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Methane Deathtrap Threatens Democracy

Photo by NASA’s Earth Observatory | CC BY 2.0

A methane deathtrap – continuing Arctic Ocean eruption of ever-increasing levels of methane brings forth speculation of a “Black Swan Event,” meaning society is caught flat-footed oblivious to impending danger until it’s way too late.

Along those lines, The Economist newspaper only recently highlighted the methane issue for its mainstream readership. “The Methane Mystery: Scientists Struggle to Explain a Worrying Rise in Atmospheric Methane,” The Economist, April 28th 2018: “Keeping methane in check is therefore critical if a rise in temperature this century is to remain ‘well below’ 2°C relative to pre-industrial times, a goal set out in the Paris climate agreement of 2015… The explanations put forward by scientists range from the troubling to the truly hair-raising.” (Ed.-“Hair-raising” 100% correct.)

Climate scientists have long sighted methane (CH4) bubbles rising to the surface in the Arctic for well over one decade now, especially along the East Siberian Arctic Shelf (ESAS). Problem: Methane eruptions are gradually turning into virtual monsters, getting bigger and wider (up to a half-mile across of rippling bubbles, according to Russian scientists), and potentially more dangerous and destructive, expanding more and more, in anticipation of a gigantic CH4 burp (maybe 50 gigatons suddenly vs. only 5 gigatons now in the atmosphere) followed by a massive global self-reinforcing planetary heat stroke.

At that point in time, The Economist’s “methane mystery” reference will be solved via The Full Monty as CH4 takes a “selfie” in the form of a 50-gigaton burst. Not pretty!

Unquestionably, methane could be a significant disruption to commonly accepted democratic, and autocratic, but especially democratic lifestyles, as well as one of the least understood threats in all of history, a dreaded “Black Swan Event,” or, in essence, a virtual deathtrap.

Meantime, mainstream science is behind the “eight ball” re Arctic methane. According to an article in the American Association for the Advancement of Science (“AAAS”), the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) claims Arctic methane will be “insignificant” throughout the century, as stated: “The IPCC considers the potential contribution of the ESAS into the emissions of CH4 as insignificant.” (Source: Russian Scientists Deny Climate Model of IPCC, Tomsk Poytechnic University, AAAS, 15 Aug 2017)

What if the IPCC is dead wrong, thus misleading the public head first into a “Black Swan Event,” blindsided by one of the biggest potential human disasters in all history, maybe sooner rather than later.

All of which begs a multi-part question: How can scientists in a worldwide forum, like the IPCC, be so far off base, or is today’s scientific methodology inherently weak, or is the entire climate change scenario simply too vast for effective scientific coverage, or is the ESAS methane threat not that imposing? Nobody knows for sure.

Yet, Russian data on seabed methane concludes that the East Siberian Arctic Shelf shows “… the roof of the subsea permafrost had already reached the depth of hydrates’ stability the destruction of which may cause massive releases of bubble methane,” Ibid.

So, in plain English, methane hydrates are so close to disruptive instability that not much additional global warming is required to totally destabilize the methane clathrates, thus potentially releasing enormous quantities of methane, as happy smiling Americans unknowingly sleep in their beds, assuming NASA, NSA, TSA and the Pentagon will secure their lives. Au contraire… No chance!

Here’s the critical issue: World leaders, other than in America, depend upon IPCC data to adhere to Paris ’15, calling for voluntary country-wide limitations on carbon emissions to hold global warming below the dreaded 2°C figure (Voluntary? Really? Yes! Oh, well!)

In that regard, is it possible that ESAS methane could crank up temps beyond 2°C dangerously fast in spite of far-reaching “voluntary” limitations? Answer: Yes, very likely and probable, according to some climate scientists, resulting in the biggest Black Swan Event (BSE) of all-time and likely, by default, the biggest democracy-smashing BSE ever.

Far and away, the problem is much larger than realized because, according to Arctic News, “Methane Erupting From Arctic Ocean Seafloor,” March 13, 2017: The amount of methane eruptions are often missed (yes, missed, not recorded) by measurement stations as the stations are land-based and measurements are taken at low altitude. By the time CH4 erupting in the Arctic Ocean reaches the land stations, it has risen to higher altitudes. Thus, nobody has a good handle on the problem, but what is known for sure is not comforting.

The world’s leading authority on Arctic methane is Natalia Shakhova, head of the International Arctic Research Center/University of Alaska/Fairbanks. Her marine expeditions into the East Siberian Artic Sea region convinced her of a major risk of a large-scale methane “burp any time now, ” which could result in extraordinarily rapid global warming, potentially burning off agricultural areas, especially the mid-latitudes.

In turn, the massive numbers of eco-migrants fleeing throughout the equatorial latitudes would increase fairly dramatically, thus fueling more and more extremist nationalism, bloody-raw patriotism, and ethnicity-bashing by white supremacists/nationalists, as warring factions fight over food and water, bringing on the final thrust of a dagger into the heart of democracy, as fascism wins, proudly standing side-by-side with abrupt climate change.

As for a reality check, climate change is already forcing eco migration in parts of Asia and throughout the eastern/southern Mediterranean region. It’s already started fueling fascism.

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Robert Hunziker lives in Los Angeles and can be reached at rlhunziker@gmail.com.

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