn't have this problem in Russia. Taiga is choke full of trees.

Re:And half the Arctic countries don't care (4, Informative)

ShieldW0lf (601553) | more than 2 years ago | (#38223104)

If the permafrost thaws, the way to recover the land would be to borrow from permaculture principles and let nature do most of the work.

First, plant fast growing, cold tolerant plants that fix atmospheric nitrogen like Russian Olives, Bog Myrtles, Northern Bayberries and Buffalo Berries. They'll grow like mad and firm up what soil is there. Then you run an annual slash-and-drop program to build soil. You wouldn't need heavy equipment, just chain saws, because you wouldn't be letting anything get particularly large, and you won't be carting anything in or out, so costs would be relatively low.

Using heavy equipment to cart in material to build up the land when you can let nature do the work would just be stupid.

Re:And half the Arctic countries don't care (2)

Genda (560240) | more than 2 years ago | (#38222570)

The problem is that besides the fact that you might gain a little land in the extreme latitudes, you render huge regions in the tropical and temperate zones as dessert. The net loss of viable/arrible land for human habitat and development would be mind boggling. Anyone in extreme climates who thinks we should go through the kind of warming being described here, for their own benefit, at the detriment to billions of others living in more central latitudes is a shortsighted despot.

Re:And half the Arctic countries don't care (2)

Fluffeh (1273756) | more than 2 years ago | (#38222694)

for their own benefit, at the detriment to billions of others living in more central latitudes is a shortsighted despot.

Welcome to the world we live in. The common good, altruism and generally being the "good guys" are ideologies of generations before the ones currently - at least for the most part. Welcome to the world of no direct consequences, it's like living in the internet, but in real life.

Re:And half the Arctic countries don't care (1)

MichaelKristopeit406 (2018812) | more than 2 years ago | (#38222642)

... both politicians AND industrialists just see lots of fast profit from permafrost thawing, namely more usable land

perhaps different usable land, but i'm pretty sure property owners around the world's low-lying coastlines might find their land of not much use.

Re:And half the Arctic countries don't care (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38222668)

Same as Space Nutters, they all think we'll live on Mars and have a weekend home on Pluto in a hundred years.

Re:And half the Arctic countries don't care (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38222686)

It's not that they don't care what happen 100 years from now. After all, most of these people have kids.

It's more like they think if you make enough money it won't matter (and in most cases they are correct). They and their family/kids will be rich and be able to afford the best conditions anywhere on the planet they need to go. All you need is money to accomplish that, fuck everyone else.

Re:And half the Arctic countries don't care (4, Interesting)

scamper_22 (1073470) | more than 2 years ago | (#38222742)

I'm neither a politician or an industrialist...

1. There have been reports that we really can't stop global warming anyways. It is "too late".

2. In as much as there are downsides to global warming (floods, heat deaths...), there are benefits (more usable land up north, easier shipping, fewer cold deaths...)

It might be a good idea to just start dealing with a warmer planet. Embrace the good effects. Try to counter the bad ones (build levies/flood protection, move from low lying area...) and address our pollution as technology and time permits.

What will happen to the planet 100 years from now? I really don't think the planet will be in devastating shape... even with a few degrees warming. Life will go on. Don't think I'm underestimating here. I"m sure many parts of the world will feel the huge impacts, especially coastal cities when sea levels rise. But life will go on and we will adapt, even if we have to evacuate Miami.

Re:And half the Arctic countries don't care (4, Interesting)

haruchai (17472) | more than 2 years ago | (#38222982)

Yes, life will go on and we will adapt but a lot of us will find life to be even nastier, more brutish and much shorter than it is now. The human race is not going to die out but I think a lot of the progress of the 20th century will be reversed, especially in the area of international cooperation. And, if the very worst predictions do start to come through, I wouldn't rule out another World War.

Re:And half the Arctic countries don't care (5, Informative)

riverat1 (1048260) | more than 2 years ago | (#38223312)

1. There have been reports that we really can't stop global warming anyways. It is "too late".

It's not a binary issue. The more we increase greenhouse gases in the atmosphere the worse it gets on a smooth curve. There is the global warming that's already occurred and is in the pipeline that we can't stop. That includes the fact that once we get really serious about CO2 emissions it will take 30 or 40 years to to build the infrastructure necessary to convert to non-carbon energy sources so CO2 levels will continue to rise until then. But in the end the total global warming we will see (barring a significant change in the Sun) is largely set by the maximum level that CO2 reaches in the atmosphere. There is good reason to slow down and eventually stop carbon dioxide emissions to keep things from getting worse than they already have to be.

Re:And half the Arctic countries don't care (4, Insightful)

khallow (566160) | more than 2 years ago | (#38222890)

Before we commence with the hand wringing, shouldn't we first show there's a problem that will get substantially worse in a mere century? You can't expect someone to change their behavior based on supposition.

Re:And half the Arctic countries don't care (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38223018)

you people worry too much. global warming will be the greatest thing to happen for mankind since the end of the last glacial period.

once upon a time, there was a cave-man that was cold. he decided he could chop down trees and burn them for warmth. his 'more highly evolved' tribesman warned him that if the whole tribe started chopping down trees to burn for warmth, there would eventually be no more trees and they would all be cold again. was it really that stupid for the cave-man to start chopping down trees and burning them for warmth? if so, how do you explain your existence?

Re:And half the Arctic countries don't care (0)

Ethanol-fueled (1125189) | more than 2 years ago | (#38222294)

Somebody [wikipedia.org] is conspicuously absent from the Kyoto Protocol.

America, fuck yeah.

Re:And half the Arctic countries don't care (4, Insightful)

ackthpt (218170) | more than 2 years ago | (#38222560)

Somebody [wikipedia.org] is conspicuously absent from the Kyoto Protocol.

America, fuck yeah.

In Germany you are taxed to death (by 'merkin standards) and the price of petrol is over 12$US per gallon - yet they have among the highest standard of living and the most robust economy in Europe.

When the people in Washington DC hear about raising the cost of petrol, so people won't waste it so stupidly on SUVs in the city and frivolous trips in the auto, they howl that it will destroy the American Way of Life and the Economy.

Fucking daft, scared "leaders" America is dynamic and can adapt, same as Germany did. Charge $10/gal at the pump and people will stop depending so heavily on petrol that the country has to go to war over it.

Re:And half the Arctic countries don't care (2, Interesting)

JWW (79176) | more than 2 years ago | (#38222680)

Say, why don't you try looking at a map or a globe and comparing the size of Germany to the size of the US. Now factor in moving goods across each country. What country would suffer more if the cost of gas goes up?

Charge $10/gallon at the pump and then sit back and watch unemployment go from 9% to 19% or more.

I'm not convinced that the dismantling of modern civilization will be less devastating that the affects of climate change.

Re:And half the Arctic countries don't care (0)

timeOday (582209) | more than 2 years ago | (#38223074)

Charge $10/gallon at the pump and then sit back and watch unemployment go from 9% to 19% or more.

It depends. If that money goes into the pockets of the rich and is wasted on useless luxuries, then yes. If it goes into taxes, and thus back to the people, then no. It could be invested in public transit and actually lessen the cost of getting to work.

Re:And half the Arctic countries don't care (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38223206)

gas prices can significantly affect the price of food since a lot of the food economy is set up to ship food across long distances to take advantage of economies of scale. if we jacked up gas prices too much, it would hurt food prices and probably raise the poverty line since it would cost more to live.

Re:And half the Arctic countries don't care (1)

hedwards (940851) | more than 2 years ago | (#38223384)

You shouldn't be that hit by it. Trains are how we used to move food across the US, and we still have a good system. A gallon of gas gets a ton ~480 miles further down the line on average via train. Even if the price were to double that would still come out to a pretty piddly sum of money.

The bigger concern ought to be the cost of producing the food in the first place.

Re:And half the Arctic countries don't care (4, Insightful)

MightyMartian (840721) | more than 2 years ago | (#38223184)

In the short term you may be right, but in the long term, oil is going to run out anyways. And if you think the worst case scenario is $10 a gallon for gasoline, then you're not considering what will happen to innumerable industrial and agricultural processes when we run out of easily obtained long-chain hydrocarbons. The absolutely most moronic, wasteful and short-sighted uses of oil is using it as the energy source for transportation. Nothing demonstrates the sheer awe-inspiring stupidity of the human race than the wasting of long-chain hydrocarbons by sticking them in a gas tank.

Re:And half the Arctic countries don't care (4, Insightful)

joggle (594025) | more than 2 years ago | (#38223188)

America is still a very rich country. Even if we paid $10/gallon at the pump, we'd still be paying lower taxes than Germans (no VAT here and lower income and property tax). We paid very high taxes during WWII and certainly didn't 'dismantle' our modern civilization, quite the opposite actually.

That money doesn't just go 'poof'. In Germany, you can get a free college education (and by 'you', I literally mean you if you are fluent in German regardless of where you're from). They also have high-speed rail, a substantial industrial sector (largest in Europe), and relatively low unemployment.

If gas prices went up, consumption of gas would surely go down, meaning more money would stay in the American economy rather than going overseas.

No doubt it would be painful, but there's no painless way of digging out of the huge debt the US is already in.

Re:And half the Arctic countries don't care (2)

hrvatska (790627) | more than 2 years ago | (#38223284)

I don't think you'd see the dismantling of civilization so much as a change in travel patterns, types of vehicles that people choose to purchase and where people choose to live and work. It would lead to more compact suburban communities that could be more easily serviced by mass transit and a further decrease in the population of rural communities. I live in a rural area, and I know if gas prices were gradually increased to $10/gallon it would lead to fewer people choosing to live around here, with most of those who left choosing to live closer to where they work and shop. But again, civilization wouldn't end.

Re:And half the Arctic countries don't care (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38223328)

It's a little silly to assume that because the US is larger that it MUST ship goods across its entire breadth. We are divided into states, after all, most of which on a scale similar to European countries. Even Texas, the largest of the contiguous states, has the option (spelled out in its annexation treaty) to split up into 5 states.

Besides, in a global economy with most industrialized nations expanding free trade with their neighbors, is transporting something from Turkey to Germany so different from transporting from CA to NY?

That said, I do agree that a sudden jump to $10/gal will strangle the economy, and anyone suggesting that it wouldn't is unfamiliar with economics. The problem is that we don't have any long term energy policy, short of the occasional destabilization of central and south America and the middle east. If such a policy was put in place that in 10 years our gas prices reached parity with European gas prices, our economy would not only adapt and tolerate it, but would flourish. The harshest stifling factor for any economy is uncertainty, and a clear energy policy would go a long way toward reducing uncertainty.

Re:And half the Arctic countries don't care (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38222702)

And which war for oil are you referring to?

Libya? The one started by you Euro-trash losers?

Re:And half the Arctic countries don't care (1)

cusco (717999) | more than 2 years ago | (#38222878)

A goodly portion of the reason gasoline is so cheap is because the industry is heavily subsidized to keep voters happy enough to stay away from the polls. When you have the same people running the war-toy companies as are running the oil companies and they're buying congresscritters wholesale I don't expect any productive change to happen any time soon.

Re:And half the Arctic countries don't care (3, Interesting)

khallow (566160) | more than 2 years ago | (#38222954)

A goodly portion of the reason gasoline is so cheap is because the industry is heavily subsidized to keep voters happy enough to stay away from the polls.

Keep in mind that in the US, gasoline taxes raised about $25 billion per year and that most things considered subsidies for oil are really subsidies for ground vehicles (which happen to burn oil products, but can run on other things) or US defense contractors (who happen to be getting paid lots of money to make weapon systems and provide services to the US military.

USA USA USA! (0, Troll)

tjstork (137384) | more than 2 years ago | (#38223026)

Oh piss off about Germany and its supposed superiority over America.

1) Germany is about the size of Montana, just one of 50 American states, into which 80 million people are crammed. America's national parks (not including numerous state parks), alone, completely undeveloped, are nearly the size of Germany. So, right off the wheel, in terms of sheer size, and getting around, America is a much more rural country than Germany is.

2) Germany's standard of living is based on an export driven economy that essentially relies on the fact that first the mark and now the euro are way overvalued relative to the us dollar, and that the USA picks up the tab for ensuring that Germany even has access to oil by virtue of American military power in the persian gulf.

3) Germany has a declining population - if Germany was so great, why do they have a forecast net population decline? By contrast, the USA has a population that is growing the fastest out of any of the NATO nations.

4) German corporations have a -lower- tax rate than American ones do. Oops, did I say that? Also, German laws are absolutely brutal for debt collection compared to American ones. If you, in America, blow off paying a loan bank, you get a bunch of angry letters and pissy phone calls and for the most part that's really all about they can do to you. In Germany, they can just come and start taking your shit away.

5) The German educational system essentially creates a class system by picking kids early on to go to university. In America, anyone whose willing to take out a student loan and do the work can find some place to get a degree, and all kids are educated not to be tradesman, but to be college bound.

6) I'll take Kentucky bourbon over German beer, American NFL football and MLB baseball over stupid soccer.

7) Speaking of taxed to the hilt, Germans are actually more in debt per capita than Americans are, and the American financial picture improves rather dramatically when the Bush tax cuts expire, and the budget sequesters kick in.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_countries_by_external_debt [wikipedia.org]

8) Germans talk of a United Europe but bitch because the Greeks can't get their shit together. In America, we talk about a United States, and most Americans are not even aware of how federal dollars get redistributed all over the country for rural and urban development. (in essence, southerners wishing for reducing federal spending need to be periodically reminded that most federal spending is actually on them...)

9) Americans have way better food. Want cheap industrial food, got that. Want fresh cuisine representative of every nation on the planet? Got that too.

And then, best of all, there's this:

http://www.insideline.com/cadillac/cts-v/2009/2009-cadillac-cts-v-sets-nurburgring-record.html [insideline.com]

PS - Even France is Better than Germany (3, Funny)

tjstork (137384) | more than 2 years ago | (#38223054)

Let's see - France has better looking women, better food, better wine, better movies and better art, and has been a world leader in aeronautics since Bleriot through Arianespace and Bleriot. Their mintel predated and pioneered the idea of a pervasive online service, they've made tremendous contributions in math. And even though they took it on the chin from Germany in World War II, they had incredible artillery and aircraft in World War I, and previously, pioneered everything in engineering from steel warship construction in the La Gloire, and finally, they gave us mayonaisse.

Re:USA USA USA! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38223324)

you're a dipshit

Re:USA USA USA! (4, Informative)

NeutronCowboy (896098) | more than 2 years ago | (#38223570)

1) And the US has a metric shit ton more resources than Germany. Your point?
2) You fail basic economics. If the mark or the euro are overvalued, exports are terrible because they're more expensive than local goods. Try again.
3) A declining population has nothing to do with economic greatness. Unless you're thinking immigration - in which case, the US is trying real hard to come down to Europe's level.
4) You know squat about German corporate taxes, squat about US taxes and even less about real corporate taxes that arise from such niceties as the dutch sandwich or various indirect contributions.
5) You also know squat about the German university system. Anyone can go to University, except those who keep failing their High School classes. Those that do fail classes go to technical trade schools. It's exactly like the US system, except it's predicated on grades rather than money.
6) Your choice.
7) You're making a lot of assumptions about future events. Would you also like a pony?
8) No idea how that bit of (factual, for once) information relates to how well Germany is doing.
9) Yes, you can get fancy food all over the place. That said, I'd rather walk into a random Braustaette than a random American diner.
10) Your info is about 3 years out of date. In the meantime, the Porsche Panamera bettered the laptime by about 4 seconds.

There are a ton of reasons why Germany has a ton of problems and is worse than the US, but for some reason, you managed to barely allude to only one in your list of ten.

Re:And half the Arctic countries don't care (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38223190)

But, Americans weigh twice as much. It's a lot more expensive to move them around.

Re:And half the Arctic countries don't care (1)

phantomfive (622387) | more than 2 years ago | (#38223472)

Fucking daft, scared "leaders" America is dynamic and can adapt, same as Germany did. Charge $10/gal at the pump and people will stop depending so heavily on petrol that the country has to go to war over it.

They aren't daft, they are democratic. Any 'leader' who did that would be voted out. We don't hire our representatives to tell us what to do, we Americans hire them to do what we want. That's why they are called representatives. They don't always represent, but if they get too far out of line and people notice, they will get voted out.

Believe me, if gasoline goes up to $10/gal, people will notice. And the representatives will be voted out.

Re:And half the Arctic countries don't care (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38223556)

You can not discount the nature of the culture and behavior of the population. There are a lot of countries right next to Germany (on pretty much all sides) that have similar taxes and yet do not have the highest standard of living nor robust economy. In fact, most of Europe has exceedingly high gas prices by 'merican standards, so why don't they all have such a high standard of living? I know it isn't popular to suggest, but every country is not equal, and policies that work in one country may not work in the next. Just drive from Germany to Italy and see the difference. It isn't just government policy that changes, it's the people.

Re:And half the Arctic countries don't care (2)

Curunir_wolf (588405) | more than 2 years ago | (#38223020)

Somebody [wikipedia.org] is conspicuously absent from the Kyoto Protocol. America, fuck yeah.

Not that it would have made any difference anyway - Kyoto was doomed to failure by design. Actually, it probably would have made some difference, as the US generally makes very good faith efforts to actually stick to the treaties it signs (by comparison, check out how well the signatories have done meeting their targets). So the recession in the US would probably be considerably worse than it is, and China would have become the biggest source of CO2 emissions even sooner.

Re:And half the Arctic countries don't care (1)

Oxford_Comma_Lover (1679530) | more than 2 years ago | (#38222652)

It's not that they don't care, it's that the cost to them of committing to the same level of change is much higher--so they don't care enough to make it happen.

Also, you forgot China. It's not like their pollution problem is an eensy-weensy one.

If you had ever been cold.. (1)

symbolset (646467) | more than 2 years ago | (#38223128)

If you had ever been really, truly cold, then you would understand why the folk in Canada and Russia could really give a damn that global warming is flooding your Florida swamp real-estate.

So, without further ado: The Cremation of Sam McGee [wordfocus.com] .

Re:If you had ever been cold.. (1)

ShieldW0lf (601553) | more than 2 years ago | (#38223268)

When you're really, truly cold, a snowbank feels like a feather pillow, and you just want to snuggle up to it and go to sleep.

Clathrate gun hypothesis (5, Interesting)

c0lo (1497653) | more than 2 years ago | (#38222164)

If clathrate gun hypothesis [wikipedia.org] is correct, the things may become interesting during our lifetime (which may be a shorter one).

Re:Clathrate gun hypothesis (1)

MachDelta (704883) | more than 2 years ago | (#38222320)

there is stronger evidence that runaway methane clathrate breakdown may have caused drastic alteration of the ocean environment and the atmosphere of earth on a number of occasions in the past... most notably in connection with the Permian extinction event

Oh... well, fuck.

Re:Clathrate gun hypothesis (1)

masternerdguy (2468142) | more than 2 years ago | (#38222328)

Those poor trilobites.

Re:Clathrate gun hypothesis (1)

c0lo (1497653) | more than 2 years ago | (#38222368)

Well, let's add a bit of info [wikipedia.org] , see how different our situation is from the trilobites:

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. [...]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.

Re:Clathrate gun hypothesis (1)

ColdWetDog (752185) | more than 2 years ago | (#38222564)

Doesn't sound a whole lot more reassuring. Especially the 'potentially be marginally stable' part. Especially if the permafrost lid gets opened up. Which is exactly the scenario that TFA is discussing.

We're doomed.

Re:Clathrate gun hypothesis (3, Informative)

Nidi62 (1525137) | more than 2 years ago | (#38222386)

If clathrate gun hypothesis [wikipedia.org] is correct, the things may become interesting during our lifetime (which may be a shorter one).

It seems that, even if this hypothesis were to be true, our lifetimes would not be affected, nor would those of many generations. You're very source says, in the introduction:"In its original form, the hypothesis proposed that the "clathrate gun" could cause abrupt runaway warming in a timescale less than a human lifetime,[1] and might be responsible for warming events in and at the end of the last ice age.[2] This is now thought unlikely.[3][4] However, there is stronger evidence that runaway methane clathrate breakdown may have caused drastic alteration of the ocean environment and the atmosphere of earth on a number of occasions in the past, over timescales of tens of thousands of years;"

Even were it to happen, it seems that the methane released by the Arctic permafrost would have an effect equivalent to doubling the levels of CO2. It is certainly serious, but it would not be an immediate extinction event, although there could certainly be localized loss of life through droughts and famine. Of course, I am just a layman and certainly not a climatologist, so my initial, and admittedly superficial interpretation could be way off.

Re:Clathrate gun hypothesis (1)

JoeMerchant (803320) | more than 2 years ago | (#38222548)

Of course, I am just a layman and certainly not a climatologist, so my initial, and admittedly superficial interpretation could be way off.

Oh, come on, didn't you see The Day After Tomorrow [imdb.com] ? Hollywood overdramatization at its most extreme, to the point of making a joke out of the subject. Still, there are lots of "white planet" simulation results that get to white quickly (how quickly depends on the models used) and either never recover, or recover very slowly.

No realistic climate models have the Earth long-term stable like Daisyworld [wikipedia.org]

Re:Clathrate gun hypothesis (1)

c0lo (1497653) | more than 2 years ago | (#38223260)

Even were it to happen, it seems that the methane released by the Arctic permafrost would have an effect equivalent to doubling the levels of CO2. It is certainly serious, but it would not be an immediate extinction event, although there could certainly be localized loss of life through droughts and famine. Of course, I am just a layman and certainly not a climatologist, so my initial, and admittedly superficial interpretation could be way off.

If some floods isolated in Thailand causes worldwide harddisk shortages [itnews.com.au] , can you extrapolate what it would be when such floods will become more pervasive? When the current generation is highly dependent on FaeceBook (by extension: communication; not that this communication helps them dealing with the problems) and self-reliant to a minimum?

Re:Clathrate gun hypothesis (1)

JoeMerchant (803320) | more than 2 years ago | (#38222510)

Yeah, so capture the methane, burn it and get CO2 and water. Oh, wait....

Re:Clathrate gun hypothesis (1)

riverat1 (1048260) | more than 2 years ago | (#38223424)

How do you propose to capture methane dribbling out over hundreds of thousands of sq. miles/km of land and sea? It's definitely better to convert methane to CO2 and water than to leave it as methane.

Re:Clathrate gun hypothesis (5, Insightful)

khallow (566160) | more than 2 years ago | (#38222738)

The simple rebuttal is why hasn't the "clathrate gun" gone off [scientificamerican.com] some time in the past 650,000 years? From the link:

The ice core data also shows that CO2 and methane levels have been remarkably stable in Antarctica--varying between 300 ppm and 180 ppm--over that entire period and that shifts in levels of these gases took at least 800 years, compared to the roughly 100 years in which humans have increased atmospheric CO2 levels to their present high. "We have added another piece of information showing that the timescales on which humans have changed the composition of the atmosphere are extremely short compared to the natural time cycles of the climate system," says Thomas Stocker of the University of Bern in Switzerland, who led the research.

There have been several shifts from glacial to interglacial climates during that time. My view is that if massive methane releases were a threat now, then we would have seen something similar during one of these times.

Re:Clathrate gun hypothesis (1)

c0lo (1497653) | more than 2 years ago | (#38223244)

The simple rebuttal is why hasn't the "clathrate gun" gone off [scientificamerican.com] some time in the past 650,000 years?

You know, my investment institution makes the point of "Past performance is not an indication of future performance" quite often, so I'm not quite willing to consider the question of "Why hasn't it gone off?" as a rebuttal... even though it does have a value as a question.

You see... I willing to bet the last 650,000 years didn't see an oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico either. Neither did they see a so high concentration of power in the hands of pure economically (read: "greed") driven and short term focused (read: "Next bonuses round") entities.

Re:Clathrate gun hypothesis (4, Insightful)

phantomfive (622387) | more than 2 years ago | (#38223514)

You see... I willing to bet the last 650,000 years didn't see an oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico either.

You might lose that bet. A LOT of oil spills into the gulf every year naturally, and it wouldn't be surprising if there were a rupture after an earthquake that released a lot of oil at the same time.......at least once in the last 650,000 years.

Jobs (3, Funny)

masternerdguy (2468142) | more than 2 years ago | (#38222168)

Permafrost makes it harder to dig, hurting the economy and killing jobs. That's why everyone hates it.

Re:Jobs (4, Informative)

DanDD (1857066) | more than 2 years ago | (#38222282)

Permafrost makes it harder to dig, hurting the economy and killing jobs. That's why everyone hates it.

Permafrost gives villages something firm to set buildings and roads on. When the permafrost melts, areas typically turn into a marshy bog. This increases the cost of living, travel, infrastructure, etc. The increased insects increase disease.

If you want to live and work in a bog swarming with bugs, go for it. Perhaps you can explain the benefits to the rather annoyed polar bears, or to all the farmers in Texas, Oklahoma, and most of Colorado and Kansas who will see their land turned into an arid desert.

Re:Jobs (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38222292)

I think the OP was being sarcastic dude.

Re:Jobs (1)

Nidi62 (1525137) | more than 2 years ago | (#38222398)

If you want to live and work in a bog swarming with bugs, go for it.

The 600,000+ people living in Washington, DC don't seem to mind too much.

Re:Jobs (2)

Llyr (561935) | more than 2 years ago | (#38222502)

If you want to live and work in a bog swarming with bugs, go for it.

The 600,000+ people living in Washington, DC don't seem to mind too much.

Some politicians are sufficiently toxic that I doubt the bugs would go after them.

Grandma used to say... (1)

symbolset (646467) | more than 2 years ago | (#38222968)

Go ahead and stay home from school. The world needs ditch-diggers too.

Hard digging is good for jobs. :)

Flawed data (4, Funny)

Waffle Iron (339739) | more than 2 years ago | (#38222336)

Arctic temperatures are *not* rising. The data is flawed because the sensors are all set up near Santa's Village, which has been experiencing massive growth over the past few decades as increasing numbers of spoiled kids get more gifts each year. The resulting urban heat island effect (amplified by primitive and inefficient elven HVAC technology) has severely skewed all the Arctic numbers, and the rising temps are just an illusion.

Re:Flawed data (1)

Mashiki (184564) | more than 2 years ago | (#38222372)

David Suzuki is that you? Out to scare more children I see.

Re:Flawed data (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38222430)

No, he's the grinch out to shut down santa's work shop.

Re:Flawed data (2)

TapeCutter (624760) | more than 2 years ago | (#38222452)

No, it's Anthony Watts.

Re:Flawed data (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38223308)

bad news, kids: santa was seen hanging out with the OWS guys and he got some of that pepper stuff in his beard. boys in blue thought he was a hippie and they sprayed him.

he's not gonna be giving out toys and presents this year. he certainly did not look happy while he was being hauled away in those cable ties they use on people these days.

I don't even read these stories anymore (5, Interesting)

paiute (550198) | more than 2 years ago | (#38222358)

Because 1. Man is influencing the climate, 2. Most of this change is going to be bad, 3. There is no political or social will to change our current behavior, and 4. Once shit hits the ecological fan, those with resources will shield themselves from the effects and those without resources will be fucked.

Re:I don't even read these stories anymore (3, Interesting)

Nursie (632944) | more than 2 years ago | (#38222454)

Yup.

Came to this conclusion a long time ago. Humanity ain't gonna get off its collective backside and do anything, least of all when there's profit in breaking any collective agreements, so I may as well just sit back and enjoy the ride.

Re:I don't even read these stories anymore (4, Insightful)

EdIII (1114411) | more than 2 years ago | (#38222552)

There really isn't any point.

1) The majority of people are split across party lines and anti-science.
2) Religious nutbags are everywhere that have the sole justification that climate science is wrong because scientists calculated the age of the Earth incorrectly, and that Man could not possibly affect God's creation.
3) The absolutely ludicrous position is put forward constantly that business and economic considerations must be factored in. That's like arguing on a sinking ship about the value of the cargo.

Irrational and illogical behavior coupled with outright greed and shortsightedness makes it impossible to affect change through legislation. I honestly could not give a fuck about any further research. It does not take a rocket scientist (or a climatologist) to figure out that we have an affect on our environment through our actions with 7 billion people on the planet.

There is one person that I control. Myself. To that end, I do what I can to minimize my own footprint on this planet, and that is all I can do.

Talking is bullshit because nobody is capable of listening, and anyone that does actually listen, is marginalized and has practically no effect. You nailed that. Social will is non-existent. Basically, no one is willing to suffer to get things back to where they need to be. That goes for a lot more than the environment.

I can explain, politely, why it is such a bad idea to buy bottled water, etc. but friends and family still do it anyways because of convenience. I actually got asked why I did not have bottled water from a guest like I was a bad host. I pointed to the glasses and the RO system and this person was indignant because that seemed like more work than getting a bottle from the refrigerator.

Technology and science is not our problem. We are the problem because of how we act globally as a group.

Re:I don't even read these stories anymore (1)

JoeMerchant (803320) | more than 2 years ago | (#38222574)

Because 1. Man is influencing the climate, 2. Most of this change is going to be bad, 3. There is no political or social will to change our current behavior, and 4. Once shit hits the ecological fan, those with resources will shield themselves from the effects and those without resources will be fucked.

1. Yep
2. People hate change, period. Even change for the better is uncomfortable.
3. Ever notice how well the conservatives do in politics?
4. As if those without resources are doing so well right now, or 100 years ago?

Re:I don't even read these stories anymore (1)

sycodon (149926) | more than 2 years ago | (#38222626)

Number one reason....there is always something that is a greater threat than whatever the current threat is.

Re:I don't even read these stories anymore (1)

riverat1 (1048260) | more than 2 years ago | (#38223482)

... those with resources will shield themselves from the effects and those without resources will be fucked.

There's a limit to how much the well resourced can shield themselves. What happens to the riffraff will have an effect on them too.

Re:I don't even read these stories anymore (1)

cultiv8 (1660093) | more than 2 years ago | (#38223536)

I just look for the funny comments.

Sterile wasteland (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38222364)

Doesn't this mean that the sterile wasteland that is permafrost would also come back to life again? I thought more life, especially plant life, was a good thing?

One of the commenters mentioned marshy bog. Isn't that one of the precursors of peat and coal?

Re:Sterile wasteland (0, Troll)

0123456 (636235) | more than 2 years ago | (#38222534)

Doesn't this mean that the sterile wasteland that is permafrost would also come back to life again? I thought more life, especially plant life, was a good thing?

No. This is EVIL CAPITALIST OIL COMPANY plant life, which is bad.

Of course the whole thing is a load of bollocks, and people have far more important things to worry about right now than what some lefties claim might happen in a hundred years. The 'Global Warming' scam is dead.

Re:Sterile wasteland (1)

riverat1 (1048260) | more than 2 years ago | (#38223522)

Once the permafrost thaws out it will probably take hundreds of years for the land to become useable for much. Parts of the permafrost could become coal ... if we covered it over (Tear down the Rocky Mountains? Be careful around Yellowstone.) and waited a million years.

Northwest Passage (2)

cosm (1072588) | more than 2 years ago | (#38222378)

As the globe continues to warm, eventually the Northwest Passage will be a viable route for less ice-hardy vessels more times out of the year, providing economic benefit for those who could utilize the shipping routes. I imagine there are lobbies that would love to see this happen. This is speculation, for I do now know if people actively encourage warming. Looking at the CO2 data and its positive correlation to the mean global temperature increase, it seems we may see that route in our lifetime.

Also as the permafrost disappears, another side affect is a cascading result in the loss of surface ice/snow pack. As the surface area of the snow/ice/arctic shelf shrinks, the Earth's regional albedo will be reduced, ie there will be less radiational cooling and more energy absorbed by the surface. Cycles such as this create feedback loops in the environment that cause these affects to amplify. Lower albedo -> less permafrost/snow/ice/glacier coverage -> more heat -> lower albedo -> ad inifinitum.

I am not a meteorologist, but based on some cursory research these seem to be realistic eventualities.

Re:Northwest Passage (1)

Mashiki (184564) | more than 2 years ago | (#38222438)

The northwest passage has always been a viable trade route. Anyone who things otherwise has been listening to warmists spout off that we've never used it. I'll give you three guesses as to why Canada and Russia have so many ice breakers up there.

Re:Northwest Passage (1)

cosm (1072588) | more than 2 years ago | (#38222482)

The northwest passage has always been a viable trade route. Anyone who things otherwise has been listening to warmists spout off that we've never used it. I'll give you three guesses as to why Canada and Russia have so many ice breakers up there.

I'm talking about shipping savings by sending unassisted regular old plain jane commercial ships without breakers or breaker escorts.
See this. (Circe 2008, fairly recently in terms of open-waters shipping history) [grist.org]

Re:Northwest Passage (1)

cosm (1072588) | more than 2 years ago | (#38222508)

Addendum/self-correction - That example is not the first ever, that article is a bit biased. My point was it will be easier for trade and less icebergs = more ships.

Re:Northwest Passage (1)

Llyr (561935) | more than 2 years ago | (#38222640)

The northwest passage has always been a viable trade route. Anyone who things otherwise has been listening to warmists spout off that we've never used it. I'll give you three guesses as to why Canada and Russia have so many ice breakers up there.

Always been viable? The first ship to successfully travel it from west to east took three years [vancouverm...museum.com] (1940-1942). And that wasn't even trying it out as a trade route.

Re:Northwest Passage (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38222478)

Yes its not all bad, but there are alot of house foundations that will have to be replaced. The make ice piles with wood centre cores that will have to be replaced with expensive screw piling systems and lost of inland communities might have more trouble getting goods.

Re:Northwest Passage (1)

symbolset (646467) | more than 2 years ago | (#38222994)

Lots of things are going to have to change. Just like lots of things always had to change. We live on a changing planet, and if we left it in about 10,000 years you'd never know we were here without some serious digging.

Re:Northwest Passage (3, Insightful)

JoeMerchant (803320) | more than 2 years ago | (#38222716)

As the globe continues to warm, eventually the Northwest Passage will be a viable route for less ice-hardy vessels more times out of the year, providing economic benefit for those who could utilize the shipping routes.

Yes, but a Northwest Passage is a lot less meaningful today than it would have been when Lewis and Clark were looking for it.

I imagine there are lobbies that would love to see this happen. This is speculation, for I do now know if people actively encourage warming.

With a national population of 300 million, I am virtually certain that there are lobbies that would love to see almost anything happen. The trick, as a representative of your constituents, is to only listen to those lobbyists who are pushing an idea that will benefit the majority of your constituents without completely screwing some of them. At the national level, this is generally too complicated to evaluate by a mere Congressional staff office, thus explaining the propensity of our representatives to support lobbies that support their re-election campaign instead.

Looking at the CO2 data and its positive correlation to the mean global temperature increase, it seems we may see that route in our lifetime.

Looking at the "consensus curve" of warming estimates since 1990, I don't see any oscillations or pullbacks, only continuous upward revision across the board. I can only surmise that future estimates of future warming will, based on this meta-analysis of the estimating trend, be higher than today's estimates for some time to come.

Living in Florida and expecting my children to die around the year 2080, I'm most interested in sea level rise estimation. Sadly, it does not look like my children will be enjoying my parent's waterfront property in their later life.

Also as the permafrost disappears, another side affect is a cascading result in the loss of surface ice/snow pack. As the surface area of the snow/ice/arctic shelf shrinks, the Earth's regional albedo will be reduced, ie there will be less radiational cooling and more energy absorbed by the surface. Cycles such as this create feedback loops in the environment that cause these affects to amplify. Lower albedo -> less permafrost/snow/ice/glacier coverage -> more heat -> lower albedo -> ad inifinitum.

Sooner or later, we will also discover serious mitigating effects, such as increased algal blooms in the ocean that act to sequester carbon, or similar things.

I am not a meteorologist, but based on some cursory research these seem to be realistic eventualities.

I don't think the coming generation will escape the Chinese curses [wikipedia.org] : "May you live in interesting times," nor "May the government be aware of you." But since this generation (and the previous) has mostly experienced the worst one: "May your wishes be granted," the next generation or two may be spared that one.

Re:Northwest Passage (3, Informative)

TapeCutter (624760) | more than 2 years ago | (#38222786)

Yep the albedo feedback is the cause of "polar amplification" - the name given to the faster rate of warming in the Artic mentioned in TFS. It's yet another example of a succesful prediction of a previously unknown phenomena by climate models from the 1980's.

Re:Northwest Passage (1)

symbolset (646467) | more than 2 years ago | (#38223060)

The albedo feedback is one of the mechanisms for rapid descent into glaciation as well as rapid ascent from it. It's one of the reasons why when we get too close to the cold, the kill-switch wipes out terrestrial animals so fast that we find woolly mammoths frozen in glaciers with daisies in their bellies when the snow melts again. We were slipping back into glaciation there, for about 9,000 years, and getting close to that kill-switch. And it's normal to see the reverse in an interglacial period like we're in now that we're out of that thicket. What would be odd was if the global mean temperature dropped 2c below present and stayed there for a few hundred years or so in a stable thermal mode the Earth doesn't normally have, instead of switching to rapid glaciation and killing off 90-some percent of us.

2 week vacation in South Africa (2)

Gothmolly (148874) | more than 2 years ago | (#38222388)

If nothing else, soft-science and government types get a taxpayer paid trip to South Africa for 2 weeks. Do you think they really want to FIX global warming?

Re:2 week vacation in South Africa (3, Insightful)

Jeremi (14640) | more than 2 years ago | (#38222556)

If nothing else, soft-science and government types get a taxpayer paid trip to South Africa for 2 weeks. Do you think they really want to FIX global warming?

Don't you ever get tired of your mindless, knee-jerk cynicism?

I think maybe at one time it might have been clever and refreshing to groundlessly accuse people of having a selfish ulterior motive for everything they do. But now that every single freaking person on the Internet automatically responds that way every time anyone does anything, it's just tedious and depressing.

Re:2 week vacation in South Africa (1)

Llyr (561935) | more than 2 years ago | (#38222600)

At least in South Africa at this time of year they may notice the results of global warming themselves. I remember hearing of one climate meeting a few years back that was held in Ottawa in winter; the weather didn't exactly provide an impression of global warming, and may have left attendees thinking that warming might be a good thing.

Re:2 week vacation in South Africa (1)

Capsaicin (412918) | more than 2 years ago | (#38223518)

I remember hearing of one climate meeting a few years back that was held in Ottawa in winter; the weather didn't exactly provide an impression of global warming ...

Copenhagen was another example of that It's pretty silly really ... almost as if these egg-heads want us to make decisions based on the data and the maths!?

No, no it doesn't. (1)

pla (258480) | more than 2 years ago | (#38222432)

The study adds to pressure on United Nations climate treaty negotiators from more than 190 countries attending two weeks of talks in Durban, South Africa that began Nov. 28.

I would agree with you, except that we can expect to see exactly the same thing that came out of the last UN climate summit... And the one before that. And the Kyoto accords.

Namely, nothing. Politicians act on a scale measured by the next election cycle (and can't even manage that lately). I have absolute confidence that our "leaders" will do nothing whatsoever about climate change until they get to feign surprise that all their precious coastal cities seem to have started taking on water - At which point, they'll blame the other party and still do nothing.

Growth? (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38222450)

We have calculated the one-time pulse of CO2 released by thawing. Will the newly arable land not host new carbon absorbing growth into the indefinite future? Perhaps that's how all that carbon got stored there in the first place.

I wonder if this is one of the mechanisms that prevented the Earth from becoming Venus during the last 800 million years of Nitrogen/Oxygen atmosphere. Lord knows I'm left to wonder; I have yet to read a single story about any feedback mechanism that isn't hellbent on destroying the planet.

Re:Growth? (1)

symbolset (646467) | more than 2 years ago | (#38223084)

I might suggest that the vast bulk of CO2 absorbing photosynthesis on earth occurs in the sea since there's such a tall column of growing space to work with - enough to absorb almost all of the light - and ever abundant water to facilitate the process as is required. I shouldn't think terrestrial photosynthesis contributes all that much to the main.

Visit Alaska, tour the Muskeg (3, Informative)

JoeMerchant (803320) | more than 2 years ago | (#38222490)

Think about Alaska, think about the size of Alaska, now, cover it in a layer of mossy stuff several feet thick. That mossy stuff is muskeg [wikipedia.org] , and if you've ever stepped in a soft spot in the muskeg and sunk up to your hip in the muck, you can easily imagine the whole thing decomposing into methane when it gets warm.

It doesn't cover all of Alaska, but then, it's not only in Alaska, it's also all over Canada and Siberia.

Re:Visit Alaska, tour the Muskeg (1)

ColdWetDog (752185) | more than 2 years ago | (#38222606)

Think about Alaska, think about the size of Alaska, now, cover it in a layer of mossy stuff several feet thick. That mossy stuff is muskeg [wikipedia.org], and if you've ever stepped in a soft spot in the muskeg and sunk up to your hip in the muck, you can easily imagine the whole thing decomposing into methane when it gets warm.

I, for one, plan to welcome our new Mosquito Overlords.

All one hundred billion of them.

Re:Visit Alaska, tour the Muskeg (1)

riverat1 (1048260) | more than 2 years ago | (#38223572)

I, for one, plan to welcome our new Mosquito Overlords.

All one hundred billion of them.

Not if the GM mosquitoes [slashdot.org] have their way.

Re:Visit Alaska, tour the Muskeg (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38222824)

Over the mountains and over the plains
Into the muskeg and into the rain
Up the St. Lawrence all the way to Gaspe
Swingin' our hammers and drawin' our pay
Drivin' 'em in and tyin' 'em down
Away to the bunkhouse and into the town
A dollar a day and a place for my head
A drink to the livin' and a toast to the dead

Re:Visit Alaska, tour the Muskeg (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38223314)

I can't imagine the whole thing decomposing into methane.
I can imagine a lot of it turning into forests though.

Re:Visit Alaska, tour the Muskeg (1)

riverat1 (1048260) | more than 2 years ago | (#38223576)

You need a better imagination.

Oh, yawn, we're all going to die. (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38222762)

Oh well, the polar bears didn't drown, the Antarctic didn't defrost, New York hasn't been inundated, so now we're down to defrosting the Arctic? Based on some bogus "calculation" by the known frauds at the UN. Yawn, wake me up when the world ends.

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