What Goes Up: Doing the Math

I give you exhibits A and B–just two of literally thousands of pieces of information making it clear that, in the very near future, we need to be MORE rather than LESS open to what a wide mix of sciences tell us about trends regarding our oceans, soils, forest, and atmosphere. Failure to do so will be the most egregious act of folly of any disappeared civilization to date.

The Methane Monster Roars  with Fred’s highlights.

How Many Gigatons of CO2? An infographic

Exhibit A: The link to the methane piece shows my copious annotations. It is the kind of article that, at some point after I got into it this morning, I had to just mark as wholly worth reading and give up highlighting.

The most startling possibility in this article is one I’ve known for some while, put forth by methane researcher Natalia Shakhova. She (and others) think it entirely possible that a 50 gigaton methane release from permafrost and ocean hydrates could erupt over a matter of months or less, once it is triggered. Some refer to this as the “methane burp.” This event might even get the attention of  the most hardened science deniers.

Do the math:

Over the short term (25 years) every molecule of methane exerts about 100 times the greenhouse gas effect of a molecule of carbon dioxide. So 50 gigatons of methane has the atmospheric impact of 5000 gigatons of CO2 for long enough to be of geologic time scale importance to living things on Earth. Past periods of mass extinction were triggered by lesser events. See exhibit B.

Exhibit B: take a look at this infographic. A sudden increase of 5000 gigatons of greenhouse gas far exceeds what it will take to increase global temps to 6 degrees C above the current 0.8 degree rise–which is already wreaking no small degree of havoc in ways with which we are all, by now, too familiar. And this cataclysm would take place in the geological blink of an eye.

Meanwhile, back at the hen house where the fox presides, it’s business as usual, damn the torpedoes, full speed ahead, and without the pesky limits and profit-capping regulations and no longer wasting time with all that messy science mumbo-jumbo.

I’m sorry about this, science shunners, but not matter how much you don’t want to accept facts, what goes up still comes back down.

The Incas and Mayans can be forgiven their inaction before they disappeared.  THEY couldn’t have known. They didn’t see it coming.

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Fred First holds masters degrees in Vertebrate Zoology and physical therapy, and has been a biology teacher and physical therapist by profession. He moved to southwest Virginia in 1975 and to Floyd County in 1997. He maintains a daily photo-blog, broadcasts essays on the Roanoke NPR station, and contributes regular columns for the Floyd Press and Roanoke's Star Sentinel. His two non-fiction books, Slow Road Home and his recent What We Hold in Our Hands, celebrate the riches that we possess in our families and communities, our natural bounty, social capital and Appalachian cultures old and new. He has served on the Jacksonville Center Board of Directors and is newly active in the Sustain Floyd organization. He lives in northeastern Floyd County on the headwaters of the Roanoke River.

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  1. Do you know any reliable figures on methane leakage in the production cycle – I’ve heard numbers like ‘up to 9% tossed about.