Wednesday, 25 March 2015

The elephant in the room

Abrupt human exinction?

Map of the Arctic showing the East Siberian Shelf

Bathymetric map of the Arctic with key features noted and subject area in red.

Never let it be said that New Zealand does not make a contribution in the world

NZ's net greenhouse emissions increased by 19.8% from 2008 to 2012, ie since this government came into office.

New Zealand is making its own full-hearted and enthusiastic contributions to the near-term extinction of the human species.

Almost every week now we see major headlines coming through those parts of the international media that cover this stuff.

This week has come through with the momentous news that the Atlantic thermohaline circulation (Gulf Stream) is failing, which goes a long way to explaining persistent cold patches in the North Atlantic and the cold in the NE of North America this winter in the midst of warming in the Northern Hemisphere.

As an aside, I have seen this reported in many places except for New Zealand. No one can tell me that the editorial teams in this country can have missed the headlines. More likely, they have decided that this is not for the New Zealand public ("it does not have a New Zealand component").

Changes are happening more quickly than is being let on, and probably more quickly than most scientist are admitting to themselves.

These people are not just scientists but they are also (very) fallible human beings for whom it is well-nigh impossible to join the dots and admit to themselves that neither they, nor their children and grandchildren have a future on this planet.

Putting aside the corporate masters of the world and politicians of the world, I can say one thing - that is that on an individual level, denial is a human failing, not a crime 

For myself, at least there has been another realisation. 

When I went from just reading the figures and put them into a visual form that I can easily comprehend, I realised that methane emissions have truly gone exponential compared with anything that has come before.

I understand that work is being done to go through the figures and to make some sense of it.

On the general level, I have heard a new prediction that with an exponential growth in emissions there could be an extinction event in 8 - 15 years. 

We'll just have to be patient and wait to see the real information which, when to comes, will no doubt come from Sam Carana of Arctic News.

There is another scenario that I have been discussing with my friends. 

It goes like this.

We have seen that there has been consistent and persistent warming in the Arctic, with warm waters from the warmer areas of the planet being brought into the Arctic through the Fram and Bering Straits. So much so that the beginning of the year Arctic sea ice maximum reached its lowest extent on record.

What no one is saying aloud is that if conditions remain similar to what what they have been consistently, month-after- month in winter, it is quite on the cards that we might see a blue sea event - an ice-free Arctic sea - this summer.

Arctic melt pool at North Pole in 2013

Quite apart from the obvious corollary - that this will decrease the albedo of the Arctic and increase absorption of heat, there is something else.

We are already seeing what we have to assume is an exponential increase in methane emissions from the melting permafrost and from methane clathrates.

If the ice melts this may well release the sudden burp of methane that Dr.Natalia Shakhova talks about as the clathrates break down as a result of the warmer water.

We have already seen various trigger points, and we may well see another this (northern) summer.

How quick these changes will be (and the resulting consequences)? I'll have to wait until the experts tell us - but I am sure that they will more more abrupt than the abrupt we have been talking about this far.

This is one of the clearest expositions of the clathrate gun.

I think that we would be talking about an extinction event in short order.

Of course, there is always room for error and things may not turn out exactly as we foresee (they usually don't) and then there is also the looming possibility of a rapid meltdown of the global financial system (not to mention the other meltdown - of 400+ nuclear power plants)

All of that is supposing that our Rulers don't decide to take us back (by accident of course) to a rapid global cooling through thermonuclear war. What used to be called Brinkmanship, is the order of the day and there are no cooler heads (in the West, at least).

There may be no brave individual to steer the world from nuclear conflagration this time.

The threat of war has never been greater (excepting the Cuban missile crisis) than it is right at this minute. The American neo-cons seem determined to go ahead while the Russians, defending their existence as a nation, are not going to back down.

Abrupt climate change or an abrupt end through nuclear war?

Tweedle-dum and Tweedle-dee. 

Take your pick.


  1. I got sent this from a list based in the US, so sent it on on my email list.
    Good work, including the graph M8!

  2. Also the elephant in the room IMO is not abrupt climate change or even extinction.

    It's the dominant all surrounding insane culture aka "civilisation" aka Empire.

    The cultural inertia means collapse is a given, but the vast majority of the "civilised" are so trapped in peak comfort. When faced with reality, they scream "We can't go back!" because they are so smitten with their entitlements and this way of life, they simply can't see a way to back down from collapse. BY DESIGN they go back to building the ramp further off the cliff.

    Sure is an "exciting time" to be alive, eh?!

  3. I believe the article and your concern are well-founded overall, but need to point out that you gave me quite a scare with your chart on global atmospheric methane levels ... You ( accidentally, I'm sure) charted the peak daily methane level (for just recently) with the global mean methane levels from previous years ...

    1. Yes, PLEASE correct that graph. You are damaging the case for concern about CH4. If you merely eliminate the last bar, it is apparent that the increase is, indeed, exponential and that's urgent enough.