Methane

I’ve always been a little confused as to why so much attention is paid to methane emissions. It’s short-lived, so isn’t it maybe somewhat less important that CO2 emissions, which are long-lived? One reason it is quite prominent is because it is regarded as having a large global warming potential; one tonne of methane is regarded as having about 28 times the impact of one tonne of CO2. The global warming potential (GWP) is defined as the time-intergrated climate forcing due to a one-off pulse of methane when compared to a one-off pulse of CO2 of the same mass.

Credit: Allen et al. (2016)

However, as this paper by Myles Allen, and colleagues, highlights, the actual impact of a pulse of methane is very different to that of a long-lived greenhouse gas like CO2. The figure on the right shows warming due to equivalent pulses of short-lived, and long-lived greenhouse gases. A pulse of a long-lived greenhouse gas like CO2 will lead to sustained warming that will persist for a long time. An equivalent pulse of a short-lived greenhouse gas, like methane, will have a large impact initially and then decay away. After a few decades, the impact will be largely negligible.

Sustained emission of short-lived greenhouse gases (solid lines) compared to a single pulse of CO2, a long-lived greenhouse gas [Credit: Allen et al. (2016)]

Hence, simply comparing the global warming potentials of short- and long-lived greenhouse gases can be somewhat misleading. However, a sustained emission of a short-lived greenhouse gas can be equivalent to a single pulse of a long-lived greenhouse gas. The figure on the left shows the sustained emission of short-lived greenhouse gases compared a single pulse of long-lived greenhouse gases, with the total emission of the short-lived greenhouse gases over a century being equivalent to the single pulse of the long-lived greenhouse gas.

All of this implies that one should be careful when comparing short-lived and long-lived greenhouse gases. When considering long-lived greenhouse gases, stabilising temperatures requires getting emissions to zero. When considering short-lived greenhouse gases, it requires getting emissions to stabilise. Constant emission of a long-lived greenhouse gas is equivalent to increasing emissions of a short-lived greenhouse gas. Finally, reducing emissions of a long-lived greenhouse gas leads to continued warming until emissions get to zero, while reducing emissions of a short-lived greenhouse gas can lead to cooling. Also, if emissions of short-lived greenhouse gases are reduced to zero, their overall warming impact will eventually become negligible.

As a consequence of this, there are a couple of papers that have suggested a modification to the global warming potential metric, called GWP*. It still uses the original GWP metric, but depends on how the emission rate of the short-lived GHGs changes (essentially because one can relate a single pulse of a long-lived greenhouse gas to an increase in the emission rate of a short-lived greenhouse gas). This allows one to more properly compare changes in the emission of short-lived and long-lived greenhouse gases.

The reason this is important is because if we simply use the original GWP metric, we could end up committing a lot effort to reducing emissions of a short-lived greenhouse gas (that only has a warming impact for decades) at the expense of emission reductions of a long-lived greenhouse gas, that can have a warming impact that lasts for centuries, or longer. Similarly, the original GWP metric would suggest that reducing the emissions of short-lived greenhouse gases should still lead to warming, as it does for long-lived greenhouse gases. This, however, is wrong. Reducing the emissions of short-lived greenhouse gases should lead to cooling. Hence, we could end up over-estimating what we need to do to achieve some target.

On the other hand, because short-lived greenhouse gases have a large impact on decadal timescales, they are still important if we are to achieve some of our near-term targets. So, they certainly can’t be ignored. There are also other factors associated with them that are also important (for example, land use change and excess water use associated with livestock farming).

There are also some potential issues with the new global warming potential metric, as pointed out in this paper. Under the new metric, a region with a high, but constant, level of methane emission, could argue that they’re no longer contributing to global warming and, hence, don’t need to do anything. However, reducing their methane emissions could still account for some of the impacts that they’ve already had, and would clearly make it easier to achieve some of our targets.

It’s clear that this isn’t a simple issue, but it does seem that there is still some confusion about how short-lived greenhouse gases, like methane, compare to long-lived greenhouse gases, like CO2. I hope this post clarifies some of the issues. I hope I have indeed explained things properly. Feel free to correct me if I have got something wrong. I’ve also provided links, below, to the papers I’ve mentioned, plus links to a couple of other articles about this topic, including a very nice Carbon Brief guest post by Michelle Cain (one of the authors of the papers I mentioned). If you want to learn more, I can also recommend this podcast with Michelle Cain.

Links:
New use of global warming potentials to compare cumulative and short-lived climate pollutants – Allen et al., Nature Climate Change, 2016.
A solution to the misrepresentations of CO2-equivalent emissions of short-lived climate pollutants under ambitious mitigation – Allen et al., NPJ climate and atmospheric science, 2018.
Improved calculation of warming-equivalent emissions for short-lived climate pollutants – Cain et al., NPJ climate and atmospheric science, 2018.
Unintentional unfairness when applying new greenhouse gas emissions metrics at country level – paper by Joeri Rogelj about an unintentional issue with the new GWP* metric.
Guest post: A new way to assess ‘global warming potential’ of short-lived pollutants – Carbon Brief guest post by Michelle Cain.
Why we’re still so incredibly confused about methane’s role in global warming – Chris Mooney article about this topic.

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229 Responses to Methane

  1. Not-in-my-name says:

    [Chill, and no sock puppet, please. -W] There are two ways in which the temperature of any system can be increase. One is the addition of thermal energy and only the sun does this because the earth’s internal energy and the energy we release are ignored in climate studies. The other way is to do work on the system and in the atmosphere this results in temperature increases due to gravity compressing the atmosphere. This is the real greenhouse effect. Greenhouse gases cannot warm the earth. They cannot spontaneous generate thermal energy and they cannot do any work. They do exactly the opposite of your claims. They cool the earth because they emit radiation.

  2. Not-in-my-name,
    Well, the energy in our climate mostly comes from the Sun (apart from a small amount of geothermal energy). What the greenhouse gases in the atmosphere do is slow the transfer of energy from the surface to space, causing the surface – and lower atmosphere – to be warmer than it would be in the absence of these radiatively active gases.

    The other way is to do work on the system and in the atmosphere this results in temperature increases due to gravity compressing the atmosphere. This is the real greenhouse effect.

    The only way this can work is if you convert gravitational potential energy into thermal energy, which works on Jupiter (which is shrinking very slowly). However, this doesn’t work on the Earth because – if this were happening – the atmosphere would – by now – be compressed onto the surface.

  3. Ed Davies says:

    Not-in-my-name, do you wear a coat in cold weather? Are you warmer wearing the coat? Does it do work?

  4. Mitch says:

    Just for the record, the average geothermal heat flow is about 0.08 W/m^2 and hard to change at any reasonable time scale.
    https://link.springer.com/referenceworkentry/10.1007%2F0-387-30752-4_79

    Compare this to the average solar insolation of 342 W/m^2 and an excess greenhouse gas forcing of a little over 3 W/m^2 and climbing.
    https://www.esrl.noaa.gov/gmd/aggi/

    Geothermal heat loss is way down in the noise.

  5. Mitch,

    Geothermal heat loss is way down in the noise.

    Indeed.

  6. Everett F Sargent says:

    So :(.

    All details aside, humanity still isn’t doing a damn thing to reduce GHG emissions. Vis-a-vis the new 2019 Production Gap Report (YES! Just what humanity needs to TALK about some more, while still taking absolutely no long term substantive ACTIONS) or the very soon to be released 2019 Emissions Gap Report (2019-11-26) …
    https://www.unenvironment.org/resources/report/production-gap-report-2019
    https://www.unenvironment.org/resources/emissions-gap-report-2019

    All talk and no real substantive action(s), what’s up with that? I am getting kind of 66 years old, so, go figure.

  7. Everett F Sargent says:

    “the energy we release are ignored in climate studies”

    with very good reasoning …

    19 TW divided by 510 Tm^2 = 0.037 watts per meter squared. D’oh!

  8. I am pleased that reading the Myles Allen paper appears to have cleared up your confusion about why there is reason to be concerned about methane. I believe you are correct to focus your concerns on the impact of a pulse of methane and the impact it will have. I believe you failed to take two additional important steps:
    1. Identifying the potential sources of a significant methane pulse
    2. Identifying how a significant methane pulse will be triggered.

    I think the potential sources of a significant methane pulse will come down primarily to warming permafrost and frozen clathrates in places like the eastern siberian shelf. To a lesser degree, I think that we can expect to see methane pulses from peat and drying/warming wetlands, but I believe the potential for large pulses as you describe are from permafrost and clathrates.

    The trigger for release of a significant methane pulse is simple warming driven by higher CO2 concentration in the atmosphere. The oceans are giving us a break by absorbing large amounts of CO2 and buying us time to do something about our CO2 emissions, but ocean acidification is a concern for any reasonable, rational person with knowledge about the consequences of ocean acidification.

    At the end of the day, looking at the problem of human global warming gas emissions, I think it is easy to identify that if we simply focus on bring CO2 emissions to net zero, we may be able to slow the warming and the great extinction that we have triggered with our impact on the planet. In bringing CO2 emissions to net zero, we can expect to begin the process of handling the emissions of the other gh gases.

    It’s too bad that we won’t stop or even slow the emission of CO2. It seems like it would be the smart thing to do. Yes, a significant methane pulse would be really dramatic with a spike in global temperature, but we should only consider that possibility when we are determining how fast we need to get to net zero. When we consider the possibility of a methane heat spike, a rational, reasonable person might decide that we should now get to net zero immediately. It may be true that getting to net zero will wreck the global economy. I don’t know if that is true or not, but it may be true. If it is true, then we may have a choice of seeing the global economy wrecked by the push to get to net zero or seeing the global economy wrecked by a global heating spike driven by a methane pulse.

    I step back a bit when I think about these things and wonder, would I rather try to live through the global upheaval of getting to net zero or do I want to roll the dice that the methane pulse of heating will not happen in my lifetime (or that of my grandchildren, or their grandchildren)?

    It does not take me long to decide, hey, let’s go for net zero now and pick up the pieces instead of risking the methane pulse global warming event.

    As I say, I am pleased that the Allen paper has reduced your confusion about why a person might be concerned about methane.

    oh, CO2? How are we doing? Daily CO2

    Nov. 22, 2019: 410.48 ppm
    Nov. 22, 2018: 408.80 ppm

    We are firmly rising as the Keeling Curve describes. It’s kind of a shame, really.

    Warm regards,

    Mike

  9. ecoquant says:

    @ATTP,

    Thanks much for the new articles!

    A couple of older standards,

    * R. T. Pierrehumbert, “Short-lived climate pollution“, Annu. Rev. Earth Planet. Sci. 2014, 42:341–79. (There’s also a supplement for this.)

    * S. Solomon, J. S. Daniel, T. J. Sanford, D. M. Murphy, G.-K. Plattner, R. Knutti, P. Friedlingstein, “Persistence of climate changes due to a range of greenhouse gases“, PNAS, 2010, open access, with supplement.

  10. When considering long-lived greenhouse gases, stabilising temperatures requires getting emissions to zero. When considering short-lived greenhouse gases, it requires getting emissions to stabilise.

    Just linking to this graphic from the Carbon Brief article that illustrates this point. Where my green markups highlights the former, and orange markups the latter.

  11. ecoquant,
    Thanks, those are nice articles. The Solomon et al. also highlights that there may be some persistent warming from the short-lived greenhouse gases even once they’ve largely decayed, due to ocean inertia.

    rust,
    Yes, I had seen that figure. It does illustrate it very nicely.

  12. Keith McClary says:

    “After a few decades, the impact will be largely negligible.”
    It seems to level out at about 10% of the CO2 contribution. I’m guessing this assumes that the methane gets converted to CO2.
    I found a hard-to-read (“proof”?) copy of the paywalled paper here:
    http://eprints.whiterose.ac.uk/108770/1/SLCP_INDC_withfigs.pdf

  13. Keith,
    Good point. I have somewhat ignored that. As I understand it, given that the global warming potential of methane is about 28, the first figure in the post would be assuming that the methane pulse has a mass 28 times less than that of the CO2 pulse. However, when methane gets converted to CO2, the mass of the resulting CO2 ends up 2.75 times greater than the original mass of the methane. Hence, the final warming due to the methane being converted into CO2 would be about 1/28 x 2.75 = 0.1 times that of the equivalent CO2 pulse.

  14. And just to add links to the discussion – partly for posterity and future reference…

    Ray Pierrehumbert arguing that prioritizing methane and other short-lived climate pollutants (SLCP’s) does not “buy us time” in dealing with persistent gases like CO₂ and N₂O.

    Losing time, not buying time (2010)

    Which, interestingly enough, was in response to an op-ed by Veerabhadran Ramanathan and David Victor (he of recent senseless twitter punch-bagging!). More recently, their argument seemed to subtly shift to buying/building “political” credibility, as opposed to “climate time”, per se.

    Cutting levels of soot and other short-lived pollutants delivers tangible benefits and helps governments to build confidence that collective action on climate change is feasible. After the Paris climate meeting this December, actually reducing these pollutants will be essential to the credibility of the diplomatic process.

  15. Everett F Sargent says:

    IMHO, the last paper “Unintentional unfairness when applying new greenhouse gas emissions
    metrics at country level” is the most important as it discusses carbon trading schemes (aka bait and switch Ponzi schemes) at the nation-state level.

    So, I see this paper as a direct rebuke of the Allen, et; al. papers. There is no way one nation-state can ‘so called’ cheat its way to zero GHG emissions via various ‘so called’ grandfathered Ponzi schemes like GWP** (I’ve added an extra star because, as sure that I am alive, someone else will further redefine this ‘so called’ ever moving target).

    This is a really important conclusion. That CH4 emissions can only be handled at the global level and not at the nation-state level. So the obvious question is: How does one go about handling CH4 emissions at the global level without involving the various nation-states? In Nowhere Land! :/

    That last paper also highlights ANOTHER bookie, emm, err, bookkeeping of historical emissions circa 1850-2016 …
    The PRIMAP-hist national historical emissions time series (1850-2016)
    http://dataservices.gfz-potsdam.de/pik/showshort.php?id=escidoc:3842934

    So, hmm, err, do we really need another example of humanity’s ability to count? I thought that that was at least ‘so called’ settled science.

    To sum this all up, we all are still stuck with doing nothing, nothing except increased GHG emissions. :/

  16. BBD says:

    Isn’t the issue more about a sustained, multidecadal, even centennial increase in CH4 from carbon cycle feedbacks (wetland expansion; permafrost melt) rather than a discreet pulse of CH4?

  17. I agree with this “And just to add links to the discussion – partly for posterity and future reference…

    Ray Pierrehumbert arguing that prioritizing methane and other short-lived climate pollutants (SLCP’s) does not “buy us time” in dealing with persistent gases like CO₂ and N₂O.” from RNS

    I think this clearly goes the other way because the large sources for methane pulses are the natural stores of methane, not the leakage and inadvertent anthropogenic sources. Those are bad because as noted, methane is in the 28x range and them remains in atmosphere in CO2 residual, but the only reasonable and rational approach to avoiding a catastrophic methane-driven pulse of global warming is to get to netzero on CO2. Extending the tools and techniques for netzero CO2 emissions to methane should not be a challenge if we could ever actually stop the CO2 emissions and/or get to netzero.

    There is, of course, no sign that we will do that, but there is every reason to believe we will talk a lot about the project. Check the Keeling Curve to see if the talk is starting to walk.

    Cheers

    Mike

  18. wmconnolley says:

    > Hence, simply comparing the global warming potentials of short- and long-lived greenhouse gases can be somewhat misleading.

    That’s a bit of an odd thing to say, since the time horizon is an important part of GWP already. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Global_warming_potential#Importance_of_time_horizon

  19. bbd asks: “Isn’t the issue more about a sustained, multidecadal, even centennial increase in CH4 from carbon cycle feedbacks (wetland expansion; permafrost melt) rather than a discreet pulse of CH4?”

    Mike says, yes, it is at this moment, but the big scary pulse of methane is the amount of methane that is currently locked up in permafrost and frozen ocean beds.

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Arctic_methane_emissions

  20. Everett F Sargent says:

    I think some people here are confusing shorter term nation-state CH4 emissions (say this century) with longer term climate tipping points. Say like adding a few decades of agreed upon emission reductions to these graphs

  21. BBD says:

    I think some people here are confusing shorter term nation-state CH4 emissions (say this century) with longer term climate tipping points.

    Hopefully not me 🙂

    I see the distinction between short-term and potentially anthropomorphic emissions, eg leaky fracking, leaky gas infrastructure etc. and longer-term and sustained emissions from carbon cycle feedbacks. There seems to be a view that destabilisation of seabed clathrates is unlikely below ~3C warming, so I’m not really talking about the ‘methane burp’ or ‘clathrate gun’ at this stage.

  22. ecoquant says:

    @BBD,

    Also, agricultural emissions (think rice cultivation, not cows) are bigger than fracking-related emissions of CH4. And people often forget about N2O, which is a byproduct of agriculture, mostly fertilizer runoff. The trouble with N2O is (a) it’s a centennial GHG, (b) it’s connected with something essential to humanity, and (c) there’s no feasible way of scrubbing it from atmosphere once there.

    I have references, just not at hand/too lazy to put in right now.

    Also, the permafrost turns out to be a bigger source of CO2 from fermentation and decomposition than CH2, at least in terms of warming impact. It’s also complicated: When permafrost melts, it releases a lot of water vapor, too, and this interacts with local conditions and weather. The resulting changes in soil flora and dynamics are very much a research topic.

  23. BBD says:

    @ecoquant

    Yes, I should also have included ongoing and potentially increasing CH4 emissions from agriculture, especially rice cultivation. And N2O, which I have a horrible feeling will be something we will be hearing more about in coming decades.

  24. And N2O, which I have a horrible feeling will be something we will be hearing more about in coming decades.

    Not to veer the discussion right off the present topic, but I have always found it interesting/surprising that in the “Planetary Boundaries” assessment, anthropogenic over-loading of nitrogen flows is way, way beyond the risk level assigned to “climate change” (which, if I recall correctly uses atmospheric CO₂-eq as a proxy for “risk level”)…

    Which, I think, has more to do with eutrophication as much as due to GHG properties , etc. Still, it surprises me.

    Although, it’s also not comforting that N₂O is now the dominant ozone-depleting substance in play…

    Nitrous Oxide (N₂O): The Dominant Ozone-Depleting Substance Emitted in the 21st Century, Science

  25. WMC,

    That’s a bit of an odd thing to say, since the time horizon is an important part of GWP already.

    Yes, but isn’t the point that the time horizon for GWP calculations is typically 100 years? Based on this time horizon, the GWP of methane is much greater than that of CO2. However, if you consider equivalent pulses of methane and CO2, the warming due to the pulse of methane after 100 years will be much smaller than the warming due to the equivalent pulse of CO2. Hence, this can be somewhat misleading.

  26. EFS,

    So, I see this paper as a direct rebuke of the Allen, et; al. papers. There is no way one nation-state can ‘so called’ cheat its way to zero GHG emissions via various ‘so called’ grandfathered Ponzi schemes like GWP** (I’ve added an extra star because, as sure that I am alive, someone else will further redefine this ‘so called’ ever moving target).

    I’m not sure why it’s a rebuke of the Allen et al. papers. It’s clear that what one might conclude based on GWP would be different to what one might conclude based on GWP*. However, it does seem as though GWP* provides a better comparison between short-lived and long-lived greenhouse gases. It’s possible that some might misuse this to, for example, argue that if their methane emissions are constant they don’t need to do anything, but it’s not that hard to counter this by pointing out that their constant methane emissions are producing some warming that they could reduce if they were to reduce their methane emissions.

  27. BBD,

    Isn’t the issue more about a sustained, multidecadal, even centennial increase in CH4 from carbon cycle feedbacks (wetland expansion; permafrost melt) rather than a discreet pulse of CH4?

    I think that’s a somewhat different issue. We can’t do much about that other than try to limit warming to levels where this feedback is (hopefully) unlikely. The other issue is how much effort should we put into reducing our own emission of short-lived greenhouse gases versus long-lived greenhouse gases. If we consider only the GWP value, then we might regard it as very important to reduce the emission of short-lived greenhouse gases over that of long-lived greenhouse gases. However, if we do this we could end up committing a lot of effort to reducing the emissions of something that will only have an impact for a few decades while ignoring the emission of something that would lead to warming that persists for centuries, or longer.

  28. wmconnolley says:

    The GWP of methane over 100 years is indeed higher than CO2. It’s 34, or whatever. But that’s not misleading; that just means that 1 kg of methane released now will warm the world by 34x what 1 kg of CO2 would over the same time. The time profiles of the two are different, of course. But the flip side of “the warming due to the pulse of methane after 100 years will be much smaller” is that the warming over the next 20 years will be even higher than the 34x (86 odd, if that same table is to be relied on). Is it obvious that 100 years time is more important than the next 20 years?

  29. WMC,

    It’s 34, or whatever. But that’s not misleading; that just means that 1 kg of methane released now will warm the world by 34x what 1 kg of CO2 would over the same time.

    Yes, but if after the time period (100 years) the warming due to methane has largely gone away, then is this really a fair comparison? Sure, if we are worried about near-term targets, the short-lived greenhouse gases are important. However, if we focus on them at the expense of the long-lived greenhouse gases, we could end up reducing the emissions of something that would only have warmed the planet for decades at the expense of something that will warm the planet for many centuries. I think Ray’s Realclimate post makes quite a convincing argument that we need to consider this.

  30. Just for reference/context/”contrast & compare”…

    Here is a plot of “80-year-time-frame” warming due to various single-pulse forcings ##at their actual current annual levels##*… as opposed to making them all theoretically/thought-experiment equate to current 38 GtCO2-eq (which, obviously, they don’t) in the first Allen graph in the original post…

    Both useful ways of looking at things…

    *Off the top-of-my-head, I am not actually aware of the provenance of this particular plot – and, therefore the “current” year – except that Jon Foley posted it up, but there are other versions around… and, fwiw, “BC” is presumably “Black Carbon” and “OC” presumably “organic carbon aerosols”…

  31. wmconnolley says:

    If you’re trying to do things like stopping alpine glaciers melting or Arctic sea ice disappearing, then “buying time” in the near future makes sense. It doesn’t deal with the long term problem of CO2, of course. But seeing that as a dichotomy seems predicated on the idea what we might deal with methane, or CO2, but not both, and I don’t think that’s realistic; they aren’t linked in that way in some kind of see-saw. It might be true that the kind of forcing targets the Paris agreement pushes on people encourage that kind of thinking; but that’s just yet another flaw in Paris and targets in general (http://mustelid.blogspot.com/2018/05/carbon-budgets-and-carbon-taxes.html).

  32. WMC,
    Yes, I agree that we shouldn’t see it as methane, or CO2, but that isn’t what I’m suggesting. In my view the updated GWP provides a better comparison between short-lived and long-lived greenhouse gas emissions, which should make it easier to work how to balance the reduction in short-lived GHG emissions and the reduction in long-lived GHG emissions.

    If you’re trying to do things like stopping alpine glaciers melting or Arctic sea ice disappearing, then “buying time” in the near future makes sense.

    I don’t quite follow this. As I said in the post, if we do have some near-term target then the short-lived greenhouse gases will be important if we regard it as important to not cross a near-term threshold. However, if we focus on the short-lived greenhouse gases at the expense of the long-lived greenhouse gases then we could end up crossing the threshold anyway (i.e., the long-lived greenhouse gases will lead to warming that persists for centuries). We do need to consider both and it does seem that the original GWP metric might over-estimate the warming impact of the short-lived greenhouse gases (i.e., it would imply that even reducing the emission of short-lived greenhouse gases should lead to warming, when this is not correct).

  33. Everett F Sargent says:

    ATTP,

    “I’m not sure why it’s a rebuke of the Allen et al. papers.”

    OK, I’ll do so, quickly (Meaning I should read their papers 1st. D’oh!)

    I found these two papers give me some long/short term perspectives on CH4 …

    “Revised records of atmospheric trace gases CO2, CH4, N2O, and δ13C-CO2 over the last 2000 years from Law Dome, Antarctica” (2019-04-11)
    https://www.earth-syst-sci-data.net/11/473/2019/

    “On the Causes and Consequences of Recent Trends in Atmospheric Methane” (2019-08-22)
    https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s40641-019-00140-z

    “There is evidence for various contributors to emission increases or reduced removal of atmospheric methane. No single process can explain the methane rise and remain consistent with available data. Reconstructions of recent changes in the methane budget do not converge as to the dominant contributor to the rise. A plausible scenario includes increasing emissions from agriculture and fossil fuels while biomass burning is reduced, with possible contributions from wetlands and a weakened sink.”

  34. Everett F Sargent says:

    OK, found it, as I knew I read it somewhere recently …
    “California’s methane super-emitters (In the Golden State, landfills are the worst, then dairies and the oil/gas sector.)
    https://arstechnica.com/science/2019/11/californias-methane-super-emitters/

    California’s methane super-emitters (paywalled)
    https://www.nature.com/articles/s41586-019-1720-3

    From the abstract …
    “We estimate net methane point-source emissions in California to be 0.618 teragrams per year (95 per cent confidence interval 0.523–0.725), equivalent to 34–46 per cent of the state’s methane inventory(8) for 2016. ,,, Methane point-source emissions in California are dominated by landfills (41 per cent), followed by dairies (26 per cent) and the oil and gas sector (26 per cent). Our data have enabled the identification of the 0.2 per cent of California’s infrastructure that is responsible for these emissions.”

    That is all.

  35. ecoquant says:

    @wmconnolley,

    It might be true that the kind of forcing targets the Paris agreement pushes on people encourage that kind of thinking; but that’s just yet another flaw in Paris and targets in general …

    Surely there are flaws in the “Paris agreement”, the IPCC, and the UNFCCC. But to hold them to the standard of sinning by “forcing targets the Paris agreement [pushing] on people” is surely disingenuous, if not malicious. Where is the grassroots movement which seeks to minimize its lifestyle to reduce CO2 emissions? Where is the concern about global equity?

    No, in most places, people optimize for their own completely selfish world lines and interests, and, at least, act as if they do not care a fig about anyone else. The trouble is, having an ensemble of local optimizers like this — and I think I’m entirely justified in treating them as mere automatons given their own selfish and self-driven attitudes — will miss the global optimum and, in this case, probably result in the whole enclave jumping off the loss function cliff into a pit.

    So, sure, UNFCCC is suboptimal, but given that this is a global phenomenon, there is nothing shy of a global solution that’ll do. And it’s harder when country after developed country distrusts the global consensus and tries to forge its own selfish route.

    In the end, my solace comes from knowing that the highly developed nations will involuntarily fally on their own economic swords, because they do not appreciate the degree to which their economic well being depends upon international interdependency, and upon ecosystem services, and, in their foolhardiness, will make them non-competitive relative to nations which understand and embrace the great benefits zero Carbon energy supplies.

    And, frankly, as I’ve said many times before, and I’m sure have been criticized for harshness in the implicit judgment, I’ll laugh when people holding presently valuable real estate assets lose their shirts. They are the same people who oppose construction of near shore and onshore wind farms. They deserve the loss.

  36. ecoquant says:

    In above “involuntarily fally” –> “involuntarily fall”.

  37. Ben McMillan says:

    For meeting Paris-type targets of ‘keep below 2C’, methane emissions now are largely irrelevant, because they cause warming now, when we are at 1C, but this CH4 is no longer be around in 50 years time when we have got near the 2C boundary.

    You can see a push to keep below 2C, or 2.5C, or whatever, as effectively assuming a very steep damage function, where what matters is mostly not crossing tipping points, or causing irreversible damage at some threshold, not how long we stay at somewhat elevated global temperatures.

    Even with a quadratic damage function, what matters most is reducing warming when the Earth is at its most warm, which would also suggest caring less about CH4 (by a factor of two or so). Of course Nordhaus-type analysis gets around this by choosing to only care about the next 25 years or so anyway.

  38. WMC,

    If you’re trying to do things like stopping alpine glaciers melting or Arctic sea ice disappearing, then “buying time” in the near future makes sense.

    To follow up on this, here is a figure from Ray’s Realclimate post that compares what happens if you first reduce methane emissions and then reduce CO2 emissions, versus dealing with the CO2 first and then the methane.

  39. wmconnolley says:

    Allow me to remind you of your earlier “we shouldn’t see it as methane, or CO2, but that isn’t what I’m suggesting”. That appears to be precisely what your picture is discussing. Notice that your pic does indeed show that “early methane action” would “buy time”.

  40. WMC,

    Allow me to remind you of your earlier “we shouldn’t see it as methane, or CO2, but that isn’t what I’m suggesting”. That appears to be precisely what your picture is discussing.

    The picture, sure, but I was just using it to illustrate that it may be worth considering the impact of focusing on one at the expense of the other. I’m not arguing that we should defer acting on methane, I was simply showing that there is clearly a difference between early methane action and early CO2 action.

    Notice that your pic does indeed show that “early methane action” would “buy time”.

    You may need to define what you mean here. If you simply mean that early methane action would delay when we would cross a threshold, then sure. However, the point being made by the figure is that if we take early action on methane and delay reducing CO2 emissions, then we could end up emitting enough CO2 during that period that it would then make it very difficult to then avoid crossing some threshold (2C, for example).

    I must admit that I’m slightly confused as to what overall argument you’re making. Do you dispute the description of the influence of short-lived greenhouse gases versus the description of the influence of long-lived greenhouse gases?

  41. wmconnolley says:

    > if we take early action on methane and delay reducing CO2 emissions
    But you’re *still* talking about playing one off against another, and I don’t see why you’re doing this, because nothing (other than the Paris-type targets) makes this likely.

    > You may need to define what you mean here
    I mean the obvious: that if you look over the next, say, two decades that your pic shows lower temps from methane reduction. And if you care about alpine glaciers over that period, then they would fare better *over that period* from methane reduction.

  42. Ben McMillan says:

    The blue curve “looks better” that the red one to someone who only cares about next 25 years, a-la DICE discounting. Or if you think for some reason there is a threshold at exactly 1.2C. [Mod: Edit – The *red* curve… (see comments below)]

  43. WMC,

    But you’re *still* talking about playing one off against another, and I don’t see why you’re doing this, because nothing (other than the Paris-type targets) makes this likely.

    Maybe I’m wrong, but it’s not clear that people understand the difference between the impact of short-lived greenhouse gases and long-lived greenhouse gases. I’m simply doing it to illustrate this difference.

    I mean the obvious: that if you look over the next, say, two decades that your pic shows lower temps from methane reduction. And if you care about alpine glaciers over that period, then they would fare better *over that period* from methane reduction.

    Yes, if you simply care about Alpine glaciers over the next 20 years, then maybe methane emissions would be the key thing to reduce. However, if you care about Alpine glaciers in general, then over the period in which methane emissions are reduced, CO2 emissions may have continued to rise to the point where it would then be difficult to later reduce the CO2 emissions fast enough to then avoid negatively impacting the Alpine glaciers.

    As I suspect you know, CO2 accumulates in the atmosphere and essentially stays there a very long time. So, if we have some interest in avoiding crossing some threshold (say the threshold where Alpine glaciers are at risk) then we should (in my view) be aware of the implications of the various possible emission reduction strategies.

  44. Ben,
    Did you mean blue, or red?

  45. Joshua says:

    Seems to me that the most important question here is whether (when considering the methane leaking aspect only), when you compare the short term versus long term scenarios of natgas vs. fossil fuels, it makes sense to turn to natgas a “bridge” to a significantly non-fossil fuel based future

    And it seems to me that the answer to that question (given impacts like reduced artic ice over the shorter term) would be a rather definitive “Yes, and no.”

  46. Ben McMillan says:

    yes, other way around, feel free to edit.

  47. Joshua,
    I tend to think that the issue of the natural gas bridge is mostly related to cumulative CO2 emissions. In other words, what is the optimal pathway with respect to total CO2 emissions. If we could go directly to an alternative, that may be preferable to using natural gas as a bridge, even if it meant using the existing fossil fuel infrastructure for a bit longer. On the other hand, if this delay would emit more CO2 than if we’d first used natural gas as a bridge, then this may be a better pathway.

  48. Chubbs says:

    Methane is problematic due to difficulty in controlling dispersed small sources and lack of recent progress. We have probably stepped off the RCP85 track for CO2 due to progress in non-fossil alternatives, but are still hugging the RCP85 track for methane.

  49. Chubbs says:

    Just noodling some rough methane numbers:

    Current emissions (carbon fraction) CH4/(CO2+CH4) = 3%

    Radiative forcing (current atmosphere) CH4/(CO2+CH4) = 23%

    Radiative forcing in 2100 if CH4 emissions are roughly 10% of today (fraction of 2C budget) =

    3% as CO2 plus roughly 3% as CH4 = 6% total budget, 15-20% of remaining.

  50. Chubbs,
    I’m not entirely following what you’re showing, but if methane emissions in 2100 are lower than they are today, then it’s contribution to overall warming (in absolute terms) will be smaller than it’s contribution today.

  51. Chubbs says:

    ATTP – Yes the methane contribution will be smaller, but it won’t be zero, and the details will depend on whether we can control the last 10 or 20%. Bottom-line – we need to control GHG wherever we can.

  52. Chubbs,
    If the methane emissions in 2100 will be smaller (in absolute terms) than they are now, then – as I understand it – the contribution to the overall warming from methane will be smaller than it is now (absolute and relative).

  53. Chubbs says:

    As a clarification here is another rough calculation:

    Methane increase over pre-industrial – 1.2 ppm

    Methane lifetime before conversion to CO2 – 12 years

    Annual CO2 increase from man-made methane – 0.1 ppm

    Man-made methane contribution to current CO2 increase – roughly 4%

  54. Chubbs,
    Okay, I think I see what you’re saying. Do you know if we have any estimates of cumulative methane emissions?

  55. Brandon Robertson Gates says:

    AT, the RCPs have annual emissions back to 1765:

    http://www.pik-potsdam.de/~mmalte/rcps/

  56. Chubbs says:

    ATTP – I haven’t tried to track cumulative CH4 emissions down. This paper on CMIP5 GHG cases has a chart which shows methane (and other ghg) emissions from 1800 – 2300. So the data is available to improve my rough estimates.

    https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s10584-011-0156-z

  57. Brandon,
    Thanks. I’ve downloaded the emission date. Cumulative CH4 emissions to date seem to be around 35GtCH4. If this has all been converted to CO2 that would be about 94 GtCO2, which is about 4% of cumulative CO2 emissions. If I consider RCP6, then cumulative CH4 emissions by 2100 would be 165 GtCO2, which would be about 3% of cumulative CO2 emissions by 2100.

  58. Did you hear about those people who stopped the Yale-Harvard football game the other day? I raelly can’t believe they would do that! I mean these people just wanted to see a football game and enjoy their day. The world is just getting crazier and crazier…

  59. Chubbs says:

    From the paper I linked above, CMIP5 2100 CH4 concentrations and forcing (2100 CH4 concentration only)

    RCP85 – 3500 ppb – 1.2 W/M3 – 14% of total forcing
    RCP45+6 – 1500 ppb – 0.44 W/M3 – 7-10% of total forcing
    RCP26 – 1250 ppb – 0.32 W/M3 – 12% of total forcing

  60. ecoquant says:

    @Joshua, @ATTP,

    A problem with natural gas as a bridge is that it implies natgas infrastructure gets built and then is retired early, since the emissions are supposed to be there for just a limited engagement, before the end of both its useful lifetime and its typical depreciation time. The effect of that is to push the price of the projects upwards, and, ultimately, the price of natgas. I haven’t done the numbers personally, but it would make it even less competitive with respect to wind+solar+batteries.

    As a consequence some call natgas a bridge to nowhere.

  61. Chubbs,
    Yes, but if you then consider the cumulative emission of CH4, for RCP8.5 it’s about 90 GtCH4. If this is all converted to CO2 (as expected) it becomes 248 GtCO2. Cumulative emissions of CO2 under an RCP8.5 pathway is about 8000 GtCO2, so the long-term CH4 contribution will be about 3% of the total forcing.

  62. ecoquant,
    Yes, that does seem to be an issue with using natural gas as a bridge.

  63. Ben McMillan says:

    I’m not convinced there is that much extra ‘infrastructure’ needed, but maybe that’s because I’m thinking of the UK: the UK already gets most of its household heating and almost half of its electricity from natural gas, so decarbonising means using less gas (maybe more intermittently). Maybe it is a bridge to nowhere, but the bridge has already been built. The gas network is plenty big enough.

  64. Ben,
    I think the point though, is what happens if countries with lots of coal replace that with natural gas, or developing countries use natural gas rather than coal. This would be new infrastructure that might need to be retired early if it is to be used mainly as a bridge.

  65. are there numbers on the amount of methane that is flared (and presumably converted to CO2 and H20) at wellheads, etc? I remember seeing satellite photos that showed the light from flaring as the Bakken oil was captured and the accompanying methane was burned off.

    I continue to think all the concerns and distinctions being made about the various ghg emissions are primarily a distraction or an area of academic interest. If we want to survive/thrive, we would only have one concern about greenhouse gases and that would be, how can we reduce the accumulation in the atmosphere? When folks start cranking out projections about what we can expect by 2100, I have to shake my head. I think we have to be working on concrete and specific target numbers by 2025, 2030, 2035 etc. I think 5 year time frames are pretty good for monitoring accumulations in the atmosphere. Where it comes from does not matter in terms of the heat that will follow.

    for David B Benson: oh, that methane fountain in the Siberian? Don’t worry about that. That stuff isn’t expected until we hit ~3C of warming. We shouldn’t be wasting time looking for that at this time. As BBD stated above: “There seems to be a view that destabilisation of seabed clathrates is unlikely below ~3C warming, so I’m not really talking about the ‘methane burp’ or ‘clathrate gun’ at this stage.”

    No worries,

    Mike

  66. ecoquant says:

    @Ben McMillan,

    In Greater Boston, Massachusetts, not only is the infrastructure insufficient for demand — due to protests which many people (including me) participated to prohibit new pipelines — but the existing infrastructure is famously leaky and by rights ought in large measure to be replaced.

  67. ecoquant says:

    Note the figure above, from McKain, et al, 2015, shows natural gas consumption and, while McKain, et al 2015, constrain emissions of natural gas, accounting for other sources (see below), the second figure is from a different paper, namely,

    N. G.Phillips, R. Ackley, .E. R. Crosson, A. Down, L. R.Hutyra, M. Brondfield, J. D. Karr, K. Zhao, R. B.Jackson, “Mapping urban pipeline leaks: Methane leaks across Boston”, Environmental Pollution, 2013, 173, 1-4. doi:10.1016/j.envpol.2012.11.003.

  68. Ben McMillan says:

    Gas as a bridge would hopefully mean shutting down most of the small-bore gas network, but leaving just the big pipes going to power stations. I.e. electrify everything.

    Even outside the west, the infrastructure needs don’t seem so severe. Coal plants can be repowered to run on gas or liquid fuel (ie if electric cars mean there is liquids to spare), and gas plant can partly reuse the same transport infrastructure. Also, gas plants have a relatively low capital cost.

    Ideally you wouldn’t have to build new gas infrastructure at all, but it looks pretty low down on the list of problems. The new coal plants being built in China when existing ones are running at under 50% capacity factor look like a much worse stranded asset.

  69. ecoquant says:

    Currently, natgas is the choice for heating homes and buildings, as well as stoves in restaurants. These would need to be changed out for heat pumps and induction stoves in order to make progress. The transport and delivery pipes are mostly pretty tight but the distribution network is riddled with leaks. When the former leak, however, it’s pretty impressive how devastating the results are: Lawrence, MA. The story as it unfolded.

  70. Ben McMillan says:

    Well, at least in the UK there is a dawning acceptance that gas has to go as a heat source for new houses, but dealing with the existing housing stock is going to be hard.

  71. One way I am trying to think about this is as a thought experiment.

    Baseline: At current emission levels, the annual slug of both CH4 and CO2 has roughly the same warming effect over the next decade. E.g.:

    Ok, fast forward 10 years. Which scenario would we prefer to be in, if we had to choose?
    (Yes, yes, I know, not a binary choice in real-life, but this is why it is called a thought experiment! 🙂 )

    Choices:
    A. CO2 emissions have remained flat, CH4 emissions have been halved.
    B. CO2 emissions have been halved, CH4 emissions have remained flat.

    It seems to me that scenario B completely dominates. By not acting on CH4, we are basically where we were at the start of the decade (w.r.t. warming due to methane), the cumulative atmospheric amount is basically unchanged, and can start pulling hard on that lever then and start reducing warming. BUT MEANWHILE we have also significantly reduced the cumulative amount of CO2 in the atmosphere relative to the no-action/remain flat scenario. And, presumably, learned a great deal about how to reduce the remaining 50%.

    Whereas in Scenario A, we have even more warming from CO2 to contend with, even if we have offset that somewhat by the CH4 reductions, but we have increased the atmospheric stock of CO2 far more than in Scenario B – either irreversibly or requiring significantly more negative emissions.

    Yes, as WMC points out, IF the actual priority is limiting temperature change in the decade, then it argues more for Scenario A. But at this point, is that really so important to overcome what seems to be pretty simple math/physics arguing for Scenario B?

    So, I am not advocating for Scenario B, just saying that it seems that in some “choices”, CO2 reductions seem to be favoured just on the basis of how they are behaving in the atmosphere and our current relative emissions of each?

  72. When I embed a tweet to show a diagram, it pulls in the prior tweet in the thread. In my post above, the relevant plot is the 2nd one, which shows actual current profiles due to (roughly) current (annual) emissions for CO2, CH4 (and ignore the rest for the thought experiment.)

  73. Chubbs says:

    ATTP – Agree that, unlike CO2, methane impacts will be insignificant if emissions drop to zero. Its the dropping emissions to zero part that concerns me.

  74. Everett F Sargent says:

    Queen – The Works – 1984 – Is this the World We Created…?

    Just look at all those hungry mouths we have to feed
    Take a look at all the suffering we breed
    So many lonely faces scattered all around
    Searching for what they need

    Is this the world we created?
    We made it on our own
    Is this the world we invaded
    Against the law?
    So it seems in the end
    Is this what we’re all living for today?
    The world that we created

    You know that everyday a helpless child is born
    Who needs some loving care inside a happy home
    Somewhere a wealthy man is sitting on his throne
    Waiting for life to go by

    Is this the world we created?
    We made it on our own
    Is this the world we devastated
    Right to the bone?
    If there is a God up in the sky
    Looking down, what must He think of what we’ve done
    To the world that He created?

  75. Chubbs,

    Its the dropping emissions to zero part that concerns me.

    Yes, me too.

  76. Phil says:

    This post has raised a question for me that I have never been able to resolve. It may be stupid (and slightly off topic), but I’ll ask it anyway 🙂 …

    Do the GWP values take in account the natural sinks for the relative gases ? CH4 is barely soluble in water whereas CO2 readily dissolves in water, and the oceans act as a large CO2 sink. In other word are GWP values for a gas in the atmosphere or for a gas emitted to the atmosphere ? (ATTP’s reply to Keith McClary up thread seems to imply the latter)

  77. Uli says:

    @ATTP: To the infrastructure issue:

    But what infrastructure we will need after the transition?

    In the likely case that most of the electricity comes from wind and PV, large scale back up by peaking plants * and gas storage and distribution for the output of power-to-gas plants are necessary. This infrastructure for hydrogen and/or methane is need to be there anyway.
    So, can the natural gas infrastructure used for this storage?

    * about 100% of capacity and about 20 to 25% of total generation, if only negligible hydro power is available.

  78. Ben McMillan says:

    Probably a good fraction of the infrastructure would be reusable in a power-to-gas scenario. You can run a turbine on mostly-hydrogen with minor modifications, and store it in a salt cavern. But if you had asked about power generation 20 years ago almost everyone would have bet on CCS and nuclear, and look how that worked out.

  79. Chubbs says:

    2019 paper on methane – recent trend a puzzle.

    https://iopscience.iop.org/article/10.1088/1748-9326/11/12/120207

  80. Chubbs says:

    I pasted a 2016 paper by mistake. Here is the 2019 paper. Both good sources on methane.

    https://www.pnas.org/content/116/8/2805

  81. Phil,

    Do the GWP values take in account the natural sinks for the relative gases ? CH4 is barely soluble in water whereas CO2 readily dissolves in water, and the oceans act as a large CO2 sink. In other word are GWP values for a gas in the atmosphere or for a gas emitted to the atmosphere ? (ATTP’s reply to Keith McClary up thread seems to imply the latter)

    My understanding is that this is now taken into account. When considering the emission of CO2, it would include that some will be taken up by the natural sinks and, hence, that the atmospheric CO2 concentration will not rise by an amount equal to the amount emitted. When considering methane, it takes into account that the methane will decay – via chemical reactions – to CO2. According to this paper, the original calculations did not account for the sinks, but the newer ones do.

  82. Everett F Sargent says:

    Chubbs,

    I found a similar paper up-thread “On the Causes and Consequences of Recent Trends in Atmospheric Methane” with same basic non-answer (e. g. recent trend(s) a puzzle).

    The other paper I linked to above has recent (circa 150AD to 1996AD) Law Dome ice core annual time series (splines) for CO2, CH4 and N2O (but I had to submit an electronic data request to get that spreedsheet, takes avout 24 hours) ““Revised records of atmospheric trace gases CO2, CH4, N2O, and δ13C-CO2 over the last 2000 years from Law Dome, Antarctica” that particular dataset has been around in other forms for awhile (same authors from CSIRO).

  83. Phil says:

    ATTP: thanks for the clarification and reference, very useful

  84. ecoquant says:

    Relevance of Carnot Cycle losses in comparison?

  85. ecoquant says:

    I can”t cite anything here because my papers are on my system at home, but from what I recall of the rationalization of recent CH4 increases rules out energy- and mining-related emissions, permafrost, oceans, clathrates, and most of agriculture. It”s suspected there may be a soils component due to increased microbial activity due to warming, but this has not been established.

  86. Although many folks/scientists believe that we don’t need to worry about clathrate melt until we see ~3C warming, there are reasons to watch the Last Ice Area subregion east and note that the uneven loss of old ice may indicate that ocean waters in that region could be warm enough to trigger clathrate methane release. I think that LIAS-E area may be the East Siberian Sea area where methane fountains have been seen. Here is a link to the LIA paper that I was reading:
    https://agupubs.onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/epdf/10.1029/2019GL083722
    I have not spent a lot of time attempting to understand ice in the Arctic, so I may be wrong about some of this or I may have misunderstood it.

    I will wager that this Last Ice Area topic is an instance where AGW-related change is happening faster than many/most scientists expected. Again, my notion of many/most scientists can be generally represented by the IPCC expectations. I have no doubt that a few scientists, some well-respected, others less so, will not be surprised by the Last Ice Area loss data presented in this study.

    As to methane? Well, I guess some leakage from thawed clathrates in LIA-E isn’t the end of the world, but somebody should keep an eye on that, if they have time and interest.

    Warm regards,

    Mike

  87. ecoquant says:

    @smallbluemike,

    While few people can predict eddies, I thought the argument against clathrate melt was two part … First, surface heating of ocean hasn’t percolated down below 1000-2000 meters, with most of it constrained shallowed than 500 meters. Second, even if such warmed waters got to the clathrate-bearing beds, they are not on the surface, so there is the additional requirement of warming the ocean bottom down to deposits.

    Given that deep ocean circulation is on the order of a thousand year process, this made the clathrate explosion improbable.

    Measuring releases is tricky, because there is a certain amount of spontaneous release all the time, particularly if triggered by vulcanism or seismicity. Indeed, from what I recall of my geology courses back in the early 1990s, a hypothesis explaining disappearing ships in the so-called Bermuda triangle are events where such gases are released from the bed, and making the local density of seawater lower than adequate to support ships with buoyancy. Don’t know where this is, though, or what the background emissions of CH4 from such sources is. But I can imagine you’d get hotspots here and there. Accordingly, need to be careful about spatially extrapolating.

  88. for EQ: the average depth of the East Siberian Sea Shelf is 54-58 meters.
    https://link.springer.com/referenceworkentry/10.1007%2F978-3-319-24237-8_163

    headline: Methane Releases From Arctic Shelf May Be Much Larger and Faster Than Anticipated

    “The research results, published in the March 5 edition of the journal Science, show that the permafrost under the East Siberian Arctic Shelf, long thought to be an impermeable barrier sealing in methane, is perforated and is starting to leak large amounts of methane into the atmosphere. Release of even a fraction of the methane stored in the shelf could trigger abrupt climate warming.

    “The amount of methane currently coming out of the East Siberian Arctic Shelf is comparable to the amount coming out of the entire world’s oceans,” said Shakhova, a researcher at UAF’s International Arctic Research Center. “Subsea permafrost is losing its ability to be an impermeable cap.” https://www.nsf.gov/news/news_summ.jsp?cntn_id=116532&org=NSF&from=news

    Shakhova shares my concern about ghg accumulation (generally methane) from clathrate thaw.

    I think it makes no sense to think about methane without considering what Ms. Shakhova has been telling us over the past ten years or more.

    Mike

  89. ecoquant says:

    @smallbluemike,

    I read Shakhova, et al many years ago and, naturally, was pretty concerned. So I followed the publications of the team, and related correspondence. Trouble is, few of their results have been independently confirmed, and, when they are not, the Shakhova team has sometimes gotten nasty.

    So, if Arctic amplification has had to run a gauntlet before being accepted — even though it pretty much is, now, although not uniformly — I’d say present day clathrate release needs to run through the process.

  90. for EQ: an important consideration with the clathrates is the precautionary principle because it is not clear to me that have any answer to a catastrophic release of methane from clathrates. You note that present day clathrate release needs to run a gauntlet before being accepted. Ok. A couple of thoughts: one, what would we do if present day clathrate release is confirmed and has run the gauntlet into acceptance?

    two: we have a spike in methane in the atmosphere and there is no general agreement about where this methane is coming from. We have the LIA study that shows the LIA-E is losing old ice at a faster rate than LIA-W and I don’t think it’s a big stretch to wonder, hmm… if the old ice is melting in this area, how warm is the water? Could the warm water that is melting the last ice in that are also melt the ocean floor and trigger a methane release? Could that already be happening? What could we do about that if is happening?

    https://www.cnn.com/2019/10/12/us/arctic-methane-gas-flare-trnd/index.html

    If you have links to solid scientific studies that dispute Shakhova Semetelov, please provide them. I would love to find out that Shakhova et al are wrong about the East Siberian Arctic Shelf.

    M

  91. ecoquant says:

    @smallbluemike,

    A little use of Google Scholar tells a lot:

    Review: Rupple, Kessler, 2016

    Berchet, A., Bousquet, P., Pison, I., Locatelli, R., Chevallier, F., Paris, J.-D., Dlugokencky, E. J., Laurila, T., Hatakka, J., Viisanen, Y., Worthy, D. E. J., Nisbet, E., Fisher, R., France, J., Lowry, D., Ivakhov, V., and Hermansen, O.: Atmospheric constraints on the methane emissions from the East Siberian Shelf, Atmos. Chem. Phys., 16, 4147–4157, https://doi.org/10.5194/acp-16-4147-2016, 2016.

    And, my favorite,

    Thompson, Sasakawa, et al (2017), “Methane fluxes in the high northern latitudes for 2005–2013 estimated using a Bayesian atmospheric inversion“, Atmos. Chem. Phys., 17, 3553–3572, 2017

    These may not tell you what, if anything, Shakhova, et al are doing wrong. Rupple and Kessler do put them in context, however, so I would recommend a careful read of that. This includes statements like:

    Shakhova et al. [2010a], also given as a source for the hydrate‐derived atmospheric CH4 flux in the fifth IPCC [2013], did not attribute the 7.98 Tg yr−1 CH4 flux that they calculated for the East Siberian Arctic shelf to gas hydrate degradation, rather considering a range of potential sources.

    and

    Once dissolved in ocean waters, CH4 can eventually be emitted to the atmosphere by gas exchange, which can be enhanced by certain conditions (e.g., high winds and storminess [Shakhova et al., 2014; Wanninkhof, 1992]). In deeper waters, CH4 could remain in the oceans for centuries, depending on the nature of ocean circulation and the depth below the surface mixed layer at which the CH4 is dissolved.

    and the discussion in their section 6.2, and

    Some researchers do infer large amounts of PAGH beneath arctic continental shelves (e.g., 35 Gt C in hydrate beneath the Laptev Sea shelf) [Shakhova et al., 2010a], but several assumptions used in making this estimate may not fully account for the complexity of PAGH systems. Shakhova et al. [2010a] also invoked anomalous shallow gas hydrates beneath the East Siberian Arctic shelf as a potential CH4 source and to explain elevated estimates of CH4 sequestered in gas hydrates. This area was not glaciated at the LGM, as is usually required for shallow gas hydrates to occur, and the origin and existence of possible anomalous gas hydrate deposits remain controversial and require further examination.

    and

    The fact that hydrate can remain in the section even where the subsea permafrost has completely thawed means that (a) methane may be released by hydrate dissociation over a region that extends beyond the seaward edge of subsea permafrost [Paull et al., 2007; Portnov et al., 2013; Serov et al., 2015; Shakhova et al., 2010a, 2010b], sometimes at pingo‐like features; and (b) methane emissions from these dissociating hydrates could lag permafrost thaw by hundreds or thousands of years.

    and

    Circum‐Arctic Ocean continental shelves have long been presumed as a source of atmospheric CH4 emissions [e.g., Kvenvolden et al., 1993], and attention in recent years has focused on the Siberian shelves, where [Shakhova et al., 2014] estimate annual atmospheric CH4 emissions of up to 17 Tg CH4 when ebullitive and diffusive fluxes are combined. Thornton et al. [2016] described a continuous shipboard survey of CH4 concentrations in the atmosphere and near‐surface waters in much of this same area. They conclude that ebullition does not substantially contribute to the sea‐air CH4 flux, which they calculate to be less than 2.9 Tg yr−1 CH4. They also note that some of the previously reported atmospheric CH4 concentrations on the East Siberian Arctic shelf may be unrealistic. Like Kvenvolden et al. [1993] and Kort et al. [2012], Thornton et al. [2016] underscored the critical role of sea ice in trapping CH4 until leads or ice‐out conditions render possible the diffusive release across the sea‐air interface.

    I think you get the idea. Review articles like this are pretty good for putting things where they should be seen. They are easier than reading a bunch of papers and trying to puzzle it out on your own.

  92. NOAA says the rapid increase in natural gas production in the US didn’t result in an increase in methane emissions:
    https://research.noaa.gov/article/ArtMID/587/ArticleID/2453/US-methane-emissions-flat-since-2006-despite-increased-oil-and-gas-activity-study

    Getting people to replace their gas furnaces and cooking appliances with electric only helps if you don’t produce the electricity with natural gas or coal- which is what happens in cold climates in the winter during storms and a polar vortex.

  93. Everett F Sargent says:

    sbm,

    There WAS a spike in CH4 rates according to the Law Dome ice core time series. From about 1953-88 (or ending in ~1992 if using the ESRL time series) the rates were consistently above 10 ppb/yr. Today, the rate is very roughly above 10 ppb/yr for only short periods (central difference of the smoothed or trend ESRL time series). The CH4 rates today (1993-2018) are still somewhat more comparable with the 1900-50 Law Dome CH4 rates then they were during the 1953-88 Law Dome time frame.

    If I’m not clear on this (the WAS part) then download the data sets and check them out for yourself.

    If shit happens then shit happens. If you get anything out of my complaints above, it is that I fully expect humanity to keep on truckin’, or effin’ its way into the future, both literally and figuratively. :/

  94. Joshua says:

    > Getting people to replace their gas furnaces and cooking appliances with electric only helps if you don’t produce the electricity with natural gas or coal-

    Please explain why replacing a gas furnace with an electric furnace powered by, say hydropower, i.e., not powered by coal (or gas), doesn’t help.

  95. Joshua says:

    Oops. I get it now. My bad. Yes, replacing a natgas furnace with a furnace powered by natgas, or coal, doesn’t help.

  96. thanks for the links and quotes. I was reading the back and forth between Shakhova and Berchet. I don’t think they made much progress on reaching an agreement.

    “In deeper waters, CH4 could remain in the oceans for centuries, depending on the nature of ocean circulation and the depth below the surface mixed layer at which the CH4 is dissolved.”

    Again average dept of East Siberian Sea Shelf is 54-58 meters. Not very deep.

    But, hey, maybe S&S are all wrong on what they observe. It sounds like you are convinced that Shakhova and Semetelov are wrong about methane release from the East Siberian Sea Shelf. I hope you are right.

    Cheers,

    Mike

  97. Joshua- Illinois and Wisconsin made electricity through the polar vortex with coal and natural gas. They had to feather the windmills to prevent them from breaking. Then there is that bothersome fact that winter doesn’t have a whole lot of daylight, but does have clouds and snow and often has winds higher than the windmills can handle.

    https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2019-01-30/when-does-the-windy-city-lose-wind-power-during-a-polar-vortex

  98. ecoquant says:

    @jeffnsails850,

    Regarding

    Getting people to replace their gas furnaces and cooking appliances with electric only helps if you don’t produce the electricity with natural gas or coal- which is what happens in cold climates in the winter during storms and a polar vortex.

    Wind did pretty well in New England in February of 2017 when there were storms. See my blog post at the time. That post did not highlight New England Wind (to which we subscribe for anything beyond what our PV produces), but the air source heat pumps.

  99. Joshua says:

    Jeff –

    I agree that nothing is perfect.

    Oh, and please done use that as a segue into (1) punching hippies, (2) hating libz, or (3) peddling nuclur.

  100. This. Just. In. Breaking. News! Wind and solar are intermittent power sources!

    We thank our special correspondent for his half-hourly update. We now return to our regular programming, “Methane and new GWP calculation considerations.”

  101. ecoquant says:

    @smallbluemike,

    But, hey, maybe S&S are all wrong on what they observe. It sounds like you are convinced that Shakhova and Semetelov are wrong about methane release from the East Siberian Sea Shelf. I hope you are right.

    I never claimed they were “wrong”. I claim that, based upon the literature, the situation is more complicated than it first seems, and, as is typically the case with natural systems, especially biological and oceanic ones, there are a lot of things going on. It’s really tough to get one good measurement. It’s even tougher to find out what’s true.

    As a Physics undergrad I assisted a Physics Master’s student whose entire thesis was to measure the neutron cross section of one particular isotope. (Don’t recall the element, but bombardment in a nuclear reactor was involved.) People only casually familiar with experimental science were sometimes perplexed that someone could/would devote as big a thing as a Master’s to obtaining a good/better estimate of a single number, with confidence intervals and cross-checking, of course.

    It’s even harder to get great measurements when seas are sloshing through your wet lab.

    So I don’t say “wrong”, I say patience. If there were corroboration, people would mount a big campaign to figure out what is/was going on. There have been other people looking at it in different ways, as the review summarized, and as I linked. They don’t corroborate a big pulse. They aren’t saying S&S are wrong: They are saying whatever they measured looks like it’s spatially isolated, which is of course a good thing. And that there are plausible geological reasons why it might be spatially isolated.

  102. izen says:

    @-Willena Cottongim
    “Did you hear about those people who stopped the Yale-Harvard football game the other day? …I mean these people just wanted to see a football game and enjoy their day. ”

    Apparently some of those protesters are going to be charged with interfering with the students’ career development.
    Although the odd thing is that while the colleges make millions from selling views to people who just want to see a football game, the players get nothing. So it is unpaid career development, but a significant financial loss to the colleges when this happens in an attempt to get the colleges to dis-invest in fossil fuels.

  103. Willard says:

  104. to eq: I am not aware of anyone using similar methodology in the same geographic region who has produced observational data that indicates that what S&S has measured is incorrect. Extrapolating the observed emissions to come up with a reasonable estimate of the scale of the problem appears to be in vigorous dispute.

    I think this is a matter of connecting certain dots: S&S says methane emissions from ESS are happening. ESS is relatively shallow and will warm more easily than deeper water. Last Ice Area in the region is showing faster melting than in other regions identified as LIA which matches with warmed ocean water in that region. Methane accumulation in atmosphere is rising and folks are asking, where is it coming from?

    It seems like you have declined to respond to this question: for EQ: an important consideration with the clathrates is the precautionary principle because it is not clear to me that we have any answer to a catastrophic release of methane from clathrates. You note that present day clathrate release needs to run a gauntlet before being accepted. Ok. A couple of thoughts: one, what would we do if present day clathrate release is confirmed and has run the gauntlet into acceptance?

    I hear you on the uncertainty question, but I have to shake my head about the way folks don’t want to take the precautionary principle into account when we are talking about methane release from clathrates. When that starts, it will show up first in the most shallow, easily warmed parts of the ocean. As we continue to experience pulses of heat in response to the ever-higher ghg accumulations in the atmosphere, we should expect to see more sea ice loss, albedo changes which will trigger yet more warming, then throw in a good warm ENSO event that can be expected to throw even more heat into the Arctic ocean and its depths, and that appears to be a perfect scenario for building methane releases.

    The downside to taking S&S seriously and applying the precautionary principle into the calculations might lead us to decide that we on the doorstep of an “oh shit” moment that might cause to address the problem of AGW more quickly than is absolutely required for some modicum of stability or survival. What a nightmare!

    As BBD noted, the common view that the methane clathrate issue won’t really hit until we hit ~3C of warming. No worries. We are nowhere near that. We can all chill and stop worrying about reports of methane plumes in the Arctic.

    As ATTP noted at the top: “I’ve always been a little confused as to why so much attention is paid to methane emissions. It’s short-lived, so isn’t it maybe somewhat less important that CO2 emissions, which are long-lived?” The calculations and considerations that follow are well-reasoned, but I start on the opposite side of this (especially when it comes to the work of S&S): I am confused about why so little attention is paid to methane emissions, especially as they appear in ways that suggest that we may be seeing the early days of a large methane pulse that we are not equipped to handle?

    No worries. We should be fine. Let’s talk more!

    Mike

  105. ecoquant says:

    @smallbluemike,

    If clathrates are as far gone as S&S fear, then we certainly aren’t going to counter by reducing overall global emissions. What we would need to do is do as Sir David King is recommending, for this and to curtail Arctic amplification, is to refreeze the Arctic. There are zero Carbon energy plans being investigated for doing just that.

  106. Here’s a good piece on the clathrate question in the ESS:
    https://www.motherjones.com/environment/2013/08/arctic-methane-hydrate-catastrophe/
    it seems to cover the areas of disagreement and names names.
    One takeaway for me from that piece was the question of where hydrates actually exist.

    From the MJ article:

    Ruppel acknowledges that due to Arctic warming, more methane is going to be released, much of it from permafrost on land. But, she continues, “I would say one of the least likely sources is methane gas hydrates. You are limited by the laws of physics,” she adds—noting that the beginning of the zone of stability for these hydrates is some 220 meters deep. That’s a recurrent refrain among skeptics—they say hydrates just can’t form above a certain depth, and warming can’t penetrate such a depth very quickly. “You’ve got to go from the sea floor of 50 meters depth, down to 200 meters where the hydrate is,” explains the University of Chicago’s David Archer. “So that just takes a long time.”

    Peter Wadhams says there are certain hydrates “detectable at 20 meters” below the sea floor, far shallower than normal. Wadhams calls these hydrates “Ice Age relics” that formed under very different conditions. Shakhova, too, has referred in the past to hydrates occurring at 20 meters depth, saying they have been “sampled in Siberia.”

    I think methane clathrates were originally thought to only exist in the outer reaches of the solar system. Now, the common wisdom on clathrates is that they can’t form above a depth of less than 220 meters. I hope that Ruppel and Archer are right that there are no large stores of hydrates at less than 220 meters, that in fact the hydrates can’t even form or exist above the 220 meter mark.

    It would be reassuring if someone would look hard at the hydrates that Shakhova and Wadhams believe exist in the 20-50 meter depth and find that S&W have this all wrong.

    Thanks for name-dropping Sir David King. Chasing that was interesting. https://theecologist.org/2019/jun/17/climate-restoration

    Wait and see, no worries.

    Mike

  107. ecoquant says:

    Wait and see, no worries.

    Plenty of worries, but precipitate action without understanding might not only make things worse, they could blow a chance at doing a thing that will help.

  108. Russell Seitz says:

    This is what an ocean permafrost methane fountain looks like:

    https://vvattsupwiththat.blogspot.com/2019/11/the-next-big-thing-in-arctic-forcing.html

    While it produces a hissing sound rather like a burning fuse, not all burning fuses are attached to bombs.

    But best stay tuned, just in case.

  109. Everett F Sargent says:

    sbm sez,

    “ESS is relatively shallow and will warm more easily than deeper water.”

    The East Siberian Sea is connected to the? If your answer is “knee bone” then guess again …

    I can’t wait for just the ESS to warm above 20C to go swimming in the summertime AND wintertime. Except for the existence of the physical laws of shallow stratified flows in an open ocean domain.

    In other words, please explain how very warm surface waters stay stratified to just the ESS when there are winds and waves 247 with the Arctic Ocean just to the north, particularly when there will forever remain a winter solstice.

    I must admit to finding myself somewhat dumbfounded

  110. John Randall says:

    Another factor making methane less important than CO2 as a greenhouse gas is their spectrsl postions. The infrared resonant frequency (spatial ot temporal) of CO2 is close the frequency at the peak of Earth’s infrared radiation while methane’s infrared resonant frrequency is higher and at an off-peak value of Earth’s infrared radiation.

  111. verytallguy says:

    Willard,

    “Well, the independent constraints from the historical changes since the 19th C, or from paleo-climate or from emergent constraints in the CMIP5 models collectively suggest lower numbers (classically 2 to 4.5ºC) and new assessments of these constraints are likely to confirm it. For all these constraints to be wrong, a lot of things have to fall out just right”

    – Gavin @real climate

    http://www.realclimate.org/index.php/archives/2019/11/sensitive-but-unclassified/#comment-748446

    “What is clear is that (for the first time) the discord between the GCMs and the external constraints is going to cause a headache for the upcoming IPCC report.”

  112. EFS asks: “please explain how very warm surface waters stay stratified to just the ESS when there are winds and waves 247 with the Arctic Ocean just to the north, particularly when there will forever remain a winter solstice.”

    I have a layperson’s knowledge of the ESS, so I readily admit to no deep understanding of the dynamics of the ESS. I don’t know if the warm surface waters stay stratified in the ESS. What I am aware of are the reports from changes reported in the ESS that are significantly different from the Arctic in general. Let’s take sea ice as an example.

    “Arctic sea ice melted at an unprecedented rate during the summer of 2007. Much of the melting occurred in the East Siberian Sea. The Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) flying on NASA’s Aqua satellite captured part of that region on June 15 and July 27, 2007. These images show a portion of the coast of eastern Siberia and the New Siberian Islands, roughly 1,900 kilometers (1,200 miles) northwest of Alaska. Despite some cloud cover, the images show pronounced sea ice retreat over a period of 42 days.”

    https://earthobservatory.nasa.gov/images/7970/sea-ice-retreat-in-the-east-siberian-sea

    It appears to me that global warming changes in the Arctic can be seen starting first in the ESS region. So, loss of sea ice was higher in the ESS in 2007 and now, I think that methane releases in the Arctic are starting and the early days of these releases are most easily seen in the ESS.

    EQ says we should be patient and not take precipitate action. That makes sense, but of course, the only action that I am pushing on these questions is to get to net zero CO2 emissions as fast as we possibly can (or faster than that, like yesterday). To date, we have talked a lot about AGW and done almost nothing. Accumulations of ghg in the atmosphere and oceans continue to rise and the rate of increase cannot be shown to have slowed. So, when we think hard about the CO2 and methane gases stored in the Arctic region and we watch temps and ghg continue to rise, we are forced to consider a geo-engineering solution like Sir David King proposes. If folks think that pushing for net zero CO2 emissions asap (precautionary principle) is precipitate action and prefer the current model of talk and patience as we watch the Keeling Curve grow with little change, then all I can say is, go with God on that path, friends. (in that way, I join ATTP in his initial state of confusion about why folks pay attention to methane, the actions that we can take are primarily about CO2, we fix CO2, we probably handle a lot of the methane challenge)

    For EFS, I would say, hey, what happens in the ESS won’t stay in the ESS. It just starts there.

    No worries, what will be, will be.

    Mike

  113. Everett F Sargent says:

    sbm sez,

    So you readily admit to a lack of knowledge of stratified flows?

    “For EFS, I would say, hey, what happens in the ESS won’t stay in the ESS. It just starts there.”

    NO! Most of really sane part of humanity agrees that it began several millions of years ago …

    D’oh!

  114. Everett F Sargent says:

    The SNL version of the above …

    Double d’oh!

  115. ecoquant says:

    @smallbluemike,

    EQ says we should be patient and not take precipitate action. That makes sense, but of course, the only action that I am pushing on these questions is to get to net zero CO2 emissions as fast as we possibly can (or faster than that, like yesterday).

    Well, of course, that’s very true: We should have started global CO2 declining in the 1990s. Indeed a lot of the problems we face now — and will face — are because we did not start soon enough. It will now cost a great deal, in terms of economic dislocation, in terms of hurt and disruption, in order to get CO2 emissions down as fast as they need to be. In fact, the public may not put up with doing it.

    I sure hope the public does. They have no idea what the climate system is capable of doing with sufficient injection of energy.

  116. Steven Mosher says:

    “In Greater Boston, Massachusetts, not only is the infrastructure insufficient for demand — due to protests which many people (including me) participated to prohibit new pipelines ”

    Russian LNG is a glorious thing

  117. Ben McMillan says:

    In general pipelines are pretty safe compared to rail carriage of LPG/LNG, and even that is moderately safe, so opposing pipelines on safety grounds seems a bit odd. On the other hand, fossil vehicles (and even lawnmowers etc) and coal related pollution really do a lot of harm to health and lead to a large number of deaths.

    Pretty sure that falling over due to uneven pavement is a much bigger cause of death.
    “At least one person per day attending the A&E department at King’s College Hospital has sustained injuries from uneven pavements. The injuries have a significant morbidity as well as mortality of 1%”. Also much more likely to be killed by lightning than by gas pipeline explosion.

  118. Chubbs says:

    One thing I noticed in the Andrews et. al. paper linked by Willard: The man-made forcing for 1850-2014 is lower than the CMIP5 values used to make EBM estimates. Table 3 in the paper gives 1,8 vs 2.3 W/M2, in CMIP5 EBM. Not sure if this a feature of this particular model or more broadly characteristic of CMIP6. In model world the historic temperature rise apportioned over less forcing implies higher sensitivity. Will have to see if that is also the case in the real world.

  119. ecoquant says:

    @Ben McMillan,

    Authorities propose Option A, which is dangerous and, in the long run, bad for everybody. Public opposes Option A. Option A is not pursued.

    Time passes.

    Authorities next propose Option B, which is much more dangerous than Option A, and also bad for everybody. Public likes Option B even less.

    Authorities say, “Well, we can do Option A instead, which is much safer than Option B.”

    Righhhhhhhhhhhhht!

  120. a slight correction to your formula:
    Authorities propose Option A, public is lead to believe it’s bad and opposes it. People keep using the product brought to them by option B.
    Time passes
    Authorities propose making Option B permanent, public is lead to believe it’s very very unsafe and opposes it. People keep using the product brought to them by Option B.
    Authorities say: “well, we could do Option A instead.” Activists say no. Public continues to use the product, brought to them by Option B.
    Activists say stop using the product. The public opposes this, continues to use product. Regional newspaper moves on to another story. Activists decry lack of action.

  121. ecoquant says:

    @jeffnsails850,

    Shrug.

    What will happen, then, is people won’t do anything on mitigation, because they want their lifestyles,

    and they won’t change. They’ll just expect government to bail them out from disaster after disaster, until the GDP gives way, and it can no longer afford it.

  122. Everett F Sargent says:

    Oh please give me a break …

    I mean seriously give me a break …

    :/

  123. Everett F Sargent says:

    2bd one 2nd try …

  124. @eq: I say over and over that the takeaway from the possibility of a methane pulse is to reduce CO2 emissions and accumulation in the atmosphere. I think King’s idea of refreezing the Arctic is nutty, but we will probably have to do it eventually because we won’t do the sensible thing and reduce CO2 emissions and accumulation.

    I realize there are a lot of commenters here and many ideas expressed, but I think I am consistently advocating for the same course of action: reduce CO2 emissions drastically and immediately. Do it as soon as possible or sooner. So, I shake my head when you suggest we should be careful about precipitate action. But, hey, I cut you the slack, there are a lot of commenters here.

    I think we agree that we have really done nothing to date to change the CO2 accumulation in the atmosphere and we would be wise to get on that right away. That is not precipitate action. It might save us (or our grandkids) from dealing with a methane pulse. If we don’t do that all the rest is just sound and fury, signifying nothing…

    Warm regards

    Mike

  125. A physicist might ask why CO2 has a log() dependence on concentration, while CH4 has a squareRoot() dependence on concentration and to even further complicate things CFCs are linear.

    Some interesting guesses at Azimuth Project forum
    https://forum.azimuthproject.org/discussion/1115/why-the-logarithm-co2-forcing

    From reading that it appears that the log is due to saturation, which means that methane radiative forcing is not close to being saturated?

  126. from the UN article DBB linked: “UN Secretary-General António Guterres said that “for ten years, the Emissions Gap Report has been sounding the alarm – and for ten years, the world has only increased its emissions”.”

    Well, there it is.

    another quote from the article: “And John Christensen, Director of UNEP DTU Partnership, which provides research-based advisory services to assist developing countries deliver on the Paris Agreement and sustainable development goals, said “it is very disturbing that in spite of the many warnings, global emissions have continued to increase and do not seem to be likely to peak anytime soon”.”

    This piece talks about primarily about emissions and that’s fine, but I have watched people talk about falling emissions for years as I have also watched accumulation in the atmosphere rise unabated. So, I think it’s really important that we remind everyone that the critical measurement is accumulation in the atmosphere, not emissions. Whatever we do to address the climate catastrophe can only be measured accurately in the atmospheric accumulation numbers. Everything else is a footnote.

    I feel very bad for my grandchildren and their generation. I think precipitate action to get to net zero is due and overdue. Patience in addressing this problem seems ill-advised to me.

    It does seem to be quite difficult for our species to make the changes that could bring us to net zero on CO2 accumulation. We can talk about it, but we don’t seem to be able to slow the rate of CO2 accumulation in the atmosphere. If we could do that, I think we could extend our efforts and also reduce methane accumulation. This is not an either or situation, this is a both and situation.

    so, yeah, methane… yeah, that’s a problem.

    Mike

  127. Greg Robie says:

    A very insightful post … regarding academic/modeling thinking. It is almost funny in the sense of how math must be triggering motivated reasoning. Keith is right about CH4 becoming CO2 after about a decade … or most of the increase Mike lists is from what was the atmospheric methane of a decade ago.

    Methane, while it is a short term greenhouse gas, effects the part of the inferred spectrum it has the molecular characteristics to absorb. After the six stage process where OH drives the chemical reactions, it is the long term greenhouse gas carbon dioxide. In its CO2 form it absorbs a different frequency of the inferred spectrum. Simplistically, and with a decade lag, isn’t the annual measurement of atmospheric methane part of the atmospheric carbon dioxide measurement?

    Looking at the Wikipedia entry for atmospheric methane it looks like soils function as a sink for a bit over a half of a percent of the atmospheric methane and the rest remains part of the atmosphere as carbon dioxide. Confirming some kind of bias, this entry calls the atmosphere a methane sink. Isn’t that simply silly?

    My understanding is that the GWP metric is a tool academia needed in its modeling work to simplify complex dynamics and to be able to approximate their impact on temperature estimates. But to actually have ones thinking constrained by ones simplification, isn’t that a textbook definition of observer bias? Smells like motivated reasoning to me.

    I see that the latent heat of fusion for methane hydrates is 52-60 kJ/mole of CH4. This is comparable to ice (if I’ve done the math right). Or there is a significant amount of heat that is stored in the lattice structure of methane hydrates that can make them appear to be locking in methane molecules, when that perception is just like the motivated reasoning Nordhaus accessed when saying in his 2009 paper on the Greenland ice sheet that between 1961 and 1990 it was stable. Such justified him discounting an additional .3°C of warming in his calculations.

    (@ATTP – Ray’s Real Climate post is only addressing anthropogenic methane emissions. He is therefore wrong in his assertion regarding little. 1750 ppb CH4 in 2010 is 1.75 ppm CO2 in 2020.

    sNAILmALEnotHAIL …but pace’n myself

    https://m.youtube.com/channel/UCeDkezgoyyZAlN7nW1tlfeA

    life is for learning so all my failures must mean that I’m wicked smart

    >

  128. “Emissions keep increasing.”

    Where?

    The link talks about an Emissions Gap Report- herehttps://wedocs.unep.org/bitstream/handle/20.500.11822/30798/EGR19ESEN.pdf?sequence=13

    The chart on page 6 reminds us that if the United States and the EU28 went to zero emissions tomorrow, global CO2 emissions would still be higher or about the same as they were in the year 2000 and growing. Rapidly.

  129. ecoquant says:

    @jeffnsails850,

    The chart on page 6 reminds us that if the United States and the EU28 went to zero emissions tomorrow, global CO2 emissions would still be higher or about the same as they were in the year 2000 and growing. Rapidly.

    But where would we be on the seemingly inexorable march towards emitting The Trillionth Tonne?

  130. EFS
    Thanks for the API video at 11:55

    Now we know where North Dakota’s infamous

    “Meth: We’re On It “ video came from.

    If it wins a Most Viral TV Ad Clio, The American Petroleum Institute should claim credit for inspiring it with their

    ” Methane : We’re On It ” campaign .

  131. “But where would we be on the seemingly inexorable march towards emitting The Trillionth Tonne?”

    It’s a moot point if your global policy is to emit that trillionth tonne anyway, you just won’t do it in Indiana. And that, in a nutshell, is Paris.

  132. ecoquant says:

    It isn’t the trillionth, it’s the trillion and first.

  133. ecoquant says:

    I mean, people are simply short-term-minded hominids. Worse, they think by sacrificing cows or whatever to their local deities will save them. People are natural creatures, too. Unfortunately, there are natural rules which take care of this sort of thing.

  134. From Nature piece published Nov 27 2019:

    Headline: Climate tipping points — too risky to bet against

    from the piece: “Some scientists counter that the possibility of global tipping remains highly speculative. It is our position that, given its huge impact and irreversible nature, any serious risk assessment must consider the evidence, however limited our understanding might still be. To err on the side of danger is not a responsible option.

    If damaging tipping cascades can occur and a global tipping point cannot be ruled out, then this is an existential threat to civilization. No amount of economic cost–benefit analysis is going to help us. We need to change our approach to the climate problem.”

    https://www.nature.com/articles/d41586-019-03595-0#ref-CR11

    Methane emissions probably fits in there somewhere as a speculative tipping consideration, even though we know it’s not really scheduled until we hit ~3C warming. I am not suggesting precipitate action. These seem like things we should talk about and study for a few more years.

    No worries.

    Mike

  135. ecoquant says:

    @smallbluemike,

    Noone took it up so I guess I need to underscore: My point about the trillion-and-first tonne is that these estimates are based upon, in turn, estimates of “centers” of populations, like means or medians. Without a coherent loss or risk function or measure — which is far from guaranteed — it’s not clear these are the best estimators. So, given this it could be that the risk expected at one trillion tonnes might be seen at 700 billion, or it could be at 1.3 trillion. Point is sweating a threshold like that is inconsistent with the stochastic nature of the phenomenon.

    Don’t like that? Then rather than complaining about falling short of the target we should be investing lots and lots more in climate science and geophysics. I don’t hear THAT proposal from any presidential candidate, member of Congress, or head of environmental organization.

    So, I say the uncertainty and sweat is your own doing. Want to know more? Support the science.

  136. Everett F Sargent says:

    smb,

    Yeah, that’s the ticket. Massive, and I do mean massive, climate tipping points. All methane clathrates go BOOM!.

    Leaving just 0.1-10% of the current total human population say 7E6-7E8 (750,000 to 750,000,000 human beings total for you notation dumba$$es). Just enough, in a non Mad Max world, to really permanently learn their sustainment lesson(s).

    Short of that, meaning humanity really learning their long term sustainment lesson(s), only total, utter and complete annihilation of the human species will do.

    I’m really serious too. Do you, smb, even get where I am coming from now? I want humanity to die and I want humanity to die badly, horrible and really painful deaths. :/

  137. Everett F Sargent says:

    750,000 should be 7,500,000 d’oh. But I’d go as low as two. Just enough for some collective living memory of the species going forwards.

  138. Everett F Sargent says:

    Or 7E5 (the original 750,000 number) in keeping with 0.1%, in other words, less humans means that the rest of whatever species remain maintain world domination.

  139. Everett F Sargent says:

    I keep screwing it up, go figure, 0.1% should be 0.01%, so 0.01-10% is 750,000-750,000,000 (three orders of magnitude).

    I’m so stupid, that I should go and kill myself and do something really useful for humanity in total. :/

  140. RickA says:

    Have a great thanksgiving everybody!

  141. ecoquant says:

    Yes, Happy Turkey Day!

    I’m looking forward to our trip for the holiday, because it’s my first chance to drive our Model 3 for any extended duration. Claire has done it many times.

    And, of course, to see the step-grandkid. Hopefully, there’ll be a Cape Cod left for her to enjoy.

  142. from the nine peals of doom piece: “More than half of the climate tipping points identified a decade ago are now “active”, a group of leading scientists have warned.
    This threatens the loss of the Amazon rainforest and the great ice sheets of Antarctica and Greenland, which are currently undergoing measurable and unprecedented changes much earlier than expected.

    This “cascade” of changes sparked by global warming could threaten the existence of human civilisations.”

    Sorry, EQ, your point on the trillionth ton is not clear to me. I see that you want more funding for science. I say, sure, as long as the funding is derived from a carbon tax. I think we really don’t need more study about greenhouse gases to confirm that we should now engage in precipitate action to reduce their accumulation in the atmosphere. And note, I am talking about accumulation in the atmosphere, not about emissions or reduction targets. The only measure of ghg that matters is the accumulation in the atmosphere (ocean acidification matters, of course, but it is directly linked to the atmospheric concentration). I think we have to keep it simple because a lot of us are simple hominids.

    I appreciate the scientists who are speaking clearly about the problem – like the ones behind the nine peals or the ones who produced the Nov 27 2019 piece on the tipping points that I posted yesterday.

    These folks are saying clearly and strongly, global warming is happening, it is very serious, we need to take action now. I am thankful for these folks.

    Cheers, have a happy holiday all. Don’t travel if you don’t have to.

    Mike

  143. “I asked the Australian climate scientist Tom Wigley what he thought of the claim that climate change threatens civilization. “It really does bother me because it’s wrong,” he said. “All these young people have been misinformed. And partly it’s Greta Thunberg’s fault. Not deliberately. But she’s wrong.”

  144. Tom,
    How does he know it’s wrong? Seems to suffer from the problem of proving a negative.

  145. I believe Tom Wigley actually looked at the field of science he has helped create, as summarized by the reports of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, which clearly support his statement. I posted this not to get into a long discussion, but to provide some level of comfort to people like Mr. Sargent and ecoquant who seem somewhat overwhelmed by the propaganda emanating from NGOs and lobbyists.

    Some may wish to look at Mr. Wigley’s credentials and track record: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tom_Wigley

  146. Tom,
    I’m well aware of Tom Wigley’s credentials. I’m questioning his claim that it’s *wrong* to suggest that climate change *threatens* our civilisation. I do think that the collapse of our global civilisation is unlikely, but that doesn’t mean that it’s impossible, and it seems quite reasonable to at least be concerned that the if we don’t do enough, the impacts could be sufficient to *threaten* it.

  147. ATTP, I’m sure you’re aware that we disagree on this subject. I agree with Mr. Wigley and by extension the IPCC. I don’t see a mechanism by which climate change threatens civilization. I have at an amateur level read with great interest on what science has brought us on issues ranging from temperature and sea level rise to biodiversity and the spread of disease, from agriculture to the health of the oceans.

    Humans pose a direct threat to the overall stability of our planet, primarily in the realm of the biome we share with other species. That threat clearly comes from habitat destruction, the introduction of invasive species, over hunting and over fishing, and pollution.

    The impacts of climate change (and human contributions to it) are explored at length by the IPCC. It is clear that many participating in this discussion have not read what the IPCC has to say on the subject.

  148. dikranmarsupial says:

    “I posted this not to get into a long discussion, but to provide some level of comfort to people like Mr. Sargent and ecoquant who seem somewhat overwhelmed by the propaganda emanating from NGOs and lobbyists.”

    Are you the Thomas W Fuller that co-authored the climate gate book with Steven Mosher? If so, it is somewhat ironic that you should comment on from where overwhelming propaganda emanates.

  149. Tom,
    It’s getting rather tedious posting your comments where you claim the IPCC supports you because it doesn’t say something that it was never going to say, one way or the other. The IPCC has a number of Working Groups, one of which addresses the science, one of which discusses mitigation, and one which discusses adaptation. These largely describe what could happen, or what we might do, but don’t actually consider if climate change could be catastrophic or if it could destroy our global civilisation. However, if you read it with sufficient awareness, it’s clear that some of the potential impacts could be sufficiently severe that they could *threaten* our civilisation (or, as some are starting to consider, we could end up with multiple stressors occuring at the same time). This doesn’t make such an outcome likely, but claiming that it poses no threat to our civilisation seems about as nonsensical as suggesting that the collapse of our civilisation is now unavoidable. Suit yourself, of course.

  150. [Playing the ref. -W]

  151. Hi ATTP, actually, the AR5 report is titled, ‘Impacts, Adaptation and Vulnerability.’ It is here: https://www.ipcc.ch/report/ar5/wg2/ . Chapter 18 is titled ‘Detection and Attribution of Observed Impacts’ while Chapter 19 is titled ‘Emergent Risks and Key Vulnerabilities.’

    Climate change will have impacts and they are explored by the IPCC. The impacts do not threaten civilization.

    I have linked to this report at this weblog in the past. And for some reason have been criticized for doing so. I confess I do not understand.

  152. Tom,
    Okay, time for you to put up. Please quote where the IPCC says “the impacts do not threaten civilisation”. I’ll also raise your Tom Wigley quote with one from Hans Joachim Schellnhuber (coordinating lead author of the synthesis chapter of Working Group II of the IPCC’s Third Assessment Report) who says

    if we get it wrong, do the wrong things … then I think there is a very big risk that we will just end our civilisation,

    Note that it is conditional on doing the wrong things, but it seems clear that someone who has been a co-ordinating lead author for an IPCC chapter disagrees with your claim that climate change does not *threaten* our civilisation.

  153. [Mod: Again, where does it say that climate change *does not* threaten our civilisation? I’m not looking for a claim that it does, since I don’t think that this falls within the range of judgements that the IPCC is expected to make (in the same way as its remit does not include judging if it is going to be catastrophic). I’m asking you to back up your claim that the IPCC supports your assertion that climate change does not threaten our civilisation.]

  154. [Mod: I’m still waiting for you to show where the IPCC says that climate change doesn’t threaten our civilisation.]

  155. Willard says:

    > Okay, time for you to put up.

    I’m afraid that time was almost ten years ago:

    [Vlad] Lucky scares no-one–and neither do you. He pisses people like me off by libeling and defaming people like Pozzo.

    [Estr] Where was Pozzo libeled or defamed?

    Nobody celebrated the 10-year aniversary of Junior sliming MT.

    Contrarians are lucky they don’t play against contrarians.

  156. The Very Reverend Jebediah Hypotenuse says:

    You overwhelmed-by-propaganda people just don’t understand things correctly.

    The fact that Fuller cannot understand why people criticize his only-adult-in-the-room proclamations is obvious proof of that.

    > Contrarians are lucky they don’t play against contrarians.

    I was going to mention Muller – but then I remembered – as soon as he accepted the consensus, he was no longer a contrarian.

    So it’s not luck that saves contrarians from themselves – but categorical logic.

  157. ecoquant says:

    I admire GretaT, and while I do think there is a long term risk to civilization, I do think the XR approach and GND is overblown, particularly the setting of arbitrary targets like 2030, 2040, etc. This is intended to marshall political power, but it’s pretty counterproductive, even harmful.

  158. eco,
    Yes, I agree. I do think Greta Thunberg is quite careful, but some of what is coming out of XR is worryingly extreme and I don’t think it helps.

  159. ATTP, you are in effect alleging a grand conspiracy amongst climate scientists.

    1. That climate change is a threat to civilization

    2. That they refuse to call our attention to it.

    ‘Dr. Oppenheimer, my studies show that climate change threatens civilization!’

    ‘Sssshh… Don’t tell a soul. And for God’s sakes don’t include it in our report on the Impacts of Climate Change!’

    How do you feel about the moon landings? Stephan Lewandowski awaits your reply…

  160. ecoquant says:

    people like Mr. Sargent and ecoquant who seem somewhat overwhelmed by the propaganda emanating from NGOs and lobbyists

    This is a misrepresentation of my position and path. My sources are primarily Archer, Solomon, Pierrehumbert, Jacobson, and Petty, among many others, in oceanography and ecology.

    But frankly I don’t give a damn what people who misrepresented me think. shrug

  161. JCH says:

    Mr. Sargent and ecoquant who seem somewhat overwhelmed by the propaganda emanating from NGOs and lobbyists.

    My gawd you are ridiculous.

  162. Tom,
    This is getting silly, but that’s not really a surprise. Some climate scientists (Kevin Anderson, Joachum Schellhnhuber) are indeed highlighting this as a risk. It’s also clear that if you read the IPCC reports there is the possibility of very severe impacts if we fail to limit our emissions, if climate sensitivity turns out to be on the high side, or if some of the unlikely outcomes do indeed materialise (or some combination of all 3).

    Climate scientists, as you should know, study climate *science*, not climate *social science*, hence it is not all that surprising that there is a tendency for them to not comment on how our civilisation will respond to the possible climate disruption. Maybe you should try reading the IPCC reports again and think a little about what might happen if some of the more extreme outcomes do actually materialise.

  163. Perhaps you yourself should reacquaint yourself with what the IPCC writes. You have read the report in question, right?

  164. Tom,
    Of course. Maybe to avoid another pointless discussion, you could define what you take “threatens our civilisation” to mean.

  165. The Very Reverend Jebediah Hypotenuse says:


    ATTP, you are in effect alleging a grand conspiracy amongst climate scientists.

    The irony is so dense, you could stand-and-deliver on it…

  166. ecoquant says:

    @Fuller,

    I have read the IPCC report. Frankly, I’m not impressed. As a report it seems like it drips of “commitee-itis” even though it’s an amazing piece of work by Professor Oppenheimer and company. I question the framework and goals, but inevitably it represents 8-10 year old science. It also doesn’t make judgments with a loss function in hand, something they punt to “economists”. So it”s grand. But it’s an approximation. It”s best when it is quantitative and worst when it makes policy pronouncements. And the advice to policymakers is compromised and not worth printing.

  167. [Mod: Apologies, but I prefer not to link to sites that promote climate science denial.]

  168. attp says “some of what is coming out of XR is worryingly extreme and I don’t think it helps.”

    links or particulars please. I don’t follow XR closely, so maybe it’s a chance for me to know more about that movement.

    Cheers

    Mike

  169. ecoquant says:

    links or particulars please. I don’t follow XR closely, so maybe it’s a chance for me to know more about that movement

    I have no links (here). However, there was an advert for a meeting or action on a wall near MIT upon which someone scrawled “What’s your plan?” A good use of graffiti to my mind. So I asked someone I know who is involved in Sunrise with connections to New England XR (y’know, 45’s “communists”), and I asked about a plan.

    His reply?

    “Rebel”.

    This is not promising.

    Then again with people like Fuller and 45 and Miller and companies like XOM, you can’t really blame them.

    Still, vengeance and political self-aggrandizement are not a good way.

  170. ecoquant says:

    Well, as I wrote, some measures chased can and would — if pursued unthinkingly — make things worse, e.g., unbridled afforestation.

  171. at EQ: you wrote “Well, as I wrote, some measures chased can and would — if pursued unthinkingly — make things worse, e.g., unbridled afforestation.”

    This seems quite strange to me. Not that it isn’t possible that some measured pushed too hard to become a problem, but that in our situation, in a world where the Keeling Curve indicates that we have accomplished precisely nothing, that you would choose to focus on the possibility that we might do too much when all indicators are that we are not now, and may never, do enough.

    When you reflect on this, do you think this concern about doing too much and making things worse is the kind of thing that keeps anyone awake at night? Unbridled afforestation? Too much forest seems like a problem we could spot on the fly and make adjustments, don’t you think? Are there tipping points where the trees might overrun the planet?

    As for XR – you question the idea to rebel as part of the extinction rebellion plan?

    Wikipedia identifes the following goals by XR:

    Extinction Rebellion’s website, at the time of the group’s inception in the UK, stated the following aims:[16][17]

    1. Government must tell the truth by declaring a climate and ecological emergency, working with other institutions to communicate the urgency for change.
    2. Government must act now to halt biodiversity loss and reduce greenhouse gas emissions to net-zero by 2025.[18]
    3. Government must create, and be led by the decisions of, a citizens’ assembly on climate and ecological justice.

    When the movement expanded to the United States, a further demand was added to that group’s list: “We demand a just transition that prioritizes the most vulnerable people and indigenous sovereignty; establishes reparations and remediation led by and for Black people, Indigenous people, people of color and poor communities for years of environmental injustice, establishes legal rights for ecosystems to thrive and regenerate in perpetuity, and repairs the effects of ongoing ecocide to prevent extinction of human and all species, in order to maintain a livable, just planet for all.”

    It sounds like the plan was to bring pressure for certain government action in the UK origins and got expanded a bit when it arose in the US.

    Principles

    XR states the following on its website and explains the following in its declaration:[5][21]

    1. “We have a shared vision of change—creating a world that is fit for generations to come.
    2. We set our mission on what is necessary—mobilising 3.5% of the population to achieve system change by using ideas such as “momentum-driven organising” to achieve this.
    3. We need a regenerative culture—creating a culture that is healthy, resilient, and adaptable.
    4. We openly challenge ourselves and this toxic system, leaving our comfort zones to take action for change.
    5. We value reflecting and learning, following a cycle of action, reflection, learning, and planning for more action (learning from other movements and contexts as well as our own experiences).
    6. We welcome everyone and every part of everyone—working actively to create safer and more accessible spaces.
    7. We actively mitigate for power—breaking down hierarchies of power for more equitable participation.
    8. We avoid blaming and shaming—we live in a toxic system, but no one individual is to blame.
    9. We are a non-violent network using non-violent strategy and tactics as the most effective way to bring about change.
    10. We are based on autonomy and decentralisation—we collectively create the structures we need to challenge power. Anyone who follows these core principles and values can take action in the name of Extinction Rebellion.”[22]

    In local, decentralized groups that I worked with out of these kind of public meetings we usually did this kind of thing very early after the group formed:

    How do you create a plan?
    If you’re ready to realize your goals, here’s how to create a plan.

    1. Make Sure Your Goals Are SMART. …
    2. Work Backwards to Set Milestones. …
    3. Determine What Needs to Happen to Reach Your Goals. …
    4. Decide What Actions Are Required to Reach Your Goals. …
    5. Put Your Actions Into a Schedule. …
    6. Follow Through

    Our group processes almost always followed this format:

    https://theanarchistlibrary.org/library/industrial-workers-of-the-world-x344468-portland-general-membership-branch-anonymous-how-to-hol

    I am not sure why you find these type of groups and practices to be “not promising” or how you arrive at the idea that vengeance and self-aggrandizement are indicated. I don’t see that XR goes that direction. I think my in-the-street activist days are now over. 50 years of this activity did produce some meaningful changes. Many activities produced nothing of value that I can identify, but that’s kind of like Edison’s work on inventing the light bulb. It’s easy to look back and find fault, but the activist groups usually look back, critique actions and try to learn from losses and mistakes. Vengeance? Self-aggrandizement? I think that stuff is rare in these decentralized groups. That works better in systems built on traditional hierarchies where orders can be given and underlings are expected to carry them out.

    Cheers,

    Mike

  172. David B. Benson says:

    ecoquant, hardly possible to plant too many trees:
    http://bravenewclimate.proboards.com/thread/694/trillions-trees

    However, this is in addition to eliminating emissions, not an alternative.

  173. ecoquant says:

    Unbridled afforestation destroys ecosystems. It’s not really “afforestation”, it’s tree growing agriculture. To get it done fast enough there are even proposals for using fertilizer. That at least releases N2O. Primary source of fertilizer right now is petroleum, so that would need to be fixed, setting aside the N2O problem.

    This is the kind of analysis I just don’t believe the communal XR process is capable of doing. I’ve seen that in operation during Occupy. Their fundamental truth is community and consensus, not evidence. They are incapable of calculation, and they distrust scientific authority, especially when it opposes them, dismissing it as contaminated with industry influences. When Occupy-like operations tried to get an independent assessment of gas compressor station safety, they could not, even when they had funds, because they insisted any such engineering firm could never have received fossil fuel monies. Trouble is it is extremely difficult to find such firms, even maybe impossible.

    Validating evidence and establishing physical truth ultimately demands critical review and some confrontation. Ever been to an engineering or science or data science or statistics seminar? When at MIT I went to several and am always grateful for the experience. Basically, take no prisoners, but done entirely non-ad hominem and based upon arguments presented or outside papers and evidence. And in the end, consensus, but not before first through the arguments. See

    https://amstat.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/01621459.1998.10473743#.XeBX5FNOl-E

    for an example.

    At best XR and Sunrise would generate support for government funding but funding by itself won’t solve the problem. Worse, with social justice constraints, not only will this be politically difficult to sell but they may preclude solutions. Like it or not the best repository of knowledge on how to sequester CO2 is among oil, gas, and mining engineers and geologists.

    To fix this, y’need to know stuff.

    I don’t like this movement and way of doing things because I get anti-intellectual and anti-scholar vibes, as bad as any I get from a bunch of 45 lovers. It reminds me of French Revolution and Jacobins.

  174. ecoquant says:

    At most trees when planted overwhelmingly can sequester (I believe) 60 GtC. See the paper by Hansen and Sato:

    https://arxiv.org/abs/1609.05878

  175. David B. Benson says:

    ecoquant, what nonsense. For example, when the trees stop growing, cut down and form biochar. Deeply bury the biochar.

    You should learn a little more before commenting on afforestation. The BNC Discussion Forum thread which I linked contains ample, sensible background.

  176. ecoquant says:

    And I think there are plenty of peer reviewed articles in important journals (e.g., Science) which seriously call into question the efficacy of this magical thinking. As I said check the references to it in Hansen and Sato, et al. I could be more specific with references,, but not right now, except for this:

    https://667-per-cm.net/2019/07/05/a-new-scientific-paper-overstates-forests-potential-reynolds/

  177. David B. Benson says:

    eqoquant, your link demonstrates my point that you have failed to learn the rudiments of silviculture, nor bothered to consider the peer reviewed literature collected, cited and often linked on the BNC Discussion Forum.

    To tiresomely repeat, use nitrogen fixing Acacias, not Haber process aammonia. Etc. With all respect, Hansen & Sato are climatologists, not silviculturists.

    So read the studies first. Comment later.

    And to repeat the most important point, afforestation is a supliment to elimination, not a replacement.

  178. dikranmarsupial says:

    It’s funny how “skeptics” when asked direct questions that would make their position explicit, almost never give direct answers (if they answer them at all). It’s almost as if they were fully aware that if they made their position explicit it would be obviously indefensible and so were more into emanating overwhelming propaganda.

  179. ecoquant says:

    If the field cannot convince other experts, you won’t convince me

    Even with zeroing emissions first, a process that can only capture in USA 20% of present day emissions is going to draw down slowly,

    https://scholar.google.com/scholar?hl=en&as_sdt=0%2C22&q=10.1890%2F10-0697.1&btnG=#d=gs_qabs&u=%23p%3DKp64Ei867KYJ

    And the consensus literature highlights saturation effects. So the only “correct” reading comes from the literature that is not critical?

    Really???

  180. David B. Benson says:

    ecoquant, that is a shotgun of mostly irrelevant abstracts, and restricted to just the USA. I noted with amusement the abstract about Moscow Mountain, Idaho, where I used to go hiking and of course frequently observe in the distance.

    The first abstract points out that afforestation, in just the. USA, only captures a fraction of the emissions generated in the USA. What a narrow view! If you had bothered to look through the BNC Discussion Forum thread, you would have observed over a dozen peer reviewed papers related to afforestation of the Sahara desert alone.

    And for the third time, afforestation is not a substitute for eliminating emissions!

  181. ecoquant says:

    I understand it is not a substitute but oer DRAWDOWN and to paraphrase the late great Wally Broecker it is offered as a fix for a bad CO2 trip.

    The use of USA is simply a single datapoint for illustration. The DRAWDOWN project explicitly promised to deliver a complete package of their methodology for review online and not only didn’t they meet their schedule, they never published anything for public review. Yet they made and continue to make noise about how promising their scheme is.

    Afforestatoon of the Sahara is a good example: Global warming effects from massive albedo change, and converting an arid region into a moist habitat? That’s ecosystem destruction and will on itself modify climate through evapotranspiration. Has THAT effect been modelled? Sure massive numbers of wind turbines can affect regional climate, too, but not as severely. This is why afforestatoon isn,”t ready for prime time.

    My primary sources on this aren’t clinate scientists but ecologists at the ESA. I belong and subscribe to their journals, not for this reason but it’s hard to miss these articles.

  182. David B. Benson says:

    eqoquant had bothered to look at the BNC Discussion Forum thread he would have noticed that effects in the Sahara have been considered. Not the least is the ancient North African monsoon. Somehow we prospered in that.

    But no, this horse can’t even be led to water.

  183. ecoquant says:

    No I won’t bother with BNC not til SCIENCE or PNA$ says it’s authoritative. Waste of my time.

  184. ecoquant says:

    Sorry meant PNAS.

  185. David B. Benson says:

    The BNC Discussion Forum largely contains links to papers and articles published elsewhere, usually in the peer reviewed literature.

    But some are too rigid, set-in-their ways, to even go see for themselves.

  186. ecoquant says:

    Done. I”m not qualified to do a synthesis from peer reviewed, so I read reviews at ESA, Science, and PNAS, all three of which, including Hansen, Sato, et al, judged afforestatoon post zeroing of emissions to be helpful but not a solution.

    And you said nothing about Project Drawdown and are now resorting to ad hominem attacks or arguments. The discussion is therefore concluded.

  187. JCH says:

    I used to use old-growth timber. We quarter sawed it, which leaves the narrow width of their annual growth rings fully exhibited on the surface of the finished board. I’ve never seen a tree that stopped growing. They grow, and then they die. While they live, they generally stop going up rapidly, and instead broaden out rapidly. It doesn’t appear to be rapid because of the immense size, but their growth ring, a cone, constitutes a large amount of additional wood added each year of their elder lives. If people mean an old-growth forest stops growing, that is a different thing.

    So what do you mean when you say a tree stops growing?

  188. David B. Benson says:

    JCH — A tree stops growing when it dies, from whatever cause.

    eqoquant, how many times must I repeat that afforestation does not replace the removal of emissions?

    Afforestation is a means to remove the existing excess carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, and so also the ocean.

  189. David B. Benson says:

    For those curious, here is the link to the entire BNC Discussion Forum
    http://bravenewclimate.proboards.com/

    Largely worth exploring.

  190. dikranmarsupial says:

    My intuition is that a young tree is growing in three dimensions, rather than in two (and also are perhaps more tightly packed than mature trees as they haven’t crowded each other out yet). I don’t think trees stop growing as such, just get less good at sequestering carbon per square km.

    For a really old tree that is rotting in the middle, it might not even be a net sink? ;o)

  191. ecoquant says:

    @JCH,

    I can’t find the comment to which this is a response. However, most forest sequestration occurs in soils, not in trees. Trees moderate soil, and introduce Carbon. But the long term robustness of Carbon sequestration depends upon soil flora and mesofauna. This is why people have been concerned about things like soil flora response to increasing temperatures and the like. Don’t know the status of this work.

  192. ecoquant says:

    @David Benson,

    And how many times must I repeat that I dig that.

    What is this? Gaslighting? Or harassment? In the service of what purpose, I wonder? To chase me away? Or to convince people if only and when emissions are stopped, there won’t be a problem and so there’s no urgency?

  193. Willard says:

    In other news:

  194. Steven Mosher says:

    “And to repeat the most important point, afforestation is a supliment to elimination, not a replacement.”

    I find it frustrating that one has to explain this to folks over and over.

    They seem to think that talking about parts of the solution is some form of denial.

  195. Bob Loblaw says:

    ecoquant: However, most forest sequestration occurs in soils, not in trees.

    True of temperature forests, but not so much in tropical forests where high temperatures lead to rapid decomposition.

    Forest carbon storage includes the tree trunks, branches, etc above ground, roots below ground, fallen branches and leaves on the ground, and the myriad forms of gradually-decomposing carbon that works its way into the soil.

    …and although trees continue to grow to a ripe old age, they tend to lose branches, some die off, and the number of trees per unit hectare tends to drop off. So even if the surviving trees are still accumulating biomass, the forest as a whole tends to stabilize at a relatively constant amount of above-ground biomass.

  196. we have wandered away from the methane topic. Apologies for my part is leading us away from methane. I think it’s an important topic.

  197. ecoquant says:

    @Bob Loblaw,
    .
    I have an article at home about temperate forests in Europe which according to this assessment demonstrated that maximal sequestration cones from mature growth forests, not young ones. The implication was that preserving old growth forests was essential.

  198. Steven Mosher says:

    Willard, the US is incapable of building large infrastructure. we can’t even build houses where they are needed.
    Whether it’s a failur of the free market, or regulation, or the court system, or government is
    unclear. watching the california clusterfuck of a high speed rail, watching the homeless increase in SF.. It is arther sad.

    On the contrary ( and quite a shock to my libertarian soul) watching china build shit
    is wonderful thing.

    So ya, we need a grid that spans North and south america.
    High speed rail for cargo? ya probably better than trucks and planes (for FF consumption)
    Amazon Prime folks will have to learn to wait a couple days.
    But I don’t believe it will happen because we lost something. Not sure what it is.

  199. David B. Benson says:

    ecoquant, I don’t have Google Drive permission. Kindly just give a standard scientific citation to the PNAS paper.

  200. Steven Mosher says:

    https://sites.google.com/site/californiarailmap/us-high-speed-rail-system

    they estimate 20000 miles at 40B per year over 30 years (60M per mile)

    the california system ALONE was last estimated at 93B

    https://www.dailysignal.com/2019/02/13/californias-plan-to-finish-119-miles-of-high-speed-rail-to-cost-89-million-per-mile-4-times-more-than-trumps-border-wall/

    1.2 Trillion for a system no one will ride.

    corridors. I wish people would learn this

    any way

    check out the plan for 2015, hey california is already built! woo hoo!

    http://www.ushsr.com/ushsrmap.html

    dont get me wrong. I love my HSR in Korea and China. I live by the HSR station in Korea
    Great experience, better than a plane or car and cheap. and Full. spacious. wifi. very
    civilized.

  201. David B. Benson says:

    Nothing stated about methane release from the Arctic coal mining:
    https://www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-50507539

  202. Ben McMillan says:

    Well, the UK’s high-speed-rail effort is even more crazy expensive. Looks like 80 billion pounds or so.

    You could buy yourself a lot of offshore wind turbine for that money. Or properly insulate a substantial fraction of the UK’s housing stock.

  203. ecoquant says:

    Reforestation can sequester two petagrams of carbon in US topsoils in a century
    Lucas E Nave, Grant M Domke, Kathryn L Hofmeister, Umakant Mishra, Charles H Perry, Brian F Walters, Christopher W Swanston
    Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 115 (11), 2776-2781, 2018

    Google Drive Foo using merely a phone app is somewhat limited w.r.t. desktop: I can’t make the paper fully public on my Drive.

  204. Steven Mosher says:

    we should invite china to build railways in the US.

    oh ya, been there done that

  205. Joshua says:

    An article I thought was pretty interesting (despite a pretty weird headline that actually stands in contrast to one of the theses in the article) – broadly about “embodied carbon.”

    https://thewalrus.ca/the-false-promise-of-green-housing/

    Would be curious to read responses.

  206. Joshua says:

    > California’s Plan to Finish 119 Miles of High-Speed Rail to Cost $89 Million Per Mile, 4 Times More Than Trump’s Border Wall

    Is there some reason to use the border wall as a point of comparison, other than just a cheap political trick?

  207. Can we have a thread on forests, please? or relate forests to methane? Here’s an attempt at that:

    Ronald Reagan may have not been entirely wrong that trees create pollution:

    “Recent research is showing that trees, especially in tropical wetlands, are a major source of the second most important greenhouse gas in the atmosphere, methane. The knowledge that certain woodlands are high methane emitters should help guide reforestation projects in many parts of the world.”
    https://e360.yale.edu/features/scientists-probe-the-surprising-role-of-trees-in-methane-emissions

    “In hot weather, trees release volatile organic hydrocarbons including terpenes and isoprenes – two molecules linked to photochemical smog. In very hot weather, the production of these begins to accelerate.”
    https://www.theguardian.com/science/2004/may/13/thisweekssciencequestions3

    I think afforestation is a good idea and I think old growth forests provide a lot more “goods” to humans than carbon sequestration, but if you want to engage in afforestation to sequester carbon and manage methane, then you want to be careful to plant the right trees in locations where we might derive the most benefit and produce the least harm. This is, of course, geoengineering and we can’t assume there will be no unforeseen consequences.

    Mike

  208. David B. Benson says:

    smallbluemike — sage advice.

  209. David Hodge says:

    For those that are interested here is the link to ecoquants paper. The google drive link craps out at the first page https://www.pnas.org/content/115/11/2776.

  210. ecoquant says:

    @David Hodge,

    The PNAS article is freely available and shouldn’t be difficult to discover once Nave was given as principal author:

    https://www.pnas.org/content/pnas/115/11/2776.full.pdf

    Sorry, but was doing everything from my Google Pixel 2, and intermittently.

    This has been remedied.

    The link to the paper about old growth forests is:

    https://user.fm/files/v2-a702c9675226b89b68c29758202bdd02/OldGrowthForestsAsGlobalCarbonSinks–Luyssaert–Schulze–Borner–Knohl–Hessenmoller–Law–Ciais–Grace2008.pdf
    and its supplement is at:

    https://user.fm/files/v2-8a3bb6b050b5630835513cbb2514e4b8/OldGrowthForestsAsGlobalCarbonSinks–Luyssaert–Schulze–Borner–Knohl–Hessenmoller–Law–Ciais–Grace2008–supplement.pdf

    And a paper from 2010 which squarely addresses relationships between emissions of CO2 and CH2 and various kinds of forests is available here:

    https://user.fm/files/v2-f780c5f83c957cd3d023fda3df33151a/EffectsOfMultipleEnvironmentalFactorsOnCO2EmissionAndCH4–Fang–Yu–Cheng–Zhu–Wang–Yan—Wang–Cao–Zhao2010.pdf

  211. Bob Loblaw says:

    ecoquant: maximal sequestration cones from mature growth forests,

    By “sequestration”, do you mean rate of uptake, or total storage? And by “forest” do you include above and below ground biomass, detritus, and soil carbon?

    My main familiarity is with the boreal forest. I suspect we are not in major disagreement, though. In young boreal forest stands, shortly after a disturbance (fire, harvest), the increased ground exposure usually increases soil temperatures, which increases decomposition of soil carbon and detritus, and the forest writ lagre gives off a lot of carbon, in spite of the rapid growth of young trees. Those soil and detritus stores hold a lot of carbon in a mature forest.

    In wet forests (e.g. black spruce and tamarack dominant stands), there is a lot of methane floating around, too (to attempt to get this back on topic). Anaerobic decomposition is a smelly thing.

  212. ecoquant says:

    @Bob Loblaw,

    See the paper(s) I just linked.

    “Old growth” temperature forests. For any other details see the papers. That said, they are trying to generalize. That is, yes, maybe we could do better in tropics by bulldizing all the trees, doing something to suck up moisture, and planting Jatropha curcas, ignoring ecosystem impacts, but that sounds more expensive than even clear air capture.

  213. Ben McMillan says:

    The Luyssaert 08 paper indicates that the sequestration rate in old forests is lower than ~30 year old forests. Actually that article suggests that it is under dispute whether old forests have a positive sequestration rate (ie they are challenging this point).

    Of course the maximum carbon storage is in old forests. And there are lots of other good reasons not to cut them down. But from a carbon point of view, turning landscapes that emit carbon into ones that store it is the key.

  214. Bob Loblaw says:

    The Luyssaert et al paper specifically mentions the carbon source characteristic of very young forests (second last paragraph on page 213), and as Ben states the general trend is for sequestration to drop as a forest ages.

    The Nave et al paper talks about reforestation being a carbon sink – but over a period of 100 years. The loss of soil and detrital carbon in a “young” forest, as I discussed earlier, is largely a function of recent disturbances – not the growth of young trees in and of itself. After the initial loss, soil carbon will increase again as the forest above it matures.

    Reforestation of an area that had trees removed decades ago would not see the same soil carbon changes as the recently-disturbed reqrowth forest.

    20 years old now, but the BOREAS project is the one where I learned most of what I know about forest carbon. They also did methane, and a whole host of other forest measurements. They referred to the outhouses located near each observing tower as “the methane flux chamber”. Carefully located as far downwind as possible…

    https://earthobservatory.nasa.gov/features/BOREASIntro

  215. David B. Benson says:

    https://m.phys.org/news/2019-12-lake-methane-emissions-prompt-rethink.html
    That lake surface waters are a source of methane comes as a complete surprise.

  216. graemeu says:

    Do you mean 1 tonne of methane has the initial warming effect of 28 tonnes of CO2 and in 60 odd years when it has decayed to CO2 it will contribute 2.75 tonnes of CO2, thus even if methane had the same effect as CO2, in time it would be nearly 3x as significant as CO2?

  217. graemeu,
    No, if you emit 1 tonne of methane, according to the standard GWP metric, it will have the same impact as about 28 tonnes of CO2. However, once it has decayed via chemical reactions, it will become 2.75 tonnes of CO2. Hence, it’s long term impact is about one-tenth that of the GWP-equivalent amount of CO2 (i.e., 2.75/28 ~ 1/10).

  218. ecoquant says:

    Here’s another reason why methane-as-natural-gas is unpopular in the Northeast, particularly around Boston. In addition to the Lawrence explosions and fires last year, the leaks in places like Brookline are so bad that they regularly have manhole cover explode out of the street and fly into the air.

    Brookline recently passed city legislation to prohibit natural gas hookups for new construction and renovations after 1st January 2021 (I believe), with the usual suspects having tantrums.

  219. anoilman says:

    ecoquant: We can’t actually track how much natural gas is being used. Its just not possible. If you check your typical gas meter, it can only measure at like 23.5C, and its not like its been calibrated in… decades. Heavy users have newer meters with slightly more accurate readings, but are wholly inadequate for identifying fugitive emissions. So, natural gas goes in, and we pay enough to cover what we use plus losses.

    This is a serious problem and your local gas provider is well aware of it.

  220. ecoquant says:

    @anoilman,

    Yes, but we can, with sampling, tell how much gas is leaking from the pipes, particularly in urban areas where it is relatively inexpensive to sample. Early sampling in Boston and NYC was done by mounting sensors on Google platforms designed to update their street views, courtesy of and funded by Google. This is how we have such comprehensive views of leaks as in the above figure. There have been other, special campaigns. We know where the leaks are, and these have been publicized in many ways. New laws say utilities are supposed to fix these leaks, in order of priority, but MIT found many identified leaks were simply deleted from the utilities databases without explanation, There surely are a lot of them.

    The interactions with utilities I’ve had with respect to natural gas, and their actions and planned deceptions and propaganda make me, personally, not trust them at all or many of their colleagues, such as ISO-NE. While I know the transition would be difficult, I’ll even go so far as to say it would be better for the current centralized utilities infrastructure to die, particularly with respect to electricity generation, go through a period of chaos, and emerge with a radically decentralized model on the other side. Centralization of control of energy can in principle bring economies of scale, but it has proved to also be fragile and the basis for concentrating political power on these matters. Decentralize energy production is my motto.

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