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Although it’s my downtime right now before I go on another blogging binge, I could not resist posting about a particular article on methane(CH4) since it represents a large hole in current climate change scenarios — the ones which are essentially ignored by governments and their cadre of neoclassical economists. Thanks to ‘ulvfugl’ for alerting me to the Fairfax Climate Watch where this particular methane article was published.

Methane is being released into the atmosphere by various means such as through permafrost thawing and methane hydrate melting/venting, but this article zeroes in on a process called microbial methanogenesis  or biomethanation which is the formation of methane by microbes known as methanogens.

The author deduces from ice-core paleorecords that rising CH4 levels are highly correlated with rising CO2 and temperature levels, and that CH4 rises exponentially in relation to the other two aforementioned factors. Favorable conditions are now in place for CH4 levels to continue climbing upward:

1.) Rising Temperatures
2.) Rising CO2 levels
3.) Increased Biomass Accumulation from elevated CO2 (CO2 fertilisation creates more organic matter which eventually decays to produce more methane.)
4.) Accelerated Hydrological Cycle (heavy rainfall and torrential flooding erode soil which sets the stage for methanogenesis). An interesting example is rice paddies: “Methane is just a natural byproduct of flooded rice fields—underwater microbes produce the global warming gas as they break down organic matter in the water—and a recent study published in Nature Climate Change found that as carbon dioxide levels and temperatures rise, rice fields emit more methane.” Unless you’ve been asleep for the past few months, you are aware of all the flooding going on around the world such as in the Far East of Russia.

Thus the insidious methane time bomb appears to be quietly going off without the human species taking notice of their own demise. Industrial civilization is adrift in hallucinatory technology masking the deterioration of that other world outside all our windows. A large and sudden methane pulse is not required for our extinction, but rather the slow and steady increase of methanogenesis.

The article:

Methane blind spot – could be much bigger than we think

“The potent greenhouse gas methane (CH4) is given short shrift in climate science, and that’s not even considering the methane hydrate or permafrost thaw issues. In fact, sustained methane levels from microbe-generated methane (microbial methanogenesis) could dwarf an Arctic methane hydrate pulse from the East Siberian Shelf.

Current climate models ignore this issue. They use a set of prescribed greenhouse gas levels to run their simulations, and they generally follow the same standardized prescriptions, the RCP scenarios. These RCP scenarios assume that today’s atmospheric methane level rises and falls only as a result of direct human activity. This activity is mostly things like methane-producing farming practices and methane releases from burning fossil-fuels.

But looking at the paleoclimate data for the past 800,000 years (when Earth fluctuated between a climate like today’s and a colder one that featured large continental ice sheets) shows that methane is closely tied to carbon dioxide levels and temperature…” Read the rest