And a new study has shown that, at as little as +1.5ºC of global average surface temperature increase (since pre-industrial times / pre-1900 / we're at +0.85ºC now), the release of large amounts of methane -- as much as 100 billion tons of carbon by 2100 -- could become (in ecoSanity's words) a blow torch accelerator of rapid, unstoppable, irreversible (self-perpetuated / reinforced) heat feedback.
Put another way, this would be 'GAME OVER' ON A HORRIFIC SCALE for most life, and would persist long beyond any relevant human time frame.
► Methane is a carbon molecule 86-100 times more potent as a global warming (heat-trapping) gas than CO2 over a 20-year time horizon. It remains in the atmosphere for about 12 years, over which time its heating impact is 100 times that of CO2, and only disappears as it is converted to other greenhouse gases (GHGs), the most notable, CO2.
► Permafrost contains TRILLIONS OF TONS of frozen carbon, at least twice as much as is in our entire atmosphere. This important 2013 study concludes that Siberian permafrost has a ‘thaw down’ tipping point of +1.5ºC (of heating since pre-industrial times, pre-1900), which means that a global climate not much warmer than today (+0.85ºC) appears to be sufficient to melt significant regions. And THAT makes East Siberian shelf sub-seafloor methane a massive, planetary catastrophe risk.
► Melt / destabilization ALREADY causes more and more methane to vent from its safe, frozen state every year.
► "Release of even a fraction of the methane stored in the shelf could trigger abrupt climate warming." (NSF Nat'l Science Foundation press release, March 2010.) In Earth's history, sudden flips to a different, unstable global climate state of +2ºC to +4ºC have occurred over as brief as a 3-year period of time. And the known records are +6ºC over 1–3 years, and +10-12ºC over 50 years. (Steffensen, 2008)
► CO2 emissions are cumulative, which is BAD because, even if we could reduce them to zero this minute, inertia from the 30 to 40-year lag between the release of heat trapping gases and the lifetime of a major proportion of CO2 emissions (the primary source of inertia based on the time it takes for that energy to force itself into the climate system / 90% oceans) would continue to warm the planet. Global average temps would still rise for decades and any reduction from a future peak (if a runaway tip was somehow avoided) would take hundreds of years.
► International climate negotiations can't even find agreement on inadequate emissions reduction targets based on flawed climate models (watch this short video) and dangerous, outdated science (another short video) that doesn't include feedback loops, the main driver of the climate crisis, let alone the catastrophic threat of the Arctic feedbacks outlined above which, based on current negotiation parameters, are still not even under consideration. (Compilation: UN Climate Talks: Betrayal of Life.)
Clear, present impacts ALREADY displace millions / KILL hundreds of thousands each year, and compromise the lives of billions RIGHT NOW.
No less than the fate of allgenerations of all peoples and most species hangs in the balance TODAY. And only emergency international action at emergency (world war-time) speed FAST *may be* proportional enough to confront the scale, scope and urgency of what is ALREADY the greatest crime against humanity, most life and most future life EVER. (Compilation: Betrayal of Life.)
Watch the videos in the playlist above. Further info in the resources below. And for a few specifics about what ecoSanity has concluded must be done in order to have any chance to prevent imminent catastrophe, see: Compilation: Geoengineering and the global climate EMERGENCY.
ecoSanity Founder Glenn MacIntosh is a film / TV industry escapee turned organizer, activist, advocate for emergency action at emergency speed to confront the climate, energy, population, democracy, justice crises. A proponent of peaceful civil disobedience / direct action, Glenn has been an arrested participant in Greenpeace protests outside Cdn PM Stephen Harper's residence, and the federal Parliament buildings. He also reads. A lot.