Climate change - the canary in the coal mine has just died
This week, I read an article in the Independent at the very beginning of this year which I think is of huge significance. In the article, to quote, 'Dramatic and unprecedented plumes of methane - a greenhouse gas 20 times more potent than carbon dioxide - have been seen bubbling to the surface of the Arctic Ocean by scientists undertaking an extensive survey of the region.The scale and volume of the methane release has astonished the head of the Russian research team who has been surveying the seabed of the East Siberian Arctic Shelf off northern Russia for nearly 20 years.'
For a long time now, scientists have feared that the warming of the Arctic regions could have a very dangerous knock on effect; underneath the frozen top of the ground in the Arctic lies layers of decaying vegetation. As vegetation decays, if it doesn't have access to air, it creates methane gas. Methane gas is a far more potent greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide, twenty to seventy times more potent. All that methane, up to recently, was trapped underground by the frozen topsoil and offshore ice sheets. To quote from the article:
'Scientists estimate that there are hundreds of millions of tons of methane gas locked away beneath the Arctic permafrost, which extends from the mainland into the seabed of the relatively shallow sea of the East Siberian Arctic Shelf.'
With the retreat of the ice and the melting of the permafrost, all that methane gas is now bubbling up. This can only cause a vicious cycle; more methane appears, warms the air, makes the ice melt, causing more methane to appear. Methane gas doesn't stay as long in the atmosphere as carbon dioxide but it's certainly long enough to tip the planet into an entirely new level of warming.
I think this is a crucial development. We really need to minimise car use and cycle, live together in small, insulated dwellings, holiday within train distance and eat minimal amounts of meat. If we do all that, we might just stand a chance of stopping runaway climate change. If we don't, our grandchildren and great-grandchildren (if they're alive) will be living in sealed domes underground, eating hydroponic foodstuffs and keeping warm with geothermal energy. I know that sounds extreme and melodramatic but, based on the evidence, that's the most likely outcome. The sealed domes might not look too bad if they're like the one described in this article about a planned Russian underground city in an old mine, as shown in the picture below:
Alternatively, we could end up scurrying around in the near dark like cave fish or mole rats...
...or like something similar to Gollum from Lord of the Rings. We, I think, still have a choice. I know one blog entry is unlikely to change anything but it's better than not saying anything at all.
I've tried to think of a slogan to help focus attention on the problem but all I can think of is:
"Save the planet or look like Gollum!"