New Study: What’s Scarier than the Permian Extinction? Burn All the Fossil Fuels to Find Out.

If we burn all the fossil fuels “not only will the resultant climate change be faster than anything Earth has seen for millions of years, the climate that will exist is likely to have no natural counterpart, as far as we can tell, in at least the last 420 million years.”  — Gavin Foster, Professor of Isotope Geochemistry at the University of Southampton

*****

Back in the 1780s as coal-fired smoke stacks sprouted across England to belch their black soot into the hitherto virgin skies of Earth, it’s likely we had not yet an inkling of the vast destruction these dark Satanic Mills were ultimately capable of unleashing:

(Scientists have now found that burning all the fossil fuels through about 2250 could result in conditions that are worse than those that occurred during the Permian Extinction of 252 million years ago. Video source: Catastrophe — The Permian Extinction.)

Svante Arrhenius, by the late 19th Century, had hinted that coal burning might warm the Earth by a tiny bit in a few thousand years. But the very fossils we were digging up and burning at an ever-more-rapid pace warned of a different and far more ominous story (see video above). They hinted of a time when massive volumes of ancient carbon stored in the Earth were released into the atmosphere over the course of thousands of years. And that this release created such hot and toxic conditions that, for most living things, the Earth was no longer habitable.

Unsafe Warming

The Permian-Triassic Extinction of 252 million years ago was the worst hothouse catastrophe that has ever occurred in all of the geological record. It wiped out 96 percent of marine species and more than 70 percent of terrestrial vertebrates. It was the worst of many such hothouse events sparked by rising levels of greenhouse gasses that now serve as a clear warning in the fossil record of the dangers we invite.

Today, after merely 230-odd years and following the emission, by fossil fuel burning, of hundreds of billions of tons of carbon into the atmosphere, the Earth has warmed by far more than just a tiny bit. The glaciers are melting, the seas are rising, the corals are bleaching from the heat of it all, and unprecedented (to modern humans) droughts, heatwaves, storms and wildfires are all being unleashed.

(Unsafe at any warming. As of 2014 the world was about 0.8 C hotter than NASA’s 20th Century baseline — which was already hotter than any previous time period in which human civilization existed. By 2016, that line had moved up to 0.98 C hotter than the NASA 20th Century range and 1.2 C hotter than 1880s averages. Image source: Precarious Climate.)

And though climates have changed in the past, the new scientific evidence indicates that what is happening today is clearly unusual:

Scientists can seek to understand past climates by looking at the evidence locked away in rocks, sediments and fossils. What this tells us is that yes, the climate has changed in the past, but the current speed of change is highly unusual. For instance, carbon dioxide hasn’t been added to the atmosphere as rapidly as today for at least the past 66m years.

By burning fossil fuels, we have crossed the threshold into a new age of trouble. But all the present calamity is just a foretaste of how bad things could get if we fail to stop burning the fossil fuels and to halt a great and vastly harmful emission of carbon into the Earth’s atmosphere.

For, according to our best present knowledge, in the Earth there still remains enough fossil carbon to raise the current level of atmospheric CO2 (CO2e) from today’s highly elevated 405 parts per million (493 ppm CO2e) average to over 2,000 parts per million by around 2250. And a new scientific study now confirms that if all this fossilized carbon is burned by then, the amount of heat trapped in the Earth’s atmosphere will become greater than during the worst mass extinction event in the Earth’s deep past (rising by about 10-18 degrees Celsius above 1880s levels).

(The potential and likely global impacts of climate change are bad enough during the 21st Century with between 1.5 and 6 C + warming expected. But if we burn all the fossil fuels, new science indicates that about 10-18 C worth of warming is ultimately possible. Looking at these impacts, what sane person would recommend doing such a thing? Image source: Climate Impacts.)

Unprecedented in 420 Million Years

This new study shows that fossil fuel burning, if it continues, will be enough to produce a warming event that has never happened in all of the past 420 million years by the 23rd Century. From now to then is about the same passage of time that occurred between the 1780s and now. And though humankind and its civilizations are probably capable of surviving the first 230 years of this considerable fossil fuel burning, it is highly doubtful that the same can be said for the next 230 years.

From the study author Gavin Foster:

“It is well recognised that the climate today is changing at rates well above the geological norm. If humanity fails to tackle rising CO2 and burns all the readily available fossil fuel, by AD 2250 CO2 will be at around 2000 ppm — levels not seen since 200 million years ago. However, because the Sun was dimmer back then, the net climate forcing 200 million years ago was lower than we would experience in such a high CO2 future. So not only will the resultant climate change be faster than anything Earth has seen for millions of years, the climate that will exist is likely to have no natural counterpart, as far as we can tell, in at least the last 420 million years.”

(UPDATED)

Links:

Future Carbon Dioxide, Warming Potentially Unprecedented in 420 Million Years

We Are Heading Toward the Warmest Climate in Half a Billion Years

Precarious Climate

Catastrophe — The Permian Extinction

NOAA ESRL

And Did Those Feet in Ancient Time…

Hat tip to Wharf Rat

Hat tip to TodaysGuestIs

Hat tip to Mark Oliver

Hat tip to Wili

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119 Comments

    • Thanks for this tribute, Cate. We all sorely miss him.

      Reply
    • Ryan in New England

       /  April 6, 2017

      I miss DT and his contributions every time I’m in the comments section. Fortunately we have lots of passionate scribblers who continue to make this a wonderful place.

      Reply
  1. Is a Venus scenario on the table?

    Reply
    • According to the best model assessments we have at this time, it does not appear that a full runaway to a Venus-type climate is possible (Hansen). That said, if we burn all the fossil fuels and get enough carbon feedback, then we can end up with a wet stratosphere type runaway warming event. Such a climate is not hospitable to advanced life.

      Reply
  2. climatehawk1

     /  April 5, 2017

    Tweet scheduled.

    Reply
  3. islandraider

     /  April 5, 2017

    “The real problem of humanity is the following: we have paleolithic emotions; medieval institutions; and god-like technology. And it is terrifically dangerous, and it is now approaching a point of crisis overall.”
    -E. O. Wilson

    The crises are here and they are multiple. Technologically solvable as we approach 7.5 Billion?

    Reply
    • Each year, the cost of renewable energy drops, the applications broaden, and the tech becomes stronger. It’s very clear that the capability to transition away from fossil fuel burning exists like it never has before. Wind and solar are cheaper than coal, we’ll exceed a million EV sales this year and likely hit 2 million by or before 2019. Coordinate storage costs are in free fall as well. So the benevolent tech is there. The politics, as you note, are rather mideval.

      Reply
  4. Erik Frederiksen

     /  April 6, 2017

    Here’s a paper titled “Massive release of hydrogen sulfide to the surface ocean and atmosphere during intervals of oceanic anoxia”

    “Simple calculations show that if deep-water H2S concentrations increased beyond a critical threshold during oceanic anoxic intervals of Earth history, the chemocline separating sulfidic deep waters from oxygenated surface waters could have risen abruptly to the ocean surface (a chemocline upward excursion).

    Atmospheric photochemical modeling indicates that resulting fluxes of H2S to the atmosphere (>2000 times the small modern flux from volcanoes) would likely have led to toxic levels of H2S in the atmosphere.

    Moreover, the ozone shield would have been destroyed, and methane levels would have risen to >100 ppm.

    We thus propose (1) chemocline upward excursion as a kill mechanism during the end-Permian, Late Devonian, and Cenomanian–Turonian extinctions, and (2) persistently high atmospheric H2S levels as a factor that impeded evolution of eukaryotic life on land during the Proterozoic.”

    http://geology.gsapubs.org/content/33/5/397.abstract

    Reply
    • It’s a very plausible kill mechanism for the worst mass extinctions. The hotter it gets, the more hostile and toxic the Earth system becomes. Definitely something we want to avoid.

      Reply
      • Erik Frederiksen

         /  April 6, 2017

        Sometimes I’m reminded by our atmospheric experiment of pictures taken by astronauts of Earth, an oasis in a large empty space. It’s all we’ve got.

        Reply
        • It’s a gigantic space ship. We really don’t want to mess up the life support.

        • Well said!

        • Ryan in New England

           /  April 6, 2017

          Makes me think of Edgar Mitchell’s remark about how he felt when seeing the Earth from the Moon…

          “You develop an instant global consciousness, a people orientation, an intense dissatisfaction with the state of the world, and a compulsion to do something about it. From out there on the moon, international politics look so petty. You want to grab a politician by the scruff of the neck and drag him a quarter of a million miles out and say, ‘Look at that, you son of a bitch.”

    • Hi Erik-

      It seems plausible, in fact likely that hydrogen sulfide was involved in several mass extinctions, I think.

      It’s another stage beyond methane release from the hydrates, if the methane catastrophe theory of many hyperthermal mass extinctions is correct. Hydrogen sulfide, while not a greenhouse gas itself, slows methane oxidation by competing for the hydroxyl radical oxidation mechanism of the atmosphere. This competition for the hydroxyl radical increases methane lifetime and greenhouse forcing from methane.

      This figure from your paper shows that their modeling indicates an abrupt transition in the atmosphere at about 1000 times current hydrogen sulfide flux. Hydroxyl radical concentration collapses by a factor of about 10 million times. Methane concentration abruptly rises to over 100 ppm in the atmosphere, and the ozone UV shield collapses to maybe 20% of current levels.

      So, methane release and temperature increase create anoxic oceans, producing hydrogen sulfide. Hydrogen sulfide chemocline breakthrough occurs.

      The scary thing to me is how plausible this extinction scenario is, and how well it all fits together. The results and modeling from multiple scientific authors all fit together.

      It all fits together with this paper, too:

      http://www.atmos.washington.edu/academics/classes/2011Q2/558/IsaksenGB2011.pdf

      Strong atmospheric chemistry feedback to climate warming from Arctic methane emissions

      It’s like a fight between the modern oxygenated atmosphere and oceans, and the ancient reducing atmosphere and oceans. We’re in a local island of stability in the system, kept there by oxygen production by plants, maybe.

      It makes me wonder if a sufficiently strong methane catastrophe could stop all oxygen production from plants on the earth, and put us back in that primordial reducing atmosphere state, or in a catastrophic state like that of Venus. Hansen no longer claims this is possible, but I wonder myself if he was right in the first place.

      Reply
      • Total amateur here, but wouldn’t the fact that the end-Permian extinction didn’t result in Earth turning into Venus seem to rule that out as a serious possibility? I realize it’s not much comfort since the vast majority of species died out, but even so …

        Reply
        • Leland Palmer

           /  April 10, 2017

          No, the sun is hotter now, and our triggering event is faster and less random.

          There’s also the anthropic principle to consider. If it had happened back then, we wouldn’t be here to talk about it.

        • It’s like we have a very narrow window of opportunity to totally destabilize the system – and we’re doing everything wrong. A hail Mary pass from the 10th yard line is necessary… and the NFL’s best quarterback has the ball in the air. The Receiver looks fast and tricky, and ready to run the ball past the extinction goal line.

          Can we shoot the ball out of the air with rifles? Maybe a squad of basketball players with butterfly nets could intercept it?

          Far better to have not thrown the pass in the first place, of course.

        • My sports analogy above is not very clear, reading the above post. To clarify:

          The earth is a very stable system. There is stability built into the rock weathering cycle, which continually cleanses the atmosphere of CO2 and sequesters it as carbonate, and does so in a temperature dependent way that provides negative feedback, stabilizing the system. There is stability built into the Stefan Boltzmann Law in which the energy radiated from a black body goes up at the fourth power of the absolute temperature. There is stability built into the system from the huge supply of oxygen in the atmosphere – about 5000 trillion tons.

          Factors like that are why mass extinction events are very rare.

          But suppose there is 74 trillion tons of carbon in the methane hydrates – Klauda and Sandler’s estimate. Suppose that starts to destabilize very much like the End Permian, only faster. Suppose methane concentrations rise to hundreds of ppm, and CO2 goes to thousands of ppm of CO2. Suppose the oceans turn anoxic, hydrogen sulfide chemocline breakthrough occurs, and hydroxyl radical concentration drops by 10 million times, increasing methane lifetime in the atmosphere to hundreds of years. Are we really, really sure the oceans would not start to boil? Methane would be a weaker greenhouse gas per unit mass by then, due to saturation of absorption lines, but water vapor is the strongest greenhouse gas, with an amazing number of infrared absorption bands.

          There is so much oxygen in the atmosphere, chances are that the reducing atmosphere scenario will not occur – I guess. But nobody really knows, I think. The Venus syndrome with the oceans ending up in the atmosphere is no longer claimed possible by Hansen. But did he take into account atmospheric chemistry effects as predicted by Isaksen? Did he take into account the uncertainty in the mass of the methane hydrates? Did Hansen take into account the possibility of hydrogen sulfide chemocline breakthrough, and the effect of the hydrogen sulfide on the hydroxyl radical and methane concentration?

          The earth is an inherently stable system, mostly due to the rock weathering cycle driven by erosion, plate tectonics, and temperature. To screw that up would require a tremendous blow to the system. Screwing up the sweet deal the human race was given would require real talent. But, we do have that talent, apparently.

          Releasing trillions of tons of methane into the system would be just such a tremendous blow. We may have already triggered that with our fossil fuel use. Dicking around with CO2 concentration, a very sensitive trigger mechanism in the atmosphere, and not listening to the climate scientists about the risks may have already killed us.

          There is momentum in the climate. We have created that momentum with our fossil fuel use. The football is in the air, the unlikely destabilization of an inherently stable system has been accomplished, and efforts to stop that are grossly inadequate. Proposed geoengineering solutions are not very likely to work.

        • A little too much inevitability baked into the cake here, Leland. Despair isn’t an option.

        • Oh, I still think we can turn it around. But, year after year, we don’t. And so far, the politics is getting worse, not better.

          The price of solar sure is dropping, though. That’s good news.

        • Actually, I think the politics we are seeing now is a symptom of the progress we’ve made. It looks very reactionary to me. And it’s going to be tough for nations that base their integrity on systems of law that protect the public welfare to defend actions that promote civilization collapse. The arch of justice is bending. From our point of view, it’s just taking its sweet time.

          Want to get involved? Indivisible is taking the climate issue to Congressional reps right now.

  5. A comment I posted on And Then There’s Physics

    Stages of denial, #9.
    We’re not climate change deniers, we’re climate *experimentalists*.

    Reply
    • One way you can tell that denial was focus-grouped — the 10,000 permutations/excuses/distractions/logical fallacies it’s based on.

      Reply
    • Hatrack

       /  April 6, 2017

      And, as Bill McKibben observed ” . . . a cloddish experiment, like pouring poison into an ant farm and “observing the effects”.

      Reply
  6. Robert, Thanks once again for your posts to translate current weather events into the segment of trends that climate scientists have long been warning about.
    We each share our expertise and observations as we write for specific and varied audiences. My site is for a K-12 school program, but the blogs continue pointing to what is the great challenge of our day. Thus, http://1wow.org/triggers/climate/ shares the science at a level geared for the teachers and the parents of those students. Your self selected audience of subscribers and FB friends serves to prod me/us to continue digging deeper.
    While the turmoil generated by the current US government is leading to a widening of awareness, what will be the people’s priorities if there is a change in administration? If we humans have not already delayed acting too long, will the people focus on the existential threat mitigation? … or return to seeking a lifestyle that was a post WWII boom era aberration?

    Reply
    • Hello, Rudy. Thanks for the insights. I don’t think it’s quite so binary. Right now we are in the process of attempting a transformation to a civilization that dramatically lowers its externalities. The push for renewables and efficiencies is at the heart of climate change mitigation and it offers to provide a serious improvement in quality of like and energy access for billions of people while also decentralizing a number of harmful economic power centers.

      Reply
  7. Andy_in_SD

     /  April 6, 2017

    Our memory is as long as our short life, 100 years max. To us, as individuals, whatever that is, is the normal. If anything, the last 5 years = normal. In the terms of species, civilization, populations and ecologies, that is nothing. It does not even qualify as a blink of an eye.

    Reply
  8. Erik Frederiksen

     /  April 6, 2017

    “More than 400 icebergs have drifted into the North Atlantic shipping lanes over the past week in an unusually large swarm for this early in the season, forcing vessels to slow to a crawl or take detours of hundreds of kilometres.

    Experts are attributing it to uncommonly strong counter-clockwise winds that are drawing the icebergs south, and perhaps also global warming, which is accelerating the process by which chunks of the Greenland ice sheet break off and float away.

    As of Monday, there were about 450 icebergs near the Grand Banks of Newfoundland, up from 37 a week earlier, according to the US Coast Guard’s international ice patrol in New London, Connecticut. Those kinds of numbers are usually not seen until late May or early June. The average for this time of year is about 80.”

    https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2017/apr/06/huge-fleet-icebergs-north-atlantic-shipping-lanes

    Reply
    • Spike

       /  April 6, 2017

      Makes me very uneasy seeing this, and I suspect many other readers of this blog.

      Reply
    • Cate

       /  April 6, 2017

      This was relatively predictable, given the huge extent of the ice-field off the NE coast of Newfoundland through the last week of March. Arctic sea-ice drifts southward in the Labrador Sea until the warmer waters of the Gulf Stream kill it. However, the two massive back-to-back nor-easters that chewed up the pack (and dumped over a metre of snow on us)were rather less predictable!

      Sea-ice in spring is common enough here in Iceberg Alley, where iceberg-hunting Is the newest tourism sport. Hey ho. What I don’t like to see on the satellites is the ice that’s still up there in Baffin Bay right now, and look at what’s pouring down through Nares Strait, so early. It’s all bound down on the Labrador Current past our shores and if there’s a lot of it combined with NE winds, we end up with a long cold spring and maybe not much of a summer. Argh.

      So I’m praying for sustained SW winds for the next two months—what are the chances, Robert?

      Reply
      • As for Newfoundland weather for this Spring — looks like highly variable as you get short warm spells interposed by cold air invasions. In about 8-10 days looks like you have a decent potential for another powerful northeasterly blow (970-975 mb approx). You’re on the cool side of a dipole that is pulling warm air toward the Greenland side of Baffin Bay. I’d think that pattern would tend to remain in place until late April.

        Reply
        • Cate

           /  April 6, 2017

          Thanks, RS. Typical April, then. *sigh* Depending on their track, those big nor’easters can really rip the ice up, though.

          Btw, speaking of the Greenland side of Baffin Bay, have you noticed how it’s still iced up in the latitudes around Disko? That whole area northwards was open and almost ice-free this time last year. The downside is that all that ice **is** going to break loose and drift south this summer.

        • Nares export and a strong northerly wind saw to that. Early warming this year seems more centered to the Russian side. The center of cold has tended to wobble over the Canadian Archipelago.

  9. generativity

     /  April 6, 2017

    Exploring the boundaries of climate change on intergenerational scales helps any one curious to understand today’s surprises. Odorless, colorless and dissipative, disregarded CO2, CH4, HFCs waft poisonously. We’re paying while not paying attention, watching and buying what screens sell. Truly interesting times, know?

    Reply
  10. redskylite

     /  April 6, 2017

    Growing up and well into my early twenties I was a huge fan of Science Fiction and the imagination of SF authors. I only stopped reading SF when I began a technical career, where I read so many books and manuals at work, my eyes and brain were too weary to continue at leasure.

    If the story of the release of carbon (for an industrial revolution) on planet Earth had been in one of those books, I would have thought it the most imaginative, enjoyable and complex of all.

    Pinch me – this is reality and we are all a part of the plot. And it is scary, very scary, the chart of impacts you include in the article brings the conseqences home in no uncerain manner. Thanks for posing this sobering article.

    We know what we have to do to avoid the worst, forewarned is forearmed.

    “Four years of current emissions would be enough to blow what’s left of the carbon budget for a good chance of keeping global temperature rise to 1.5C.
    That’s the conclusion of analysis by Carbon Brief, which brings the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s (IPCC) carbon budgets up to date to include global CO2 emissions in 2016.
    Our infographic above shows how quickly the budgets for 1.5C, 2C and 3C will be used up if emissions continue at the current rate. For 1.5C, this could be a soon as four years’ time.”

    https://www.carbonbrief.org/analysis-four-years-left-one-point-five-carbon-budget

    Reply
    • Thanks for posting this, Redsky.

      Reply
    • Erik Frederiksen

       /  April 6, 2017

      ”A target of 2½ °C is technically feasible but would require extreme virtually universal global policy measures.” From William D. Nordhaus https://www.scribd.com/document/335688297/Nordhaus-climate-economics?

      If Nordhaus is correct, given that there’s little sign of incipient “extreme virtually universal global policy measures”, we may be needing to try to adapt to a temperature rise in excess of 3 degrees C which would be highly problematic. Half the planet’s ice would go away.

      Reply
    • Erik Frederiksen

       /  April 6, 2017

      And this from Richard Alley would seem to support Nordhaus: “There’s momentum in the energy system, there’s momentum in the climate, we really are committed to that second degree fairly clearly already.” At 36:40 here https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1IcPrEM2_p4

      Reply
      • So we did see a drop in emissions of 6 percent during 2016 according to a recent report. A good sign, but we can’t call it a trend yet.

        Reply
  11. Andy_in_SD

     /  April 6, 2017

    What kind of water amount and water pressure do you need UNDER the ice in order to generate this kind of outflow at this time of the year at Jakobshavn?

    There must be a large amount of liquid available in order to generate this. And it’s a bit early in the season to generate that amount of liquid.

    It makes one wonder if the outflow continued through winter, just covered in ice so it was not visible.

    http://www.arctic.io/explorer/8/2017-04-05/9-N69.17035-W51.65874

    Reply
  12. I haven’t read the paper, but I think they may be still sugar coating the reality, by not including methane and its secondary chemistry effects and hydrogen sulfide in their calculation. Do we really expect the methane hydrates to stay intact, if CO2 levels reach 2000 ppm? As the oceans become anoxic, a much larger portion of the evolving methane from the hydrates will escape to the atmosphere.

    At 2000 ppm of CO2, the methane hydrates will inevitably dissociate, and create increasinly anoxic oceans. Hydrogen sulfide chemocline breakthrough will occur, and the hydrogen sulfide will overwhelm still more the oxidizing power of the hydroxyl radical, increasing methane lifetime even more.

    The End Permian had peak methane levels of 245 ppm, estimates this paper, based on real methane and CO2 trapped 250 million years ago in carbonate rock and

    https://www.researchgate.net/profile/Hagit_Affek/publication/230813717_The_end-Permian_mass_extinction_A_rapid_volcanic_CO2_and_CH4_-climatic_catastrophe/links/0fcfd504be70ca2e1a000000/The-end-Permian-mass-extinction-A-rapid-volcanic-CO2-and-CH4-climatic-catastrophe.pdf

    Today, we have about 1800 ppb of methane in the atmosphere, with a total mass of roughly 5 billion tons of carbon. To get to a methane concentration of 245 ppm, would mean that at least 680 billion tons of Carbon had to be released suddenly to get to that methane concentration. Slower releases would require more methane to get to that high atmospheric concentration.

    It’s really starting to look like there is a lot more methane in the hydrates than the current estimates say.

    Reply
    • The math used above is simple. We have 1.8 ppm of methane in the atmosphere right now, with a total mass of about 5 billion tons of methane. The peak concentration of methane, modeled by Brand and co-workers based on actual methane and CO2 trapped 250 million years ago in fossil carbonates, is 245 ppm of methane, with 3500 ppm of CO2.

      So, for a minimum estimate of the mass of methane released, multiply 5 billion tons of methane in the atmosphere now by 245 ppm, and divide by 1.8 ppm. This equals 680 billion tons of methane, released during the End Permian.

      This means that a minimum of 680 billion tons of methane was released to achieve a concentration of 245 ppm of methane, during the End Permian.

      It could be much more methane, of course, since the methane is presumably released over an interval of time, and is continually being oxidized to CO2 and water vapor during that interval. The residence time of methane in the atmosphere does increase, as the hydroxyl radical oxidation mechanism of the atmosphere becomes overwhelmed. So, to get to 245 ppm methane, we’re probably talking trillions of tons of methane released – somewhere in the range of 2 to 5 trillion tons of methane released from the hydrates alone, and likely more from the permafrost.

      This suggests to me that Dickens is right, in his Down the Rabbit Hole paper. He claims that the latest estimates for the global methane hydrate inventory are too low. The title of his paper “Down the Rabbit Hole: toward appropriate discussion of methane release from gas hydrate systems during the Paleocene-Eocene thermal maximum and other past hyperthermal events” strongly suggests that he thinks that the current discussion is inappropriate.

      https://www.whoi.edu/cms/files/dickens11cp_138932.pdf

      “In the last ten years, estimates have ranged from 500-2500 Gt (Milkov, 2004), ∼700–1200 Gt (Archer et al., 2009), and 4–995 Gt (Burwicz et al., 2011) to 74 400 Gt (Klauda and Sandler, 2005). The latter is almost assuredly too high (Archer, 2007). The others are probably too low.”

      The authors of the latest low estimates of global methane hydrate inventory have fossil fuel conflict of interest written all over them, I think.

      Archer works for the University of Chicago, a private university founded and endowed with Rockefeller (ExxonMobil) oil money. The University of Chicago has been used to spread pro-business propaganda before, as documented in Naomi Klein’s book The Shock Doctrine – The Rise of Disaster Capitalism. Archer co-authors scientific papers with ExxonMobil Chief Scientist Haroon Kheshgi. Archer’s website Real Climate, and his classes teach thousands of students CO2 based climate gradualism. The language of his papers is loaded with words like “gradual” and “long” when applied to climate change.

      Milkov worked for British Petroleum at the time he made his estimates. Burwicz makes strange statements widely quoted on Fox News about global warming, then calls himself “Mister Global Warming” and denies being a climate change denier. Carolyn Ruppel, who has apparently issued her own low estimates, is very much involved with the effort to exploit methane hydrate as an energy resource.

      I’ve seen a peer reviewed paper that calculated 12 trillion tons of carbon released from the hydrates during the End Triassic – 12,000 Gt. Presumably, not all of the methane hydrates dissociated during this event. Coming out of a series of ice ages, with hydrates that have not been discharged since the PETM, we could easily have 10-20 trillion tons of carbon in the hydrates. Even Klauda and Sandler’s estimate of 74.4 trillion tons of carbon in the hydrates is not out of the question, in my opinion.

      Reply
    • Oh, damn, wrong link. This was the paper I wanted to link to: Methane Hydrate – Killer Cause of the Earth’s Greatest Mass Extinction, also authored by Brand and associates:

      https://www.researchgate.net/profile/Karem_Azmy/publication/304780351_Methane_Hydrate_Killer_cause_of_Earth%27s_greatest_mass_extinction/links/5835f69208ae74bb3aa260e0/Methane-Hydrate-Killer-cause-of-Earths-greatest-mass-extinction.pdf

      Reply
  13. Svante Törnquist

     /  April 6, 2017

    This is absolutely staggering! And Robert, you are amazing at summing it all up and put it into context. It’s just hard to believe that we can make such a mess of this great planet. Lets listen to the history of the fossiles and let them rest in peace! There are pleny of solutions out there to deal with this swiftly.

    Reply
  14. coloradobob

     /  April 6, 2017

    Thousands evacuated in New Zealand amid Cyclone Debbie floods
    Rescue workers used tractors and boats to evacuate thousands of people at the top of New Zealand’s North Island on Thursday as flood waters from ex-Cyclone Debbie surged in what meteorologists said was a once-in-500 year event.

    The effects of the former category 4 storm, one level shy of the most powerful category 5, were also still being felt in Australia more than a week after the cyclone pounded Australia’s Queensland state with the town of Rockhampton flooded.

    http://www.reuters.com/article/us-australia-cyclone-newzealand-idUSKBN1772Z6?il=0

    Reply
    • coloradobob

       /  April 6, 2017

      the North Island, including in Auckland, which received a month’s worth of rain in 24 hours,

      https://www.theguardian.com/world/2017/apr/06/new-zealand-storm-ex-cyclone-debbie-towns-hit-once-in-500-year-flood

      Reply
    • Terrific that it’s just a 1-in-500-year event. That means we don’t have to worry about another one for 499 years, right?

      Crappy communication on this stuff is going to be the death of us all.

      Reply
      • Well, when 1 in 500 year events happen once every 5-10 years (as seems to happen now), then we have a bit of a problem. And, you’re right, it’s important to impress upon people how weird and odd and new this stuff is.

        Reply
        • Hilary

           /  April 7, 2017

          Definitely not just a 1 in 500 year event here but there are some compounding issues! Similar in a way to how you mentioned your home town is sinking, Robert, & now more flood prone, just in this case Edgecumbe had an earthquake do it all in seconds! I remember that quake, felt it here, a scary one, even tipped a locomotive over there.

          “Edgecumbe was elevated from its status as an obscure rural service town in 1987, when a shallow 6.3 magnitude earthquake struck – damaging half the houses in town and opening up a 7km-long rift in the ground now known as the Edgecumbe Fault. The quake had another important effect: it dropped parts of the town and surrounding rural land by up to 2m.
          Already built on low-lying river plains, Edgecumbe became particularly flood-prone, after the 2004 and 2005 floods, the regional council embarked on a $13 million flood mitigation project, involving improving stopbanks and floodways along the Rangataiki.
          The project is well under way, but completion is not due until 2020 – too late for the latest inundation, 30 years after Edgecumbe’s first major disaster.

          http://www.radionz.co.nz/news/national/328306/flood-struck-town-no-stranger-to-disaster

        • Wow, quite a feat to get through that whole story without once mentioning that a warming atmosphere holds more water and so extreme rain events are likely to become more common.

        • The removal of context is endemic, really. It’s like we can’t think that way. Everyone is so specialized that hyper-focus just seems to happen. I don’t think it’s intentional in many cases. Just people trying to report the facts, but you end up seeing them through a soda straw.

        • Well, as it happens, I ran across a very interesting and educational contrast today. It’s a Breitbart story on the study talking about how we’re headed for CO2 levels not seen for millions of years. I won’t link to it here–don’t want to help spread Fox News-type disinfo–but the interesting thing about it is how carefully the author goes about inserting context, which in this case means doubt about the findings. It actually seems like a pretty good lesson in what the mainstream media could be doing in the opposite direction.

          I’ve sent a link to Climate Feedback and asked them to consider reviewing it.

        • Fox news tripped the filter. Got your post.

        • No problem, I figured it was either that or Breitbart.

        • Thanks, Robert. I was just giving way to sarcasm. Net effect of 1-in-500 language is to give people the impression that it’s an extremely unlikely event, which is pretty much the opposite of what needs to happen. (And I know you know that, which is why you have this blog.)

        • No worries. It’s easy to do. I can get pretty sarcastic too, as you know. We have come from this kind of static world communication. A kind of false comfort generation that we’re all guilty of to one degree or another (unless you just do a cheeta flip into doomerism). I don’t know, it’s like people have a tendency to either think that nothing’s wrong or it’s hopeless. I suppose that’s the morale of the human animal. It’s tough for people to accept that the world is now in flux.

  15. Cate

     /  April 6, 2017

    Another bumper season on the way for Iceberg Alley, according to the International Ice Patrol. Baffin Bay is practically vomiting ice at the moment, and Nares Strait, which normally doesn’t open until July, appears to be in full flow. The eastern Canadian Arctic looks set to go to smilthereens again this year.

    This report refers to that recent huge outflow of pack ice and bergs (remember the trapped whale?) that got ripped apart in two massive back-to-back nor-easters last weekend and are now scattered all over Northwest Atlantic shipping lanes.

    https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2017/apr/06/huge-fleet-icebergs-north-atlantic-shipping-lanes

    Reply
    • Good insight. The export through both Nares and Fram is consistent with what we would expect from a strong ocean and atmosphere interaction. The kind we’d tend to expect following strong El Nino years. Given the poleward transport of heat recently, a follow-on but weaker El Nino in 2017 may tend to keep the pressure on. I suppose the one silver lining is the bounce back in the extent numbers over the past few weeks. But this appears to mask the fuller context which is one of extraordinary weakness.

      Reply
  16. Ryan in New England

     /  April 6, 2017

    Indiana has voted for a bill that will target solar panel owners, greatly reducing the amount they are paid for electricity that is delivered back to the grid.

    https://thinkprogress.org/indiana-nem-bill-bad-fc02f8f08f8a

    This is something we’ve been seeing in many Republican controlled states that are experiencing noticeable growth in solar. As with EVERY Republican policy, it has nothing to do with actually benefiting any citizens or the state/country and everything to do with protecting fossil fuel interests.

    Reply
  17. Ryan in New England

     /  April 6, 2017

    Arctic sea ice remains in record low territory, by a lot. It seems that we wouldn’t need a crazy summer melt season to beat 2012 when the ice is starting off the melt season in such terrible shape. Will be an interesting summer no matter what, I expect.

    http://neven1.typepad.com/blog/2017/04/piomas-april-2017.html#more

    Reply
    • wili

       /  April 6, 2017

      Those are really stunning graphs.

      Reply
    • Ryan in New England

       /  April 6, 2017

      From Neven’s site;

      The volume maximum is going to be reached this month (a bit later than extent because ice is still thickening at more northern latitudes). Below is a table that shows the maximums for the past 10 years, and next to that the potential 2017 maximum if it gains as much volume as those years did between end of March and their respective maximums:

      2007 23803 20490
      2008 25159 20859
      2009 25074 20859
      2010 24275 20620
      2011 22677 20946
      2012 23365 20874
      2013 23332 20880
      2014 23118 20877
      2015 24394 20752
      2016 22717 20790

      The average of all those potential maximums for 2017 is 20795 km3. Now, the average of total melt for the past 10 years is 18269 km3, which means that at the end of this year’s melting season the minimum could be only 2526 km3 (the lowest minimum on record reached in 2012 was 3673 km3). If we take the lowest amount of volume growth since the end of March (2007), and subtract the highest total melt (19693 km3 in 2010) from that potential maximum, the minimum could even go lower than 1000 km3!

      Reply
      • Suzanne

         /  April 6, 2017

        Since 45 likes “charts”…maybe someone will show him these. I keep hoping since the Pentagon understands that Climate Change is not a Chinese hoax..that someone will stand up to him…and “educate” him on how his policies regarding CC is making us less safe.

        Reply
        • Bill H

           /  April 6, 2017

          Suzanne, I don’t get the “45” reference, but you’re clearly talking about Trump. Fortunately, with Bannon’s eclipse it does seem that realism is entering the White House in the shape of McMaster and Mattis. I get the feeling that Trump will want to stay on the right side of them – after all, he likes to go on about how he’s going to help the Military. To be honest I think things would have been worse if Cruz were Potus, since his hatred of AGW theory is based on his religious dogma, whereas in Trump’s case it’s been a ruse to gain power, something he will abandon along with his other promises.

        • I think the loss of Bannon is just another turn of the wheel for Trump. Less contemplation and more reaction.

          Saying Trump might be better than Cruz is kinda like saying a heart attack is better than stage 4 colon cancer. In other words, on a scale of 0-10 with 10 being good and 0 being terrible, I’d score them both a zero. Not different enough to merit comparison or feelings of gratefulness as if ‘we dodged a bullet.’

          The bullets are hitting pretty rapidly now. I would have been more grateful if Hillary had won and we didn’t end up with Pruitt in EPA, Rex T in State, Sessions at Justice, and climate change denial as the only clear and cogent new domestic and foreign policy initiative.

        • Bill H, “45” is Trump’s number–he is the 45th President. (The number of the Beast?)

      • Thanks for posting the excellent report from Neven. It’s pretty stunning what’s happening right now. Not only is volume cratering, but we have very strong ice export. Extent has bounced back a little, but the overall resiliency of the pack facing spring and summer of 2017 isn’t looking good.

        Reply
  18. wili

     /  April 6, 2017

    “…it’s likely we had not an inkling of the destruction they were ultimately capable of unleashing” Well, William Blake did talk about ‘dark Satanic mills’ not too long after that. So some people saw these developments as civilization marching straight into hell. But they were mostly dismissed as Romantics and mystics.

    Reply
  19. Looks like everything humans do is destroying the planet! Why don’t we use wind power and solar?

    Reply
  20. unnaturalfx

     /  April 6, 2017

    There is alot of reasons beside climate change to get unhooked off fossil fuels, for instance , our children : https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2017/apr/04/thousands-of-british-children-exposed-to-illegal-levels-of-air-pollution?utm_source=esp&utm_medium=Email&utm_campaig . The analysis of the most recent government data exposes how dangerous levels of nitrogen dioxide (NO2) pollution from diesel traffic are not limited to large metropolitan centres, but threaten the health of children and young people in towns and cities from Newcastle to Plymouth.

    The research shows more than 1,000 nurseries which look after 47,000 babies and children are in close proximity to roads where the level of nitrogen dioxide from diesel traffic exceeds the legal limit of 40µg/m3 (micrograms per cubic metre of air).

    Reply
    • Renewable energy is just far more sustainable. It innately increases efficiency, water impact for electrical generation is reduced by an order of magnitude or more, zero harmful emissions from energy generation for wind and solar, shares land with agriculture (wind) and buildings (rooftop solar). If you were to scale negative impacts for renewables v fossil fuels from 0-10 with 0 being no impact and 10 being terrible impacts, fossil fuels would be a 10 and renewables would be a 1 (equivalent to the negative impact from structure construction). Switching from fossil fuels to renewables basically gives us about 1/2 to 3/4 of an Earth back from the sustainability/resource use/externality perspective.

      Reply
  21. Cate

     /  April 6, 2017

    https://www.carbonbrief.org/analysis-four-years-left-one-point-five-carbon-budget

    “Four years of current emissions would be enough to blow what’s left of the carbon budget for a good chance of keeping global temperature rise to 1.5C. That’s the conclusion of analysis by Carbon Brief, which brings the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s (IPCC) carbon budgets up to date to include global CO2 emissions in 2016.”

    We’re currently tracking closest to RCP8.5.

    “RCP8.5: A scenario of “comparatively high greenhouse gas emissions“ brought about by rapid population growth, high energy demand, fossil fuel dominance and an absence of climate change policies. This “business as usual” scenario is the highest of the four RCPs and sees atmospheric CO2 rises to around 935 ppm by 2100. The likely range of global temperatures by 2100 for RCP8.5 is 4.0-6.1C above pre-industrial levels.”

    Reply
    • It would take multiple years of carbon emissions reductions to start to pull us off the RCP 8.5 track. We’re suffering from the bad choices made over the last couple of decades and are in a very tough game of catch-up.

      Reply
  22. Henri

     /  April 6, 2017

    http://www.bbc.com/news/business-39478856

    Electric ferries are coming. Another small nibble from the daunting FF hegemony. Hopefully the experience will be good and promote adoption elsewhere. From the article:

    If this were done, nitrogen oxide (NOx) emissions would be cut by 8,000 tonnes per year and CO2 emissions by 300,000 tonnes per year, equivalent to the annual emissions from 150,000 cars, according to a report penned jointly by Siemens and the environmental campaign group, Bellona.

    Reply
    • Due to regular access to docking stations, electric ferries are kind of a no-brainer. There are a hundred little innovations like this on the way.

      Reply
  23. Warm Atlantic waters wage a new assault on Arctic ice from below

    … A new study shows this “Atlantification” of the Arctic Ocean as a new, powerful driver of melting, alongside losses due to rising air temperatures.

    http://www.sciencemag.org/news/2017/04/warm-atlantic-waters-wage-new-assault-arctic-ice-below

    Reply
  24. coloradobob

     /  April 6, 2017

    Hell on Earth
    Catastrophic drought has put
    Somalia on the brink of total collapse

    https://news.vice.com/story/catastrophic-drought-has-put-somalia-on-the-brink-of-total-collapse

    Reply
  25. coloradobob

     /  April 6, 2017

    The role a melting glacier played in Exxon’s biggest disaster

    That such a catastrophe might happen was not news to the company.

    Beginning in 1975, the U.S. Geological Survey warned Exxon and its co-investors in the Trans-Alaska Pipeline System — including companies now part of BP and ConocoPhillips — that the glacier was becoming unstable.

    What was triggering the glacier to drop icebergs at such a ferocious and ultimately disastrous pace was unclear at the time. But some scientists, even then, were beginning to look at climate change’s role.

    http://www.latimes.com/projects/la-na-exxon-valdez/

    Reply
    • Another instance where Exxon knew about what was going on with the climate even as it sought to obscure these facts from the public eye.

      Reply
    • coloradobob

       /  April 6, 2017

      Today, the Columbia glacier has receded more than 12 miles from its position in 1980, and has lost about half of its thickness, according to a 2014 NASA report. Scientists estimate it is has contributed to nearly 1% of global sea level rise.

      It is no longer a menace to tanker traffic.

      Reply
  26. miles h

     /  April 6, 2017

    “Egypt will face nationwide water shortages within 7 years. The report further predicts dwindling freshwater supplies and increasing salinity levels of the Nile delta’s agricultural land due to sea level rise caused by our burning of fossil fuels which result in heat trapping greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. This might make the north African nation uninhabitable by 2100 the authors conclude.” http://www.dailykos.com/stories/2017/4/6/1650341/-Report-Nile-Delta-s-increasing-salinity-and-rising-sea-levels-may-empty-Egypt-by-2100

    Reply
    • Building on the recent research by the Max Planck Institute…

      This is rough stuff. People need to be aware that the first wave of catastrophic climate impacts (the less harmful stuff, but stuff that really hurts a lot of already marginal regions) hits from now to the late 2020s.

      Reply
      • coloradobob

         /  April 6, 2017

        “People need to be aware” ………….. The president of Columbia said their flood had climate change finger prints all over , “One month’s worth of rain in 2 hours”.

        Other stories have reported on the deforestation above the rivers involved.

        Reply
  27. coloradobob

     /  April 6, 2017

    New estimate of the current rate of sea level rise from a sea level budget approach

    Abstract

    We revisit the global mean sea level (GMSL) budget during the whole altimetry era (January 1993- December 2015) using a large number of data sets. The budget approach allows quantifying the TOPEX A altimeter drift (amounting 1.5 +/- 0.5 mm/yr over 1993-1998). Accounting for this correction and using ensemble means for the GMSL and components leads to closure of the sea level budget (trend of the residual time series being 0.0 +/- 0.22 mm/yr). The new GMSL rate over January 1993-December 2015 is now close to 3.0 mm/yr. An important increase of the GMSL rate, of 0.8 mm/yr, is found during the 2nd half of the altimetry era (2004-2015) compared to the 1993-2004 time span, mostly due to Greenland mass loss increase but also to slight increase of all other components of the budget.

    http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/2017GL073308/abstract

    Reply
  28. coloradobob

     /  April 6, 2017

    California storms: This water year now ranks 2nd all time in 122 years of records

    California’s current water season can no longer lay claim to being No. 1.

    After relatively modest rainfall in March, this current water season now ranks as the second wettest in 122 years of record-keeping, according to data released Thursday by federal scientists.

    Between October 2016 and March 2017, California averaged 30.75 inches of precipitation, the second-highest average since such records began being kept in 1895, according to the National Centers for Environmental Information, part of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

    This current water season was outpaced by 1982-83 (34.38 inches average), when a series of powerful and deadly El Nino storms brought high wind, heavy rain, and heavy snowfall across all of California. The storms that year resulted in widespread flooding and mudslides to coastal mountain ranges, causing 36 deaths, according to the Western Regional Climate Center.

    http://www.mercurynews.com/2017/04/06/california-storms-this-water-year-now-ranks-2nd-all-time-in-122-years-of-records/

    Reply
  29. coloradobob

     /  April 6, 2017

    Thousands of birds flock to Australia’s inland lakes after record rain
    The influx includes a newly discovered breeding colony of the nomadic and somewhat mysterious banded stilt

    https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2017/apr/03/thousands-of-birds-flock-to-australias-inland-lakes-after-record-rain

    Reply
  30. Ryan in New England

     /  April 6, 2017

    I find it to be a tragic irony that instead of the doing the one thing to fight climate change (reducing emissions) that would actually work to solve all of the related problems, we are seeing ever more outlandish ideas to try and fix the problems from climate change as they arise. Now Australia has a plan to pump cold water over sections of the great barrier reef in order to combat the current round of bleaching.

    https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2017/apr/07/plan-cold-water-barrier-reef-stop-bleaching

    It’s like the house is on fire, and every firemen we’ve talked to says the only effective response is to put the fire out. Instead we are painting over the smoke stains, turning up the air-conditioning to fight the heat of the fire, turning up the fan to eliminate smoke, wearing masks so we can breathe…when the only thing we should be doing is putting out the damn fire!

    Reply
    • Vic

       /  April 6, 2017

      Reef scientist John Brodie : “It’s an absolutely silly idea when you read it, but we’re in silly times, so it looks like it could be a goer”.

      Reply
    • A number of opportunists (mostly billionaires, people supporting geo-engineering or both) see global warming as a cash cow. That’s why we keep getting these outlandish schemes coming in.

      Reply
  31. coloradobob

     /  April 7, 2017

    For everyone who saw me as foolish self important jackass –

    Reply
  32. coloradobob

     /  April 7, 2017
    Reply
  33. coloradobob

     /  April 7, 2017

    Major General John R.S. Batiste at the DPC Hearing

    Reply
  34. coloradobob

     /  April 7, 2017

    When we let Crazy get loose.

    Reply
  35. coloradobob

     /  April 7, 2017

    I love you all , no one has ever stood up to the march of stupid like everyone here.

    Reply
  36. coloradobob

     /  April 7, 2017

    Reply
  37. coloradobob

     /  April 7, 2017

    Reply
    • coloradobob

       /  April 7, 2017

      This is not a song from the past. It’s a warning about the future.

      Reply
  1. Novo estudo: O que é mais assustador do que a extinção permiana? Queime todos os combustíveis fósseis para descobrir. Notícias nucleares – HISTÓRIA da POLÍTICA
  2. Cruel Intentions — Opposition to Climate Change Response is Swiftly Becoming Illegal | robertscribbler
  3. Cruel Intentions — Opposition to Climate Change Response is Swiftly Becoming Illegal | RClimate

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