Bubbling our way to catastrophe …

Oscillating between pessimistic optimism (or optimistic pessimism), there are so many reasons to be hopeful for change. Amazing technologies. Increasing awareness. McSUV sales plummeting. Political leaders taking forthright stands. Optimism.

Reality can strike hard, ambusing surging optimism with reasons for dire concern. Today’s Chicago Tribune had a story of bubbling catastrophe

Sergei Zimov waded through knee-deep snow to reach a frozen lake where so much methane belches out of the melting permafrost that it spews from the ice like small geysers.

Remember, methane is 23 times as potent as carbon dioxide as a greenhouse gas (GHG). And, billions of tons of Siberian peat/such melting and we’ve crossed any sort of tipping point of humanity having a say about the direction of global warming in the next few years.

the Russian scientist struck a match to make a jet of the greenhouse gas visible. The sudden plume of fire threw him backward. … “Sometimes a big explosion happens, because the gas comes out like a bomb…. There are a million lakes like this in northern Siberia.”

A million bubbling, exploding lakes.

Out of sight of almost all of us (the US). Out of mind for most as well.


In Siberia, the permafrost entombs billions of tons of organic matter from the Ice Age, … Dormant for millennia, the permafrost is being thawed by global warming, triggering the microbial consumption that results in the release of greenhouse gases.

Positive feedback loops are not necessarily so favorable in their outcomes.

The process feeds on itself. As the climate warms, permafrost on the banks of Siberian lakes collapses into the water, supplying bacteria with more organic material to consume and further raising the level of methane released into the air.

And, Zimov’s analysis is not for the optimist.

The melting of permafrost cannot be stopped, Zimov said, but it could be slowed.

To slow it, Zimov is advocating aggressive geoengineering (perhaps on a local level).

Zimov is reintroducing the grasses and herbivores that dominated northern Siberian steppes 10,000 years ago, and he plans to bulldoze portions of the park’s larch forest and shrubland. Foxtail and cotton grass are taking root, providing fodder for Yakutian horses, reindeer, musk oxen and bison Zimov envisions on the park’s flatlands.

It’s nothing less than the creation of a new ecosystem, a daunting task aimed at building a bulwark against global warming. It will take years before the park’s herds are large enough to make a discernible difference. But Zimov hopes the park serves as a template for similar efforts across Siberia’s warming permafrost.

We’ve done so well at managing the ecosystems that we were given.


2 responses to “Bubbling our way to catastrophe …

  1. Whilst I am concerned that we don’t destroy our planet (btw who said we own it) the juru is even now, out on the climate change issue.

    The BBC

    Climate Change – The Mother of all Distractions?

    sits on the fence just a little, because it too thinks that the earth’s climate is just a little too complicated to make the sort of sweeping statements that are resonant of tabloid newspapers in the UK.

    With august organisations such as the United Nations coming down on the side of cattle being the single most dangerous contributor to global warming

    Cow ’emissions’ more damaging to planet than CO2 from cars

    it is difficult not to feel a little punch drunk from all of the hype that is flying around.

    A measured meaningful discussion of all the issues would be far more useful at this stage, and I’m afraid this leads me to the conclusion that I must sit on the fence until I hear a convincing argument.

  2. Rob,

    I simply don’t see where the “juru is out” on Climate Change. There might be reasoned debate about what should be done. There might be controversy within the science community as to speed of impact and extent of impact. But, as to whether there is Global Warming, whether humanity is a driving factor, and as to whether (on balance) this is a bad thing, I do not see any basis for living in a reality-based worldview and questioning these basic points.

    Now, as you ‘sit on the fence’, are you strongly supporting ‘no regrets strategy’ measures to reduce carbon footprints and otherwise deal with Global Warming?

    The question: If Global Warming is as I (and many 1000s more qualified than I) lay out, what are the implications of not acting aggressively to reduce fossil fuel energy use and otherwise reduce humanity’s carbon footprint?

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