Methane: A Growing Factor in Global Warming

According to the National Energy Technology Laboratory, methane is 23  times more effective than carbon dioxide as a greenhouse gas, and as the Arctic warms and permafrost melts, vast amounts of this gas are being released into the atmosphere. 

So Al Gore’s dire projections in his Inconvenient Truth book and movie, based as they are primarily on atmospheric increases of carbon dioxide alone, may actually be conservative.  What! Al Gore conservative?

Sitting in a waiting room recently, I leafed through the latest copy of  Mechanics Illustrated.  I don’t know why I don’t subscribe to this magazine, I’m always fascinated by the articles it contains.  This edition contained a story about how the attention of environ- mental scientists is turning to the thousands of shallow lakes formed by seasonal melting of permafrost areas in Siberia and Canada.  According to the article, the lakes in Siberia appear to be “boiling” over with huge bubbles of methane gas rising to the surface.  This is being caused by decomposing organic matter below the surface of these lakes.  The article peaked my interest, so I decided to do a little on-line research today.  I found the following National Geographic article:  Study, Siberian Bogs Big Player in Greenhouse Gases.  Here’s a quote from the article, which you might want to visit: 

“Since we focus so much today on manmade sources of greenhouse gases, it’s easy to forget that global climate changes also occur naturally.  But we’re in uncharted territory when it comes to combining manmade sources with natural sources.  If the Siberian peatlands, with 11,500 years’ worth of organic matter stored in them, start to rot away, we could be in for a big shock.”

Evidently, this has already started to happen, big time.  So, get ready for the big shock.

As a teacher of geography and an armchair activist myself, I have little doubt that our environmental canoe is precariously tilted.  It may in fact already be too late for us to stop it from completely rolling over in our own lifetimes.  And what will happen when it does?  Island nations, such as the Maldives in the Indian ocean and the Marshalls in the Pacific, will cease to exist.  There will be wholesale extinctions of many species;.  Many of the world’s great rivers, rivers that support food production for billions, will dry up and disappear along with the glaciers now found in the Alps and the Himalayans.  Tropical diseases and insect pests will migrate farther north and south into temperate zones.  And finally, our great coastal cities will experience massive flooding.  Just think what will happen to Amsterdam, Shanghai, Tokyo, Sydney, and New Orleans when sea levels are twenty or more feet higher than today. 

Accordingly, I believe the 110th Congress really needs to move on this issue, bringing it to the top of their legislative agenda, and acting on it agressively.  In the meantime, you ask, what should we be doing as individual citizens?

I invite you to consider joining with me and the other 602,350-plus members of the Global Warming Virtual March in com- municating our concerns to Washington.  Join the march, then send individual messages to your representatives via Environmental Defense.  Finally, work toward becoming “carbon neutral” yourself.  You can do this by taking a big step — sign-up for clean, renewable electricity for your homes.  If you live in Texas or other states that are serviced by Green Mountain Energy, check them out for wind-generated and hydroelectric alternatives to coal, gas, and nuclear power.  The cost to you, here in Texas anyway, is the same either way.  So what are you waiting for?  Doing this will send an economic message to energy producing companies.  You will also be sending a political message to your states’ governments.  For example, Governor Rick Perry of Texas is a big supporter of TXU’s near term, profit-minded plans to build more coal-fired energy plants over more environmentally friendly, long-term alternatives. 

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Published in: on January 20, 2007 at 5:37 pm  Comments (5)  

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5 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. ok well I think that this could come out to be a very bad outcome for my generation ,but from what i have heard there are people in a higher seat than you and I that are tring to fix this problem by using other thing for energy. I am realy concerned and worried about this and I plan to talk to my mom and dad about swiching to a company that dose not use coal or other harmful thing for energy but like you have said it has alredy been started and it might be to late to do any thing about it, but we all need to do our part.

  2. I agree with what you said and it kinda worries me. We need to do all that we can to stop this problem so that it does not become worse and maybe we can fix the damage that has already been done. I also hope that people in high positions in our country are doing their part to prevent global warming.

  3. This really concerns me. I agree with the terms you said. If we do not try to put a stop to this abomination we may all suffer from the methane gases that destroy our ecosystem and our world as we know it! Global Warming is happeneing and we must start imdiately trying to figure out ways to stop it from harming the indivduals around the globe. I will look into the march and may attend it.

  4. I do not think that we are entirely to blame for this situation. I agree that humans in general aren’t helping, however, I am disinclined to believe that we are the entire, nor even the majority of the problem. ‘Global warming’ began long before the Industrial revolution and the invention of the internal compustion engine. It began 18,000 years ago when earth began to warm after undergoning the Pleistocene Ice Age. Approximately every 100,000 years Earth’s climate warms up temporarily. These warm periods, called interglacial periods, appear to last about 15,000 to 20,000 years before regressing back to a cold ice age climate. It is one of these interglacial periods we are currently enjoying. The gradual increase in temperature is, in my opinion, simply a phase of earth’s glacial cycle. That being said, I doubt very much that even if congress could be persuaded to take action against ‘global warming’, that anything within out power would stop it.

  5. This article makes a lot of sense. Everything is well-planned, well-organized, and well-executed, but the bottom line bugs me. Global warming is big. Real big. It took a HUGE number of environmentally damaging gases to create the problem, so how should we fix it? A HUGE number of….anti-environmental damaging gases? I feel as though I’m in danger of a double negative.

    But how can we make these anti-damaging gases popular to the public? Well, make them useful. How? Cars are useful, make them from cars. We’ve started, electric cars, etc, but that’s not really working, they haven’t really taken off with the general public. So, make them out of things the public doesn’t use, make them into government facilities, huge plants for the manufacturing of oxygen and the like. How long would that take? Global warming is a big problem, it takes a big amount of time. Construction, then the actual implementation of the plants (or whatever we find), it could take some time for them to grow, then the actual implementation of the “plan”…years, sounds like to me.

    Here’s to years away!

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