Protecting the Arctic?

It am de report ob de House of Commons Environmental Audit Committee, Second Report of Session 2012–13, Volume I: Report, together with formal
minutes, oral and written evidence. And things like Arctic Methane Emergency Group? refer.

I don’t really have much to say, because Geoengineering Politics has said most of what needs saying. I find it somewhat disturbing how seriously the HoC seems to take the Arctic Methane Emergency Group, though.

Oh yeah, its got tipping points in it too, and that Tim Lenton. And Peter Wadhams.

Don’t rot your brains with this stuff. Read SoD on instability.


* HCTN 91 – MetOffice on sea ice.

Arctic Methane Emergency Group?

From Climate ‘tech fixes’ urged for Arctic methane I find who say:


We declare there now exists an extremely high international security risk* from abrupt and runaway global warming being triggered by the end-summer collapse of Arctic sea ice towards a fraction of the current record and release of huge quantities of methane gas from the seabed. Such global warming would lead at first to worldwide crop failures but ultimately and inexorably to the collapse of civilization as we know it. This colossal threat demands an immediate emergency scale response to cool the Arctic and save the sea ice. The latest available data indicates that a sea ice collapse is more than likely by 2015 and even possible this summer (2012). Thus some measures to counter the threat have to be ready within a few months.

So who are these bozos? (Note: I’ve been fairly dismissive about methane before). Aunty says “Scientists told UK MPs this week… At a meeting in Westminster organised by the Arctic Methane Emergency Group (Ameg), Prof Salter told MPs that…” so I think the first thing to realise is that there is less to this than meets the eye (Update: Geoengineering Politics has a report on the meeting that all this recent stuff has spun out of; I’ve also found (thanks cr) the written evidence to the committee, see the Refs). If you follow their “about” link you come to:

In the preparation of the 2010 workshop report and AGU conference poster presentation, scientific and/or engineering advice was sought and obtained from the following people

and there follows a list of distinguished-looking folk, whose only misfortune was to have talked to these people. Lower, we come to

a position statement on the Arctic methane emergency, proposed by the chairman, John Nissen, was agreed by the following:

Graham Ennis
Doly Garcia
Jon Hughes
Veli Albert Kallio
Graham Knight
Dr. Brian Orr
Prof. Stephen Salter
Prof. Peter Wadhams

Salter will be familiar to Old Folk as the inventor of the Duck, a doubtless noble project but which has, as far as I know, been perennially unused. Wadhams is a climate scientist – well, he is a sea ice person. The rest I don’t know. Wadhams has some credibility. Unfortunately, we don’t know what the position statement they agree was. They don’t directly link to it. It is possible that the text I’ve quoted is part of it, but its impossible to know.

Wadhams clearly believes something, see Rebuttal: Imminent collapse of Arctic sea ice drives danger of accelerated methane thaw (thanks B for reminding me). I see that page relies heavily on the Piomas graphs, whose extrapolation I’ve disagreed with before and do now. But onto what W says there: Archer clearly acknowledges the vulnerability of methane hydrates to thawing in response to rising Arctic temperatures. Given that ice loss is accelerating, which in turn will only accelerate that temperature rise through the albedo effect, one has to wonder why he does not perceive an imminent and urgent crisis, which certainly suggests that W does indeed believe in “an imminent and urgent crisis”. I think that is well over the top; I don’t think anything he says there supports it, nor do the links.

I’ve worked with Wadhams a little bit, in the past. Wadhams knows about sea ice, indeed as far as I know its his main specialism. But perhaps in a local-processes sense. He was involvedin garnering thickness data from UK submarine cruises. What I’m trying to say is that I wouldn’t really trust him to have a great deal of feel for the connection between sea ice and global-scale methane; I’d expect him to care for the Arctic, but quite possibly to over-emphasise local detail.

And apart from Wadhams I can’t see this group has any credibility.

Update: bottom-trawling, I ran across a comment at JEB (thanks VB) talking about “invaded by out-and-out nutters such as the UFOlogist and Arctic methane expert Graham Ennes (AKA ‘Omega Institute’)”. Well yes, GE (though with an “i”) is on that list. And yes, if you search for his name you’ll find some weird stuff. Wadhams ought to remember that if you lie down with dogs, you get up with fleas.

Update: The comment from Axel Schweiger is worth reading.

Update: in fact several other comments are also worth reading; take a look. I think I’m going to give my viewpoint (instead of just being ratty about other peoples). I’ve said this before but its quicker to write it down again than find it. The starting point is the measurements of atmospheric methane. These are nothing much to worry about. Indee they are below the old IPCC scenarios. If there was sudden truely massive venting from the Arctic, we’d be seeing it in those measurements. That leaves the harder problem of whether the Arctic warming (and in particular the recent decline in sea ice) is likely to lead to sufficient warming under the sea bed to release enough methane from clathrates that anyone would care. So far, the evidence warrants monitoring and study, not panic and geoengineering.


* Mid March Miscellanea from CR.
* I’m sure they’ll be delighted to know that this post is now the top google hit for “Arctic Methane Emergency Group”.
* may be the source for the PIOMAS graph the Beeb uses.
* Arctic Methane, Emergencies, and Alarmism
* Possible role of wetlands, permafrost, and methane hydrates in the methane cycle under future climate change: A review – REVIEWS OF GEOPHYSICS, VOL. 48, RG4005, 33 PP., 2010
doi:10.1029/2010RG000326 (thanks Bishop; I’ve inlined their fig 7).
* Evironmental Audit Committee – Written Evidence
* Environmental Audit Committee – Minutes of Evidence
* Neven discusses “the graph”
* [2014] How much methane came out of that hole in Siberia?
* [2014] Climate change and the methane crisis: Q & A with Harold Hensel – Zombie nutters from beyond the grave