EMISSIONS: RECORD HIGH AND RISING
190+ countries are meeting this week in Bali, Indonesia, to sort out what comes after Phase 2 of the Kyoto Protocol process is completed in 2012. They will be looking at data in reports like this one from the World Meteorological Organization (WMO).
There’s bad news and there’s good news. Sadly, the bad news means the good news is unlikely to stay good.
Permafrost is a unique geologic phenomenon of artic regions like Alaska and Siberia (and very high altitudes) where the deep ground never thaws. Most scientists believe that if the permafrost melts enough to release the methane trapped in it, it will trigger a runaway thaw.
Happily, there is no evidence permafrost melt is accelerating. Unfortunately, there is every indication the changes that would drive temperature up enough to accelerate permafrost melt ARE occurring.
Carbon dioxide at record high, stoking warming: WMO
Alister Doyle, November 23, 2007 (Reuters)
The World Meteorological Organization (WMO)
What makes the meeting in Bali important (and the energy bill debate now going on in Washington, DC, and the 2008 election, too) is that there are competing worst-case and best-case scenarios still possible. It depends on the choices we make. (click to enlarge)
Greenhouse gas (GHG) concentrations in the atmosphere climbed to record levels in 2006. Though temperature rise in artic regions has not yet evoked permafrost melting and release of trapped methane, it appears headed in that direction.
- WMO report on 2006 atmospheric and temperature readings was announced November 22.
- 2006 CO2 levels were 0.53% higher than 2005 (381.2 parts per million of the atmosphere, 36% percent higher than before the Industrial Revolution began in the 18th century.
The WMO report affirmed that increased CO2 levels are associated with warming and likely to lead to heatwaves, floods, droughts and rising ocean levels.
- As climate change causes warming in artic regions, it is expected create changes in the permafrost and the release of trapped hydrocarbon-based gases. Further discussion on this is in Professor Romanovsky’s article How rapidly is permafrost changing and what are the impacts of these changes?
- The record levels of CO2 indicate a potential worsening of climate change-inducing circumstances. That measured methane remains stable indicates the GHGs trapped in the permafrost have not been released.
- Nitrous oxide (Nox), the number 3 GHG, was up 0.25% to 320 parts/billion, 19% higher than pre-industrial times.
- Methane (from rotting vegetation, landfills, termites, rice paddies, herd animal digestive flatulence, etc.) was down 0.06% to 1,782 parts/billion in 2006.
- Because methane is not rising, the impact of CO2 on climate change is growing.
There is little doubt that in the worst-case scenario, methane concentrations would rise rapidly. (click to enlarge)
- WMO: "In 2006, globally averaged concentrations of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere reached their highest levels ever recorded…Atmospheric growth rates in 2006 of these gases are consistent with recent years..."
- Geir Braathen, senior scientific officer, WHO: "Methane levels have been flattening out in recent years…A widespread melt of Siberian permafrost is a possibility but there is no sign of it in this data…If it was happening it would turn up in these figures…"