Permafrost Methane Feedback: Why Humans are Still in Control

March 14, 2019

Trying to piece together some bits and pieces on this – scientists have been telling me for years that the permafrost feedback, while real and serious, amounts to about 10 percent of human emissions – in other words, the biggest control knob is still in our hands.

Big IF, but, IF we can get human emissions under control, natural emissions from, say, arctic permafrost, could be manageable.
Need to quantify current contributors to methane emissions, as I pointed out yesterday.

Science Daily:

A study by researchers from IIASA, Canada, Denmark, Norway, and Sweden, however, suggests that it is possible to neutralize the natural gas threat that lies in wait under the Arctic soil. The team looked at several possible future scenarios, including some where the world continues to release human-made carbon and methane emissions into the atmosphere at the current rate, and some where we meet the targets of the Paris Agreement.

In their analysis, the researchers quantified the upper range value for natural methane emissions that can be released from the Arctic tundra, as it allows it to be put in relation to the much larger release of methane emissions from human activities. Although estimates of the release of methane from natural sources in the Arctic and estimates of methane from human activity have been presented separately in previous studies, this is the first time that the relative contribution of the two sources to global warming has been quantified and compared.

“It is important to put the two estimates alongside each other to point out how important it is to urgently address methane emissions from human activities, in particular through a phase out of fossil fuels. It is important for everyone concerned about global warming to know that humans are the main source of methane emissions and that if we can control humans’ release of methane, the problem of methane released from the thawing Arctic tundra is likely to remain manageable,” explains Lena Höglund-Isaksson, a senior researcher with the IIASA Air Quality and Greenhouse Gases Program and one of the authors of the study published in Nature Scientific Reports earlier this week.

According to the researchers, their findings confirm the urgency of a transition away from a fossil fuel based society as well as the importance of reducing methane emissions from other sources, in particular livestock and waste. The results indicate that human-made emissions can be reduced sufficiently to limit methane-caused climate warming by 2100 even in the case of an uncontrolled natural Arctic methane emission feedback. This will however require a committed, global effort towards substantial, but feasible reductions.

“In essence, we want to convey the message that the release of methane from human activities is something we can do something about, especially since the technology for drastic reductions is readily available — often even at a low cost. If we can only get the human emissions under control, the natural emissions should not have to be of major concern,” concludes Höglund-Isaksson.


8 Responses to “Permafrost Methane Feedback: Why Humans are Still in Control”

  1. Sir Charles Says:

    The study has the title “Tracing the climate signal: mitigation of anthropogenic methane emissions can outweigh a large Arctic natural emission increase”

    I say it again: Global spike in methane emissions over last decade likely due to US shale

    Hundreds of thousands of wells are being fracked in the US. A gas well remains a gas well, an oil well remains an oil well, even when production is long ceased, the well is just being plugged. As shale exploration needs an ever growing amount of wells being drilled just to keep production flat, we will see a vast growth of wells being drilled and fracked. 5% of gas wells leak from day one. After 14 years, 50% of the wells are leaking. So it’s only a matter of time when methane will be released into the atmosphere. At some sites, fugitive methane loss is as much as 15% of the production. This gas cannot be flared as it escapes everywhere around the well. Fossil methane is 87 times as potent as CO2.

    Here again => Why gas wells leak

    This fecking frenzy has to stop immediately.

  2. rhymeswithgoalie Says:

    Are humans ever in control?
    It’s 20-fricking-19 and we can’t even convince policymakers that there’s a problem. People are reporting on Venezuela politics and looking for ways to restore their oil production levels.

  3. dumboldguy Says:

    “…..results indicate that human-made emissions can be reduced sufficiently to limit methane-caused climate warming by 2100 even in the case of an uncontrolled natural Arctic methane emission feedback”.

    That is pure, unadulterated wishful thinking horseshit, and rates an Omno WHAT??? They would have us believe that some STUDY and projection is more meaningful than observation of what is actually happening, as limited as our data may be?

    We are NOT in control, either of the “knob” on methane and GHG emissions, OR of our need to employ wishful thinking in denial of the scientific facts that keep piling up.

    Does no one understand what the first and last words here mean?—-“uncontrolled natural Arctic methane emission feedback”.

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