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It's a wonder the planet survived this long

15 Apr 2020 | News Roundup

From Inside Climate News: “A new study shows that as rising heat drives some key species extinct, it will affect other species, as well, in a domino effect.” Conceivably true. If your food dies, you will die unless you find other food. But why is it always the case that every effect of warming is bad and then triggers a cascade of other bad things instead of damping them down? What if warming increases the availability of other prey? Or kills off predators? In principle a lot of things could happen, and a theory that always picks the worst one before looking for evidence is not a scientific theory, it’s propaganda. But here’s a counterexample. Among the 73 ways the world will soon end due to climate change, a favourite is that warming will thaw the permafrost, methane times 10 will get out causing more warming which will thaw the permafrost and we’ll all die in a fiery ball. But some scientists now think bugs will eat the methane. Nature abhors a vacuum, so there are bacteria hanging out in the upper layers of melting permafrost just salivating over the prospect of eating up methane as it burbles up.

It’s not the only good news on the permafrost methane front. According to a piece in Nature, herds of animals with hooves can walk all over the snow, crushing it so it doesn’t insulate, and letting the cold air keep it frozen. Is that really all it would take? One has to admire the ingenuity. Apparently mammoths used to stomp the tundra flat until we stomped them flat, leaving only low-density reindeer to keep the planet from igniting. But “The herbivore community can also be manipulated even more by reintroducing lost components of the Arctic herbivore assembly.” Translated into English that sentence does not refer, alas, to cloning mammoths. Rather in “Pleistocene Park” in the distant frosty Kolyma River lowland (a notorious Soviet gulag region commemorated in the “chastushka” or folk song “Kolyma, Kolyma,/ Wonderful planet -/ Twelve months winter,/ The rest summer” though other milder versions say just nine months of winter) they are introducing bigger numbers of non-extinct mammals to make up for their smaller individual size.

The idea is ingenious. And we’d support herds of bison if there are no mammoths. But if the question whether the Earth really stays cool and pleasant or goes into the roaster truly hinges on a few tens of thousands of hairy beasts trompling some of the most unappealing terrain anyone can locate, odds are we’re doomed regardless. Especially if they churn up the summer moss, increasing warming… as they evidently might. Is nature really that fragile?

It’s important to grasp just how major a role this heavy foot on the theoretical accelerator plays in climate alarmism. Almost no scientists think CO2 will by itself cause significant warming, though lots of non-scientists think scientists think so. Rather, the crisis or catastrophe argument is that the minor warming caused by CO2 will trigger other mechanisms that will reinforce the warming push. For instance by causing air to become wetter it will cause changes in cloud formation that lead to knock-on warming more serious than the original impulse. But only if wetter air does some stuff they basically hypothesized rather than observing. Nobody knows if it does.

4 comments on “It's a wonder the planet survived this long”

  1. A carbon sequestering strategy often advocated is to till carbon rich material, e.g. biochar, into agricultural soils or to practice no-till agriculture to minimize carbon release from tillage. If the agriculture soils of the south can sequester much of the carbon they are fed, how is it that the thawing permafrost must release all of its carbon?

    When permafrost thaws forests grow where permafrost was. Expanding forests are carbon sinks. For some reason the calamity prognosticators don't seem to consider this.

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