When your worst nightmare comes true

I hate to say this more than you hate to hear it, but we’re on borrowed time. And while I’m not trying to scare anyone (least of all myself), global warming just got more real, particularly for those living in the Pacific Northwest.

According to new research published in Geochemistry, Geophysics, Geosystems (it’s behind a paywall, so I can’t give you a link, but it’s summarized here in Scientific American and here in the Daily Mail), methane hydrates are increasingly being released into the atmosphere coming up from the waters around the Cascadia subduction zone which runs from northern California to Vancouver Island (British Columbia).
2D69CAEE00000578-3272910-image-m-37_1444849685733This is the one thing that I’ve feared all along, which will shove us into unimaginable choices as a species, may be happening. Hell, it is happening. We’ve heated up the waters which were keeping the methane hydrates safely frozen (and thus locked away) to the point that they’re being released into the atmosphere. The “pace” of their release means that it’s happening too fast for the methane-eating bacteria in the oceans to gobble them up before they become released into the atmosphere. And those hungry bacteria, who are working overtime because of us, also suck up a lot of oxygen from the oceans, so that leaves LOTS of dead fish in regions where there is no oxygen in the water (called anoxia).

There. I said it. Now I’ll let the scientists say it:

“The observed anomalies on the Cascadia slope may be due to the warming of seawater at intermediate depths, suggesting that modern climate change has begun to destabilize the climate-sensitive hydrate reservoir within the Cascadia margin sediments.”

The oceans, which are heating up as they’ve been absorbing all the excess carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, are beginning to release the methane hydrates which are were safely frozen down below. Methane is twenty times more potent and much worse for the atmosphere than carbon dioxide. And now, off the coast of Washington state, the methane is starting to hit the fan. Meanwhile, there have been lots of predictions about this very same (destabilizing) region being ripe for a major earthquake, so there’s that.

I’ve referred to the (melting) Arctic ice and to potentially large methane hydrate releases before. Here are some of those posts:

  1. March 2, 2015: “Once the methane hits the fan...
    2. March 26, 2015: “Death Spiral”
    3. June 9, 2015: “NASA: Capture the methane hydrates or we’re screwed”
    4. June 10, 2015: “Everyone’s hot for methane hydrates”
    5. August 14, 2015: “Wake up, freak out, then get a grip” 

If climate change is going to shift erratically into high gear, which I’m pretty sure it’s going to, it will leave billions of Earthlings a) shocked that it’s even happening, and b) clueless about what they should do next. I can virtually guarantee that awful things will happen when they’re heaped upon extremely bad and short-sighted decisions by our absolutely lousy leaders. Just look up geoengineering, which I’ve also written about before.

Criminalizing the fossil fuel industry and ending the use of their products won’t even get us to Step Number One in raising our chances for long-term survival as a species. And we’re not close to even that yet. We’re still accelerating towards a cliff that not many, if any, will survive once we go “ass over tea kettle.”

Once we do come to our senses, collectively, and ban and marginalize every single one of those who “got us here,” then the actual work can begin. And our response has got to be nothing short of “all hands on deck” since the greenhouse gases that have been, and are, being pumped into the atmosphere will be there for at least 1,000 years. At least 1,000 MORE years and that’s because they have a long life span. If you’re doing the math in your head, you’re figuring out that this number far exceeds your life span and the life span of everyone and everything you know. That’s why we not only have to STOP burning fossil fuels, but we also need to aggressively reverse the damage that we’ve locked ourselves into.  That’s what I linked to above, and here it is again. And my solutions sound extreme, draconian and militant, however, I doubt you’d find a climate scientist (except those on ExxonMobil’s payroll) who’d honestly admit that even what I’ve outlined goes far enough. They just don’t want to say it because they don’t want to scare people. But I’m right. 

If you’re reading this and you’ve got this far, you probably already knew about this. Please, please share this information because the vast majority of people have no idea this is occurring just outside their line of vision, bubbling just underneath the surface of their seemingly orderly day-to-day lives. Until it isn’t.

5 comments

  1. Scientists in Russia discovered the same thing occurring in their northern waters at least two years ago. We’re also seeing methane rupturing in soils and leaving large craters as the gases evaporate in Siberia.

    We, as a species, are truely screwed.

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  2. If only half of the 50 or more positive climate feedbacks Guy Mcpherson lists at “Nature Bats Last” ever come to pass, we’re toast. If by some supreme effort we neutralize half of these AGW feedback loops, the rest will continue to feed off each other past the point of a livable climate. Scientists have been so afraid to be branded as alarmists by the deniers that they have pulled their punches (what climatologist James Hansen calls “scientific reticence”). The time for “all hands on deck” was back when Hansen testified about AGW to Congress in 1988. The only positive thing I see in this situation is that, unlike the dinosaurs, some of us will know what is killing us.

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    • Okay, Robert, a few things. First of all, I don’t entirely disagree with anything you wrote. And I’m familiar with Guy McPherson’s work and I totally respect him and his life choices. We’ve communicated (online) and he actually favorited (or liked, can’t remember) this very post on Twitter. Here’s the thing: I don’t believe that either of you, on some level (and it may be very, very subconscious) have given up. Yes, McPherson is probably the most blunt and straightforward about what a shitty place we’ve put ourselves in, and he, on the surface, seems to be preparing us for an imaginably grim future. But no one is that altruistic…I think he has hope, as I think you do, Robert. You guys may have a mantle of “we’re fucked” around you, but I highly suspect a soft, chewy center that believes there’s some other way out.

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