Monday, October 27, 2008

Methane rise reminds us of climate change feedback loop

By Chris W

The amount of methane in the sky of planet Earth increased by around 28 million tons from June 2006 to October 2007*. The total methane in the air is now around 5.6 billion tons. Scientists are concerned that we may be seeing the beginning of a feedback loop in the arctic in terms of methane release. Billions of tons of methane are believed trapped in the arctic land surface by permafrost, the layer of soil that remains permanently frozen, forming a barrier to lower layers. As the arctic permafrost warms, the concern is that the trapped methane will be released into the sky, where it will exercise a strong greenhouse effect (actually, methane is a much stronger greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide, pound for pound). The total impact of methane on global warming is around one third that of carbon dioxide: while more powerful as a warming agent, there is also much less of it than there is of carbon dioxide. We know methane as a fuel, as in natural gas, and as a component in cow farts. Funny stuff, a great way to mock the threat posed by human caused climate change- until you realize that the enormous number of cattle on the face of Planet Earth are yet another example of human activities driving atmospheric processes. The cattle would not be there without us.

Scientists are also noting a steep increase in yet another greenhouse gas, Nitrogen Trifluoride. This chemical substance has increased 30 fold since 1978, entirely because of human activites. Nitrogen Trifluoride is used industrially as a cleaning agent during the manufacture of liquid crystal display TV sets and computer monitors, and ironically, in the production of thin-film solar panels. Depressing, isn't it, that thin film solar which has such potential to reduce our carbon emissions, bears with it the price of releasing a greenhouse gas of its own. Nitrogen Trifluoride, according to the scientists, is thousands of times more powerful at trapping heat than carbon dioxide is.

For perspective on this, ask yourself, smugly and complacently, "what's the worst thing that could happen?" Then search your memory from the year 2005, when you asked yourself that same question about the subprime mortgage problem.

Here is a bit more about NitroTri:


Yorgos said...

Since the greenhouse enhancing properties of NitroTri are known in the scientific community there is no reason to worry. It will fall under relative legislation soon and will be minimized or replaced. The same thing happened with CFCs back in the 80s-90s. Furthermore the 28million increase compared with the total amount (5,6billion) is small. If you add to that the fact that NitroTri is not even in the top 5 greenhouse gases ( then the catastrophic scenario you are implying is as possible as a meteorite colliding with the earth and killing us all.

pencinta alam said...

we just hope that the right authority will ensure that the production of NitroTri stays in a safely minimized level.
Agree that it might not be as harmful as the rest of GHG, but its existence or its rising ought to be exposed and educated to the mass.
Thank you for your important sharing on NF3. Glad to know more about it.

We hope to spread the awareness on the deadly methane which level has since risen in an alarming rate. Methane being a more potent gas (at least 20x)more than carbon dioxide and its main contributor, animal agriculture, and the long term and quickest solution that can be undertaken by just anyone - plant-based diet, need the world's attention.