Tag Archives: Gavin Schmidt

Arctic Methane Alarms: A Closer Look at the Debate

Every creation-care advocate knows that climate denial is rampant in the anti-scientific atmosphere that currently shrouds much of American evangelicalism. With so much nonsense circulating among us, it’s painful to admit our own mistakes. We’ve been called alarmists (or worse) so often that it’s particularly awkward coming clean when it’s possibly true.

But whatever the consequences, here goes. Several days ago, I wrote a piece about Arctic methane release, based on an article found in the science journal Nature. The gist of the story was that recent research had calculated a $60 trillion price tag on the effect of a major methane “burp” likely to be released from melting ice and permafrost in or near eastern Siberia. The burp would do most harm to poor people in poor countries, and would accelerate the threshold for global warming of 2 degrees Celsius to 2035, only 22 years from now.

This would be very bad news – perhaps apocalyptic bad new – and we said so.

NASA's Gavin Schmidt questioned methane projections

NASA’s Gavin Schmidt questioned methane projections

But what the Nature article didn’t say is that many respected researchers regard this scenario, in this timeframe, to be unlikely. Not that the Arctic isn’t melting; not that the methane deposits under the permafrost aren’t absolutely enormous; not that the methane released won’t create a huge positive feedback loop capable of driving sudden, catastrophic climate change. Just this: that few researchers view Nature’s timeframe to be realistic.

I picked up the Nature story, and reported to you the worrisome conclusion: that as early as 22 years from now, you are likely to be dealing with a world whose methane-heated climate is completely unrecognizable by – and possibly inhospitable to – the creatures that currently thrive on Earth, including humankind. In so doing, I relied on the prestige of Nature, without much further inquiry.  Continue reading