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Nature

The tipping point is coming

August 25th, 2014
in:Nature
by:Itai Lahat
located in:USA

As we witness the global climate change in front of our eyes, many still doubt the science and conclusions of global warming. According to the American census project, that survey public opinion and scientific research about global warming.

More than half of Americans are still not convinced that the science is valid enough. The American media is also playing a role in that – 34% of it gives a voice to climate change deniers. This is stark contrast to the science community – 97% of climate researchers agree on Global Warming. A review of 14 thousand scientific publications on the subject that were published between 1991 to 2012, showed that 24 of them rejected the theory that global warming is a result of manmade actions.

But now many climate researchers are warning of a tipping point. They speak of the huge amount of carbon locked under the Siberian permafrost. And as the world, mainly the arctic, is warming up, this organic material is starting to release incredible amounts of CO2 and methane to the atmosphere, speeding the process of global warming to a yet undetermined degree, but surly to a catastrophic one.

The reason scientists talk about the dangers of permafrost melting is not only because of the threat it poses to our lives and the eco-system of the world, they are speaking of it as tipping point from which things are going to get seriously out of human control. If until now there is a battle raging on manmade CO2 emissions and the possibility of lowering them, then we are about to reach a point where things are already spiral out of human control, and nature will take it’s considerably larger role in shifting us to a rapid rise in temperatures to an unthinkable point.

The focus is now on the east Siberian Arctic shelf. This huge area that folds on 2 million square kilometers is realizing nowadays the amount of methane generated in the rest of the world oceans. While the permafrost in the area serves as a cap to the huge amounts of methane stored underground, it is starting to melt and release its grip from those underground pockets. To clearly understand the amount of methane gas trapped in the shelf, you have to understand the mechanism of its creation. The source of methane is from organic material. Take your compost pile, or cow manure as an example, they all emit methane in the bacterial process of decaying.

So how much organic matter is actually locked under the permafrost of Siberia? Dr. Kevin Schaefer, an Arctic research scientist from the national snow & ice data center, says there are currently 1700 giga tons of organic material locked in the permafrost. What does that number mean? According to Dr. Nikita Zimov from the Russian academy of science, all the carbon that is stored on the surface of the world, all the grass and trees and plants surrounding us, is less than the amount of carbon locked in the permafrost in the Yakutia area in Siberia. In other words, if you would to chop down all the plants all over the world and put them in one pile, it will still be less than the amount of carbon organic material locked in this 1 million square kilometer, which is just a part of Siberia.

It’s just like having broccoli in your freezer. As long as it is frozen its carbon is locked, but the moment it is out to melt, it starts decaying and in the process produce CO2 and Methane. While methane doesn’t linger as long in the atmosphere as carbon dioxide, it is initially far more devastating to the climate because of how effectively it absorbs heat. In the first two decades after its release, methane is 84 times more potent than carbon dioxide.

If you want to learn more about the subject, then take a look at this new short film called “Arctic Emergency: Scientists Speak”. This film done by film maker and writer Max Wilbert show scientists speak on melting ice and global impacts. It was released at the beginning of this month; show how Rising temperatures in the Arctic are contributing the melting sea ice, thawing permafrost, and destabilization of a system that has been called „Earth’s Air Conditioner“.

 

 

Article written by:
Itai Lahat
Author
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Greenhouse Gas Release from a Warming Arctic. The thawing of permafrost is one of three powerful feedbacks by which global warming amplifies itself.
Greenhouse Gas Release from a Warming Arctic. The thawing of permafrost is one of three powerful feedbacks by which global warming amplifies itself.

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