So, a new paper out showing that the subsea permafrost in the Arctic is melting. This will/could lead to large emissions of methane and thus to increased climate change and thus to we\’re all gonna die.
A brief outline of the paper is here.
Now, me, I\’m perfectly willing to accept that hypothesis. Not that I\’ve the scientific education to prove it wrong anyway but…..
The thing is, I can see this becoming part of the anthropogenic climate change hysteria. And I don\’t think it really is.
For, you see, no one is saying that the Arctic Oceans, at 50 metres down, have been getting warmer. Certainly not getting warmer as a result of anything that we\’re doing with fossil fuels or cow burps.
What is being said is that these permafrosts have been there a long time and that they\’re now thinning.
Permafrost is also common within the vast continental shelves of the Arctic Ocean. This subsea permafrost formed during the last glacial period when global sea levels were more than 100 m lower than at present and the shelves were exposed to very harsh climate conditions. Subsea permafrost is slowly thawing at many locations.
This isn\’t part of \”we\’re killing Gaia\”. This is part of \”Gaia\’s getting warmer as a result of the end of the last ice age\”. Analagous with the SE of England tipping into the sea as a result of the loss of the glaciers in the North, rather than SE England sinking below the waves as a result of rising sea levels (although in that case there\’s a bit of both, about 50/50 if I\’ve remembered correctly).
That we\’re not causing it doesn\’t mean there\’s nothing we can do about it of course. We could argue that if Gaia\’s trying to kill us by throwing off her winter woolies then we have to redouble our efforts to stop killing ourselves.
But at that point we get all tangled up in this question of costs and benefits. If there\’s a huge extra (if it\’s not huge and not extra it doesn\’t matter) natural addition to climate changing gases then we\’ve got to reduce our emissions even more than originally thought. But reducing our emissions even more costs us a great deal more.
And costing a great deal more changes the balance of whether we should be going for mitigation or adaptation.
If those methane eruptions are really big it doesn\’t matter at all what we do about our own emissions: the climate\’s fucked anyway. So we should go hell for leather for being as rich as possible and damn our own emissions so that we\’ve a chance of surviving.
It could in fact be that far from such methane emissions meaning that we should curtail our own activities, we should simply ignore our own activities.
Do not expect to see this thought in a Guardian near you soon.