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Addressing Climate Change Could Be More Costly Than Thought

A leading engineering professor and…

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Nuclear Energy May Be A Key Tool In The Climate Change Fight

Addressing carbon emissions has become…

Are We Headed For Global Warming Collapse?

Are We Headed For Global Warming Collapse?

This is the first of several posts I will do on Global Collapse. I am not saying, right here anyway, that civilization as we know it will collapse, but I am asking the question: “Can collapse be avoided?” This post will deal with global warming and the associated climate change.

Right now CO2 is higher than it has been in over 20 million years. But it has been higher, a lot higher.

The chart below was published in the Worldwatch Institute’s State of the World 2015 and the source of their data was Goddard Institute for Space Studies

What this chart clearly shows is that global warming, so far, is primarily a northern hemisphere phenomenon and mostly above 60 degrees latitude. Related: Major Shift In Asian Commodity Demand Already Underway

Arctic still heating up twice as fast as rest of planet. Annual average temperatures have continued to rise for the region as a whole throughout the recent slowdown in the pace of warming globally, according to a new analysis of conditions above 60 degrees north latitude.

The ocean, especially the arctic ocean, is warming much faster than the atmosphere.

In fact, the loss of reflective sea ice is part of the reason Arctic temperature has risen three times faster than the global average in recent decades. This effect, known as Arctic amplification, has consequences for nearby land ice, too.

But why is the Northern Well for one reason that’s where most of the people are. That’s where most of the CO2 emissions comes from. But… don’t the air mix from north to south?

How long does it take something in the atmosphere of the northern hemisphere to appear in the atmosphere of the southern hemisphere? The best answer I could come up with was about six months. (I am not at all confident that six months is correct however.) Anyway that is clearly way too short a time for CO2 to have such a different effect on the temperature between the two hemispheres. But what about methane?

Concern Over Catastrophic Methane Release

(Global distribution of methane averaged over 2011 by NASA/AIRS. Note the very high concentrations in the Arctic region. For this map, the highest concentrations occur in the Yedoma region of Russia, a region of multiplying methane emitting tundra melt and Thermokarst lakes [see below]. Image source: NASA/AIRS.)

Methane mixing ratio here is parts per million and the chart goes from 1.71 to 1.85. That is not a big difference but if it takes an average of 6 months for the atmosphere, north to south, to mix then that means there must be a continuous release of methane from the Arctic area.

Here are the measurements in parts per billion as measured by the Carbon Dioxide Information Analysis Center, a department of the US Department of Energy.

Methane Concentrations, February 2014

Prehistoric ……………….. 722 PPB ……… Ice Core measurements.
Northern Hemisphere 1893 PPB …….. Mace Head, Ireland
Southern Hemisphere 1762 PPB …….. Cape Grim, Tasmania

Pre-industrial concentrations of CH4 are evident in the 2000-year records from Law Dome, Antarctica and longer ice-core records found on CDIAC’s collection of data access links to atmospheric trace gases. A spline function fit to those data gives 697 ppm for year 1750, but this may be lower than the global average if agricultural sources in the Northern Hemisphere were already contributing nontrivially. For graphs of two-thousand-year records of CH4, CO2 and N2O concentrations are found here.

The above charts only go to the year 2000. The atmospheric methane has jumped about 400 parts per billion in just the last 15 years. Also notice that the methane concentration as measured from Mace Head, Ireland in February 2014, 1893 ppb, is higher than the highest point on the global chart above, as measured in 2011, 1885 ppb.

But where is all this methane coming from? From the melting methane clathrates, (sometimes called hydrates), in the ocean crust and arctic permafrost.

Mysterious Giant Crater-like Structures Found near New-Zealand

A multinational team of researchers led by marine geophysicist Dr. Bryan Davy from GNS Science has found what may be the world’s biggest pockmarks on the seafloor about 310 miles east of Christchurch, New Zealand. Related: Latest DOE Report Slams Canada’s Oil Sands

The above is an artist creation of what the pockmarks look like on the seafloor.

Scientists believe they are the ancient remnants of vigorous degassing from under the seafloor into the ocean. The structures (the largest being 6.8 miles by 3.7 miles in diameter and 328 feet deep) are at water depths of about 0.6 miles and there is currently no sign of gas being emitted from them.

The team investigated the larger seafloor structures on the German research ship Sonne. Their aim was to determine the geological origin of the structures, which were first noted in 2007.

And the below link is the results of that study.

Gas escape features off New Zealand: Evidence of massive release of methane from hydrates

Abstract

Multibeam swath bathymetry data from the southwest margin of the Chatham Rise, New Zealand, show gas release features over a region of at least 20,000 km2. Gas escape features, interpreted to be caused by gas hydrate dissociation, include an estimated a) 10 features, 8–11 km in diameter and b) 1,000 features, 1–5 km in diameter, both at 800–1,100 m water depth. An estimated 10,000 features, ∼150 m in diameter, are observed at 500–700 m water depth. In the latter depth range sub-bottom profiles show similar gas escape features (pockmarks) at disconformities interpreted to mark past sea-level low stands. The amount of methane potentially released from hydrates at each of the largest features is ∼7*1012 g. If the methane from a single event at one 8–11 km scale pockmark reached the atmosphere, it would be equivalent to ∼3% of the current annual global methane released from natural souces into the atmosphere.

3% from just one pockmark and there are thousands of them on the seafloor:

Pen Bay pockmarks as big as the Rose Bowl

The seafloor of Penobscot Bay has been in the news quite a bit lately due to controversy around a proposed dredging project in Searsport. A little-discussed aspect of the dredge proposal is that the Army Corp of Engineers is proposing to deposit the dredge spoils into an expansive cavern on the sea floor in western Penobscot Bay, called a “pockmark.”

These pockmarks in the Barents Sea are believed to be only 10,000 to 12,000 years old, dating back to the end of the last ice age. The long grooves here in the sea floor was caused by ice pushing across the seafloor. Therefore the pockmarks have to be younger than the melting of the ice.

Sometimes they happen on dry land. This is a small one, below, only 100 feet across.

But that year, 2014, also saw something else. A potential catastrophic release of methane. For in the frozen region of Yamal, Russia the earth near a remote Siberian village began to destabilize. Soon after, according to eyewitness accounts, the area began to smoke. Then, with a bright flash, the ground erupted.

When the smoke cleared, a massive crater was found where only flat, frozen tundra was there before. A giant plug of frozen earth had been ejected violently. And all that remained was an ominous gray-black crater. Related: Why Buffett Bet A Billion On Solar

Researchers investigating the crater found 10 percent atmospheric methane concentrations at its base.

I have watched well over a dozen “Methane Bomb” videos on Youtube. Most, but not all, predict a catastrophe in just a few years. Some, especially those by Guy McPherson, predict the total extinction of human beings as well as most other life. They call it “the firing of the clathrate gun”. And when it goes off, all life as we know it will be destroyed. I don’t believe it! For one reason the clathrate gun has been fired many times before. The last time was just ten to twelve thousand years ago. But then there was no real methane spike in the atmosphere.

But there was massive global warming at this time. But the warming was relative, we went from a deep ice age to the normal weather we have experienced since the melting of the ice. I have no idea why the methane did not show up in the ice core but it could have had something to do with the fact that little ice was laid down during this period. That is it was a time of the great ice melting.

My Conclusions

We are well past the point of no return. Given the delay between greenhouse gas emissions and the actual warming of the atmosphere, there is no way we can possibly stop it. Given the forty year delay between cause and effect, even if we completely stopped the emissions of greenhouse gasses today, it would still be forty years before we saw the first changes from our actions. And we all know we are not going to stop emissions, the best we can hope for is a slowing down of emissions. And it is way, way too late for that to help at all.

If we accept that greenhouse gases are warming the planet, the next concept that needs to be grasped is that it takes time, and we have not yet seen the full rise in temperature that will occur as a result of the CO2 we have already emitted…

The reason the planet takes several decades to respond to increased CO2 is the thermal inertia of the oceans.

The trigger has already been pulled, the methane explosion has already started, the atmosphere is getting warmer but the oceans are getting even warmer. And it will get worse, a lot worse, but it will not lead to total extinction of the human species as Guy McPherson predicts. It will be bad but not that bad.

It has all happened before.

The last methane release, or clathrate gun was fired a mere ten to twelve thousand years ago. But it was muffled by a world with one third of its land covered by ice. The melting of the ice absorbed the heat and all that happened was that the ice age disappeared. But it has happened before when the earth had very little ice cover. And the winter temperatures at some parts of the Antarctic averaged 50 degrees F, (10 degrees C).

Tropical climate in the Antarctic: Palm trees once thrived on today’s icy coasts 52 million years ago

In an area where the Antarctic ice sheet borders the Southern Ocean today, frost-sensitive and warmth-loving plants such as palms and the ancestors of today’s baobab trees flourished 52 million years ago. The scientists’ evaluations show that the winter temperatures on the Wilkes Land coast of Antarctica were warmer than 10 degrees Celsius at that time, despite three months of polar night.

Also the Antarctic, 52 million years ago, was in pretty much the same place it is today. So we cannot use the excuse that the Antarctic continent was much further north.

Also there was intense global warming 90 and 150 million years ago as well as many other times in the geological past. There were many extinctions but life survived. And the laws of physics have not changed. There were deep carbon deposits in the past, there were methane clathrates in the past and the clathrate gun has gone off before. So it is extremely likely that, in the past, there were sudden surges, taking only a few decades, for the global temperature to jump several degrees.

No doubt that there will be more extinctions but life will survive. And given humans can adapt to almost any environment, and in their enormous numbers, occupy every habitual niche in the world, there will be human survivors.

And anyway, there are other possible catastrophes that are likely to hit way before global warming starts to have catastrophic effects.

By Ron Patterson 

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  • James Booth on June 29 2015 said:
    Hate to spoil your party. Temps lag CO2 increases, not the other way around. We're all going to be just fine. Find another alarmist cause, this one's run it's course.
  • Sluggo on June 29 2015 said:
    Someone should educate James Booth on positive feedbacks.
  • Bluto on June 29 2015 said:
    It's the negative feedbacks that predominate. That's what we need to worry about.
  • Doc M. on June 29 2015 said:
    I only got two or three paragraphs into this thing before I realized that despite the word "oil" in the domain name, this is just another liberal soap box like Vox. I'm sure I could pick through my 300 bookmarks on the subject and dismantle pretty much every point he made.

    I do, however, like this line:

    "We are well past the point of no return."

    Okay, then why the article? Besides, with that statement the author just called every liberal site out there a liar, since they all assured us 2015 is the "tipping point", which means we still have another six months to ban all fossil fuels before the earth's eulogy is to be written. I'm recommending life in prison for the smallest infraction. What price, saving the planet?

    Of course, on the subject of 'liars', he's also calling the 3,000 climate scientists who worked on the latest U.N. IPCC report (the actual report, that is, not the hyperbolic version the media was allowed to edit and publish) a bunch of liars, who claimed the earth's temp would go up two degrees over the next century and sea levels would rise approximately 1.7mm/yr, or 14 inches over the next 100 years. Now, I'm no scientist myself, but I'm pretty sure we can handle these impending portents of doom.

    Well, I'd like to chat more, but I've got to go update my will. You know. Just in case he's right.
  • Jim on June 30 2015 said:
    What positive feedbacks Sluggo?

    CO2 follows temperature historically. Currently CO2 is rising annually and yet the global average temperatures remain flat. That does not support the conclusion that rising CO2 levels are driving temperatures up.
  • Jim Cook on June 30 2015 said:
    Very good article indeed - well written and supported. I strongly agree with your conclusions - it is too late to effectively stop the global warming and climate change. We must do the best we can to cope

    James R Cook - Environmental Chemist with San Diego Gas and Electric (40 years in this field) - and yes - I AM a scientist!! Not some guy that does back envelope calculations proving they are right and NASA is wrong about this.
  • Keenan Roberts on July 05 2015 said:
    Wow. Being that this is a newsletter geared largely towards investors in oil and gas, I definitely expected the global warming deniars to pounce on this article. But the sheer number of adolescent, imbecile attacks on this scientifically substantiated article is embarrassing. It is embarrassing to think about the large number of scientifically illiterate and arrogantly ignorant citizens in the US compared with most other countries. But considering the fact that the US consistently ranks as one of the most religious countries in the world, and the fact that over 50% of the population don't even believe in evolution, and over 40% don't believe the universe is many billions of years old, and the fact that 38% of Americans believe in a conspiracy to fake Obama's birth certificate, I guess this schocking level of denialism over global warming in the US is not that surprising.
  • Keenan Roberts on July 05 2015 said:
    But all of the global warming deniars seem to be reading from the same play book. She deniers don't have the facts on their side, they have to resort to fallacies and name calling and divert from the science, along with lying about the science. This standard global warming denier script goes like this:

    1) Attack with ad hominem:

    - "this is just another liberal soap box like Vox"
    - "You're an alarmist"
    - "You're a tree hugger"
    - "You're a liberal/socialist/commie"


    2) Make ignorant and false assertions with arrogant certainty, and of course never citing any sources:

    - CO2 follows temperature historically
    - Currently CO2 is rising annually and yet the global average temperatures remain flat
    (your script is very outdated. This was a tactic by disinformationists to cherry pick data starting in 1998, which was an el niño year and was not surpassed until 2005 because of the natural variability of el nino and la nina cycles. Since then, there have continued to be hotter and hotter years, with 2010 surpassing 2005, and now 2015 so far the hottest year ever. The so-called pause was only 7 years, and no scientist worth their degree would ever pretend that 7 years is enough to make any assumption regarding longer term climate change trends. Additionally, more than 90% of global warming heat goes into warming the oceans, while less than 3% goes into increasing the surface air temperature, and the ocean warming did not show a pause between 1998 and 2005, but rather a steady increase.)
    - "We're all going to be just fine"
    - "Now, I'm no scientist myself, but I'm pretty sure we can handle these impending portents of doom." (actually, the first part is true - "I'm no scientist")
    (The scientists say "warming by the end of the 21st century will lead to high to very high risk of severe, widespread, and irreversible impacts globally." But I guess we are supposed to take your word over the scientists' word :*/ )
    - "the latest U.N. IPCC report...claimed the earth's temp would go up two degrees over the next century and sea levels would rise approximately 14 inches over the next 100 years. (I like how you omitted whether it was F or C temperature)
    (in fact, the latest IPCC report of 2014 states that, if emissions continue to increase at the current rates uncontrolled, the average surface temperature will increase between 2.6 degrees C and 4.8 degrees C and oceans will rise 0.45 to 0.82 meters, which is between 18 inches and 32 inches, and that is before the full effects of the complete breakup of the West Antarchtic Ice sheet are felt, or a complete melting of the Greenland Ice sheet, which could add another 5 to 10 meters to ocean levels)

    3) Redefinition of words

    - Science now is defined as "liberal"
    - Scientists (the real ones, not the small handful of fake ones who are taking money from fossil fuel interests to put out disinformation on global warming) are now defined as "liberals"
    - a 97% scientific consensus is redefined as "uncertainty and disagreement in the scientific community"
    - theory is redefined as no more probable than a hypothesis
  • Ozair on July 08 2015 said:
    I think the world has already practically started seeing the ramifications of increasing global temperatures in the countries like India and Pakistan, where thousands of deaths reported due to sudden surge in temperatures upto 45c to 50c and the decrease in rain fall, something very rarely experienced historically.
  • Gregory Vaughan on September 03 2015 said:
    I am so sick of all this gloom and doom!
    The earth heats and cools on cycles, always has, always will!
    This is not based on "fact" it is based on "theory".
    A theory is an unproved fact the last time I checked!!
  • Allan Barr on September 15 2015 said:
    Well written, the author is remarkably informed. He is right, it's going to get grim.

    The methane clathrate gun is firing on all eight cylinders as evidenced by all the purple around the world. I came up with that easy way to evaluate increasing CH4 content, when they are not geoing too heavy that is, lol. Red/Orange plus blue = Purple the new in colour.

    He covered a remarkable amount of content, so did not expect him to cover it all. There are so many different forcing factors now coming into play. Ironically loss of arctic ice will lead to greater extremes. With the near disappearance of arctic ice this year expect a severe winter East coast with record snowfall. If Godzilla is able to overcome the blob reinforced with the pineapple express one can expect floods of biblical proportion in California. Parts of the Central Valley are falling by 2 inches a month right now, much of it is below sea level and if the historic floods of 1823 are anything to go by we may end up with the central valley turning into a lake. Of course sea levels may increase abruptly by a foot or more due to El Nino that being the case we may enjoy the sea of Cali where most of America once got much of its fruits, nuts and vegetables. These may seem like extreme outlooks but abrupt climate change is just that, Abrupt.

    In past mass extinctions the jellies always showed up, they tolerate lower Power and Potential of Hydrogen far better than most species due to not having bones and oceans that had almost no oxygen. H2S is going to be a real bitch, that's coming next in fact regional overturning of H2S has already been observed. WHEN this occurs worldwide all apex life forms, Humans for example will become extinct within 4 to 6 months. We may be the clever monkey but certainly are not wise.

    Thou shall not murder nor murder thyself and Genocide violates both of Gods loving admonition. For who will transform our shit and in return give us their good shit, for example our exhale welcomed by trees who take the CO2, respirating the O2. We dont have a shortage of nutrients in fact we have an overabundance. we need to give the transformers a chance to recover and there is no sign we are even thinking that way.

    Finally simple math lesson. At a five percent growth rate in 12 to 14 years from now we will have doubled the amount of carbon burnt since 1750. Yes thats not talking about climate change its simple math. Everything we have emitted since 1750 to now will be emitted again over the next 14 years. Ask any self extinctionist to refute the laws of math, they certainly seem intent on denying the laws of physics.

    If we do not balance the PH of the biosphere then anything we do is like pissing into the wind. Simple chalk would do it but there is no real money in such a simple solution is there?

    https://www.facebook.com/groups/Ilovelife2/
  • Bill Simpson on March 08 2016 said:
    Better start climate modification high altitude spraying to reflect some light pretty soon.
    Although the collapse of the over levered financial system will probably end civilization much sooner than runaway warming will be a threat. Collapse the banking system, like nearly happened in 2008, and everything will come to a halt, because not much happens without functioning banks. Bush looked scared that night on TV for a good reason. The credit system was freezing up, threating to bring down the too big to fail banks. Negative interest rates are a warning sign that serious financial trouble looms.

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