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Earth Science

Ticking Arctic Carbon Bomb May Be Bigger Than Expected 339

sciencehabit writes "Scientists are expressing fresh concerns about the carbon locked in the Arctic's vast expanse of frozen soil. New field studies quantify the amount of soil carbon at 1.9 trillion metric tons, suggesting that previous estimates underestimated the climate risk if this carbon is liberated. Meanwhile, a new analysis of laboratory experiments that simulate carbon release by thawed soil is bolstering worries that continued carbon emissions could unleash a massive Arctic carbon wallop."
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Ticking Arctic Carbon Bomb May Be Bigger Than Expected

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  • by Maow ( 620678 ) on Saturday December 08, 2012 @12:37PM (#42226075) Journal

    Sitting at my personal computer, with another in my pocket, both connected to a world-wide network that allows formerly unimaginable near instantaneous communication, let me say that, "Scientists don't know nuthin' - they're just shills in it for the big bucks and I don't believe a word that they say!!!11!"

    /end sad, perplexed, and thoroughly disgusted mode

  • I'm ready... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by erroneus ( 253617 ) on Saturday December 08, 2012 @12:43PM (#42226121) Homepage

    There's just no chance that the people with money who pay the people with guns will be able to see beyond their lust for more power and more money. This means things will go to hell with large amounts of certainty.

    If there were profit in saving the world [from those who put us there] then they would be interested in saving the world. They have no interest in that. They might entertain the notion if they were guaranteed to come out on top and in control once the crisis was averted, of course, because this is all about giving up power and control.

    I am an army of one. I cannot make a difference. But if I saw an army of many marching down the street, I would be inclined to join.

    And beyond this, the denial is STILL out there being preached. First they said "it's not real!" Then they said "it's not our fault! It's nature!" Yet in any of this none are willing to make changes or do anything about it. But I don't blame the businesses entirely. It reminds me of the economy of slavery.

    There was a town near New Orleans which abolished slavery before Lincoln did. The surrounding areas, of course, did not. Before long, local business could not compete with outside business. This town was forced into allowing slavery once again. Lincoln was successful because it was a unilateral decision. Individuals cannot make an effective change. Small groups cannot make an effective change. It takes unilateral change in order to work.

    So even if the whole US stopped CO2 and other emissions today, it wouldn't matter because China and others are simply not going to change.

    So you see, the kind of change we require is simply impossible without world war. And that kind of war is simply not going to happen.

    And so I say, I'm ready for things to go to hell. I can't imagine a way out that is likely.

  • by L. J. Beauregard ( 111334 ) on Saturday December 08, 2012 @12:50PM (#42226159)

    This is nothing other than egghead research "scientists" trying to keep the gravy train going and looking for more of our (yours and mine) money to sit on their asses and debate the issue.

    Roight, guv. Basic scientific research is so much more profitable than shilling for Big Oil. The National Science Foundation has so much more money and so much less to spend it on than ExxonMobil, the Koch Brothers and Fox Izvestia.

    (You forgot to mention AAAAALLLLL GOOOOORRRRRE!)

  • by Samantha Wright ( 1324923 ) on Saturday December 08, 2012 @12:56PM (#42226219) Homepage Journal
    If they wanted money, they would be medical researchers. Environmental science doesn't pay well and doesn't generally involve very large grants.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday December 08, 2012 @01:09PM (#42226315)

    Gravy! Gravy! Gravy! Follow the dollars, L.J. Modern science is horribly corrupt since gov't got involved. The "climate scientists" don't want to end up like NASA scientists.

  • by A bsd fool ( 2667567 ) on Saturday December 08, 2012 @01:10PM (#42226321)


    I don't get how so many otherwise smart people think we're living on a world that has the absolutely perfect climate, and that any change warmer or cooler results in disaster for mankind. The fact is a warmer climate such as that found during the Cretaceous(~ +4C) is beneficial to life.

    On the other hand, just a tiny bit cooler than now and you're back in an ice age, decidedly unfriendly to life.

    For the record, we are *currently* in an interglacial period of the ice age that started 2.6M years ago. When/as we exit the current ice age, it's going to warm up, period.

  • Re:I'm ready... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Opportunist ( 166417 ) on Saturday December 08, 2012 @01:14PM (#42226359)

    See, the country I'm in is well above the sea level, so I guess I should just sit back, relax and enjoy the show.

    Problem is that the rats tend to crawl upwards when the ship is sinking.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday December 08, 2012 @01:16PM (#42226375)

    Yeah, it does support life, but keep in mind, that 3km underwater also supports life; just not *human* life.

  • Re:I'm ready... (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Khashishi ( 775369 ) on Saturday December 08, 2012 @01:21PM (#42226423) Journal

    The people in US who don't deny the existence of climate change will keep on blaming China and India as a scapegoat. Meanwhile, it's US, Canada, New Zealand, Russia, and a few other countries which are holding up any kind of international progress from taking place.
    China leads the world in renewable energy investment.
    http://www.forbes.com/sites/jackperkowski/2012/07/27/china-leads-the-world-in-renewable-energy-investment/ [forbes.com]
    I think it's time to get your head out of the sand and admit that you are part of the problem.

  • Amen. But these kinds of people assume everyone else must be as equally self-serving as themselves, so they can't accept that someone might be motivated by something other than money.
  • by A bsd fool ( 2667567 ) on Saturday December 08, 2012 @01:51PM (#42226639)
    I recognize that global climate is going to warm up no matter *what* we do, and suggest that we should prepare for it (while debunking the claim that it's bad for "life" or farmland), and that makes me a fool? Sorry, but no. The fools are the ones that think anything we do can *stop* the coastlines from being put underwater. It's going to happen, and it does not matter if mankind causes it or not. We should be spending our limited time and resources preparing for something that is inevitable rather than trying to prevent something that is inevitable.
  • by Black Parrot ( 19622 ) on Saturday December 08, 2012 @01:56PM (#42226667)

    This is nothing other than egghead research "scientists" trying to keep the gravy train going and looking for more of our (yours and mine) money to sit on their asses and debate the issue.

    Roight, guv. Basic scientific research is so much more profitable than shilling for Big Oil. The National Science Foundation has so much more money and so much less to spend it on than ExxonMobil, the Koch Brothers and Fox Izvestia.

    I wonder if the people that make that argument are aware of how little a slice of those "big" NSF grants actually go into the scientists' own pockets. For typical university scientisst, a $10,000,000 grant means that several of them earn 1-3 months of summer salary for 3-5 years, at they same monthly that they get paid during the school year, which is to say between "somewhat" and "a lot" less than the pay rate of scientists in industry.

    (You forgot to mention AAAAALLLLL GOOOOORRRRRE!)

    And United Nations, New World Order, Liberal Plot to Destroy capitalism, etc.

  • by SuperBanana ( 662181 ) on Saturday December 08, 2012 @01:58PM (#42226687)

    Even worse still, there's a lot of methane trapped in permafrost, which is starting to thaw and release it. Methane's something like 20 times worse than carbon dioxide for global warming effects.

    Katey Walter has been doing demonstrations for 5+ years to try and get it to sink in with people:

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oa3M4ou3kvw [youtube.com]

    Then there are the gigatons of frozen methane caltrate which are destabilizing: http://usnews.nbcnews.com/_news/2012/10/24/14670511-climate-changing-methane-rapidly-destabilizing-off-east-coast-study-finds?lite [nbcnews.com]

    I'm rapidly coming to the conclusion that we've long since fucked ourselves over - and the explosion of industrialization in China and India is just sealing the deal. Even if you ignore China and India, we appear to have built up so much momentum that even if we drastically curtailed our carbon and methane outputs (like from the cattle industry) instantly, we're still screwed.

    Time to start planning for the worst.

  • by ColdWetDog ( 752185 ) on Saturday December 08, 2012 @02:24PM (#42226897) Homepage

    If you are just concerned about 'life' flourishing, then it doesn't really matter what the climate is or will be. Life will find a way. If, however, you are concerned about keeping the majority of human beings, and especially 'first world' human beings safe and snug in their high tech cocoons, then you should be very concerned about any abrupt change in any one of a number of critical environmental variables - climate, water, air, fossil fuels, food.

    If you haven't noticed, our current civilization doesn't like abrupt change. One little hurricane causes significant damage. A multi year drought causes food prices to rise which causes food riots. A modest rise in fuel costs slows the economy down to much rending of garments and gnashing of teeth.

    And those are tiny little disruptions in the grand scheme of things. Now, dramatically change how and where crops are grown, change how and where water falls and rivers rise and fall. Change major weather patterns. Displace a billion people, And add that to the stresses the system is under.

    No, it's not the end of the world, however it may be the end of the world as we know it. The US can't even effectively deal with two large cities (New York, New Orleans) getting inundated in the space of a decade. Now, imagine doubling or tripling the problem. Doesn't look pretty. So yes, the planet has survived larger climate shifts. You, on the other hand, might not be so lucky.

  • by MightyMartian ( 840721 ) on Saturday December 08, 2012 @02:48PM (#42227109) Journal

    Let's look at this like intelligent human brings and not fucking retards. Who has the most to gain by all of this? Do you actually believe scientists are going t join together in a vast cabal to deceive people about AGW for research grants?

    Fuckinghell the pseudo skeptics are abandoning any notion of reasoned debate. I don't know whether to pity you or mock you.

  • by MightyMartian ( 840721 ) on Saturday December 08, 2012 @02:54PM (#42227171) Journal

    Shift the North American grain belt a few degrees latitude north and all if sudden the US's food security is pretty much in a foreign country's hands.

    Not doing something about this soon means massive geopolitical shifts in a century.

  • by MightyMartian ( 840721 ) on Saturday December 08, 2012 @02:58PM (#42227211) Journal

    So because reality disagrees with your political ideology, reality gets the boot. How are you any different from a Lysenkoist?

  • by ColdWetDog ( 752185 ) on Saturday December 08, 2012 @03:01PM (#42227243) Homepage

    Totally wrong. How about "all that arable farm land in the middle of the US will be parched desert and the thin, acidic boreal soils of Canada will be warmer, thin, acidic non boreal soils. And the Canadians might have a less than encouraging view of Iowa trying to annex Alberta.

    Even more important - Northern Europe / Northern Asia might feel somewhat put out if several billion Bangladeshis, Indians, Pakastanis and various other refugees tried to come north. And so on.

    It is no where as simple nor as anywhere as benign as abandoning coastal human settlements and moving them uptown. You see how much trouble is involved in siting a few million people in the Middle East (the Israeli - Palestinian dispute)? Try that worldwide. Try that worldwide and having the ground rules (so to speak) change over the course of a couple of decades.

    THE MAJOR PROBLEM ISN'T THE FACT THAT THE PLANET IS CHANGING. It is that the carrying capacity for Homo Stupidicus is limited and we appear to be bumping up to those limits. We aren't there yet, but we are definitely moving along at a brisk pace. As you do that, your OPTIONS BECOME LIMITED. Moving into your neighbor's house may not go over well with your neighbor. We aren't doing such a stellar job at managing civilization at present, even without a whole lot of hard constraints.

    There is a reason that the old prayer 'May no new thing arise' is just that - a prayer.

  • by chmod a+x mojo ( 965286 ) on Saturday December 08, 2012 @04:16PM (#42227887)

    It's not the over-all temperatures that are what is the concern, although that does have an effect. The main concern is the melting of the polar ice caps and other glaciated regions. Adding a lot of fresh water to the worlds oceans is affecting the oceanic Gyres, the most critical currently being affected is the north Atlantic Gyre. Since the arctic ice caps started melting at a previously unprecedented rate the current has measurably slowed down. We currently cannot prove 100% that this isn't a natural cycle, but there are strong indications that this is caused by climate change.

    You might wonder why the Gyre is so important ( other than ocean health and bio-balance )... without that Gyre England and other European countries would not have the nice climates they have now. England would have roughly the same climate as Nova Scotia / northern Canada / Greenland. This would affect ( shorten ) the growing season of the Russian steppes as well - one of the worlds bread baskets for grain production.

    The fact is a warmer climate such as that found during the Cretaceous(~ +4C) is beneficial to life.

    The reason the Cretaceous period was so populous was because where the life was most abundant the continental masses had all been situated in the tropical and subtropical zone. That is the sweet spot for life, seasons don't change a whole lot, there is no real "winter" with snow and freezing weather. Life can flourish when hunting / gathering / grazing can be done year round with no compelling reason storage or the requirement for adaptations to colder climates for at the very least part of the year. Today there is not very much landmass ( comparatively ) situated in those zones, and even less that is situated near those zones that isn't dependent on current weather patterns that would be changed if the climate was significantly warmer or cooler.
    Much of the world would either die off or use all and in most cases orders of magnitude more of the current energy usage just for heating and growing what food would be possible, the weather patterns would be drastically different as well as being much more violent ( the Cretaceous period has records of huge wildfire cycles as well as floods that make anything in recorded history look like trickles ) and basically the world would be a drastically different place.

    I don't get how so many otherwise smart people think we're living on a world that has the absolutely perfect climate, and that any change warmer or cooler results in disaster for mankind.

    The climate warming / cooling is not the concern. The Earths climate naturally does that in long, slow cycles that generally allow ecological adaptation. What is concerning is how fast it is happening, several orders of magnitude faster than ever seen before - even from environmental dating done to hundreds of millions of years ago, fast enough that the ecological strata cannot adapt fast enough.

    The possibility that climate change will be beneficial ( even in the long run ) is not zero, however from our best projections from extrapolating data from slower changes into a model with faster changes it will most likely be detrimental short term ( "short" being relative, meaning years to millenia ) and either detrimental or non affective long term.

  • by c9brown ( 1828396 ) on Saturday December 08, 2012 @04:24PM (#42227947)

    Trust me, "scientists" don't spend 8-10 years as a student (plus more as a post-doc usually), making no money to get rich. They are mostly just intelligent, curious people with a desire to know how the world works. Your typical "scientist" isn't hauling in the cash and most of them work at tenured jobs where they'd get paid regardless of what they publish. Besides, at this point you're not grabbing anyone's attention when you say that climate change is real and that humans are at least part of the cause. This is agreed upon. No one is "debating the issue".
    You are correct on one point. We do need to get real about this. We need to convince the masses that science isn't out to get them. Science just measures the world and shares its results. (And not by looking out the window.)

  • by L. J. Beauregard ( 111334 ) on Saturday December 08, 2012 @04:26PM (#42227973)

    We know that human life and advanced civilization can thrive in the climate the way it is.

    We don't know that human life and advanced civilization can thrive in a Cretaceous-like climate.

    Therefore we would like to see the climate stay as much the way it is as we can manage.

    What the right wingers aren't getting is that this is the conservative position, at least as "conservative" used to be defined. We like the climate the way it is. A "progressive" position might be "CO2 supports plant life, higher temperatures are good, let's raise the temperature." No sane person believes that. The position of those who call themselves conservatives is "I want my Hummer, consequences be damned!" That's not conservative and it certainly isn't progressive. It's reckless.

  • by MightyMartian ( 840721 ) on Saturday December 08, 2012 @05:13PM (#42228323) Journal

    And what if some don't want to cooperate, or want to put crushing conditions on it? What if canada decides they want to jack up the price of grain to extortionate levels?

    If short term self interest dominates the AGW debate now, do you think those who hold the cards in 50 or 100 years will be any different?

    Beyond that, why not start now? Do you think that once AGW is seriously fucking up the global economy and food supply that we will be in a better position? Or are we just going to foist this on to our grandchildren?

  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday December 08, 2012 @05:17PM (#42228365)

    If right wing types would just accept the evidence for global warming, they could start coming up with right wing solutions for it. There's nothing about global warming which says it MUST have left wing solutions...it's just that left wing types are the only ones even putting forward solutions. This is perhaps the worst thing about the right wing refusal to face global warming...it's depriving us of half of the possible spectrum of solutions to the problem.

  • by shadowofwind ( 1209890 ) on Saturday December 08, 2012 @10:39PM (#42230459)

    I'm not a global warming skeptic. But having done grant research for many years, I can say that yes, the imperative to keep the money flowing tremendously skews science. Its not a conspiracy so much as thousands of individual choices about what to look at and what not to look at for the sake of the next grant cycle. But the end result is much the same. A science illiterate person who understands this can't tell who to trust. Similar situation with evolution. The science is really, really solid, and the counter-arguments are complete bunk. But a non-expert can't always evaluate that. And although its true that a person can't make much of a living as a scientist, its usually easier to win government research money than to find funding from a private company. Private companies just aren't spending money on research in most fields, and where they are its often not being spread around as widely.

    Its true of course that skeptics' views on this sort of thing are skewed by dishonest selfishness and stupidity: its OK to trash the planet because Jesus will come fix it all for us. Global warming aside, it astounds me that a valuable resource has been accumulating for a half billion years and 'conservatives' want to pump it all out and burn it in a couple hundred. And pumping water and toxic chemicals into the ground to shatter the rock is to me twice again as stupid. That's what's going to happen though, no matter who is in charge. Oil companies have done pretty well under Obama. Best case scenario for people on the left is to use global warming as a pretext for steering investment money in a healthier direction. But its also true that some of that amounts to a power grab. Its not as if anything is actually going to be done about the global warming problem, the problem is too big. Its kind of like bailing out a flooded ship with a teaspoon. Unlike with other easier kinds of pollutant problems, a little bit of effort doesn't help much.

UNIX was not designed to stop you from doing stupid things, because that would also stop you from doing clever things. -- Doug Gwyn