Runaway Global Heating HAS BEGUN!
by Anthony Marr
The most alarming phenomenon occurring in
the world today is not skyrocketing fuel or food prices, not looming
terrorism, not even precipitous deforestation, alarming as these may be. It
is something more dangerous than all the nuclear weapons in the world
combined. It is almost unnoticeable – silent, stealthy, patient, remote,
almost picturesque and poetic to the untrained eye. It is lethal without
seeming lethal until it has killed you. And it is emerging from the
underworld as we speak. It is called methane.
Globally, we are talking about permafrost
methane release (see www.HOPE-CARE.org, global warming section, Arctic
subsection) as well as oceanic methane release. Once these releases have
started, global warming will in short order take a quantum leap and become
RUNAWAY GLOBAL HEATING. It will be inexorable, relentless, merciless,
exponential, unsurvivable. When it is all said and done, almost all life on
Earth will have been extinguished.
Oceanic methane release is currently
mainly a matter of projection, but permafrost methane release is not.
Permafrost melting has begun (see the numerous pictures of permafrost
melting in www.HOPE-CARE.org, global warming section, Artic subsection), and
therefore, so has Runaway Global Heating.
Let me explain why this is an inescapable
conclusion. It is very simple really. You don't need to be an Einstein to
· The Earth has warmed up less than one
degree Celsius since the Industrial Age began in 1880, and this has been
enough to begin melting the permafrost.
· The permafrost contains frozen methane
to the tune of about 1,000 billion tons, or 1 trillion tons, which will
gradually be released into the atmosphere in gaseous form as the permafrost
· As a greenhouse gas, methane is 75 times
more potent than carbon dioxide within 10 years of release, and 25 times
within a few decades.
· The Earth will certainly continue
warming up (by 6 or more degrees Celsius by 2100) from the existing and
projected carbon dioxide alone – currently about 700 billion tons in the
atmosphere, 385 parts per million (ppm) in concentration, and increasing by
8.5 billion tons per year from human activities.
· As carbon dioxide and methane
concentrations increase in the atmosphere, a positive feedback loop will
result where the atmosphere will warm up more, which will melt more
permafrost, releasing more methane, which will warm up the atmosphere even
more, which will melt more permafrost, releasing even more methane... This
is not a cycle, but a spiral, a spiral towards oblivion.
· This warming can certainly bring about a
complete permafrost meltdown within decades, releasing all 1 trillion tons
of methane-based carbon into the atmosphere, totaling over 1800 billion
tons, or over 950 ppm in concentration. This will certainly drive the global
temperature well over the 6oC/10oF threshold where 85% of species will be
driven to extinction, to perhaps higher than 10oC/16oF. This will be more
than enough to warm the oceans sufficiently to begin releasing their methane
from thawing marine methane clathrate deposits.
· The Earth has undergone five major mass
extinction bouts. Of the five, only the fifth – the End Cretaceous 64
million years ago – the one that eradicated all dinosaurs - was caused by
anything other than climate change. The third, the End-Permian 251 million
years ago, experienced a global warming of 10oC/16oF, resulting in the
extinction of 75% of all land species and 95% of all marine species. Today,
we are in the 6th, the Anthropocene Mass Extinction, which promises to be
worse than even the End-Permian, because there is an extra factor in play
today not there before - anthropogenic carbon dioxide.
· Here is the most frightening part: The
amount of submarine methane clathrate far out-weighs permafrost methane
clathrate – by a factor of 10. The submarine methane currently locked up in
ocean trenches and continental shelves totals some 10,000 billion tons, or
10 trillion tons. If even a small percentage of this submarine methane is
released, the entire biosphere will be toast. Although various deposits are
stable to various extends, there are continental sill methane clathrate
deposits that can be destabilized by an ocean warming of no more than
The one big question. WHAT IS THERE TO
Corn/soy/cane/palm-derived ethanol won't
do it, since it still releases carbon dioxide (CO2), besides destroying
tropical rainforest to accommodate ever expanding soy plantations.
Conservation won't do it. Even if we have
cars running on 300 miles per gallon, the amount of CO2 in the atmosphere
will still increase, and the temperature will still rise. Even if we stop
burning fossil fuels altogether, the temperature will still keep on rising,
albeit at a slower rate.
Clean energy – solar, wind, geothermal,
wave and tidal – can help reduce CO2 emissions, and can even eventually
reduce CO2 emissions to zero, but cannot decrease the atmospheric carbon
concentration, and therefore cannot stop, much less reverse, runaway global
The only technology that can deal with
runaway global heating is Carbon Capture and Sequestration (CCS), which by
definition absorbs carbon from the atmosphere and actually reduces the
We are not talking about those small,
auxiliary CCS systems attached to coal-fired plants. We are talking about
gigantic free-standing CCS systems actively gobbling up carbon by the ton
out of the atmosphere every day – on a global scale.
Anthony Marr, founder and president
Heal Our Planet Earth (HOPE)
Compassion for Animals Road Expeditions (CARE)
Global Emergency Operation (GEO)
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