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Methane in the dock

16 Feb 2022 | OP ED Watch

Late last fall we warned that alarmists in search of a return to that first blissful high had started turning from CO2 to more potent stuff, namely methane. Regrettably their level of information remains low. But as Kip Hansen pointed out, a new study went all “grim milestone” on us over the dreaded CH4 reaching 1900 parts per billion. As Willis Eschenbach suggests, “climate alarmists have noticed that all their hysterical screeching about carbon dioxide (CO2) isn’t having the desired effect. So they’re turning to a new villain…” And sure enough, in the Nature piece in question, scientists no longer say or warn. They “raise alarm”. And methane levels don’t just rise. They “soar”. Then, as the heat melts metaphors into a jumbled mess, “Methane concentrations in the atmosphere raced past 1,900 parts per billion last year”. Raced! We are all going to die.

What’s especially odd about the article in question is that it warns, as if it were meant to be ominous, that “some researchers fear that global warming itself is behind the rapid rise.” Whereas you’d think the scary bit would be if methane itself were behind global warming. Otherwise it’s just one more symptom, and not a scary one like all the polar bears dying after chasing walruses off cliffs, mobs roaming Britain or that house in North Carolina.

Of course in the wacky world of climate alarmism, all bases are covered. In this case because all feedback mechanisms are positive, so warming causes methane which causes warming which causes methane. “The spike has caused many researchers to worry that global warming is creating a feedback mechanism that will cause ever more methane to be released, making it even harder to rein in rising temperatures.”

But if positive feedback loops are going to create runaway warming, then why didn’t they do it in the past? It’s very much like the one about how all the methane hydrate “fiery ice” under the seabed will melt thanks to a trivial temperature increase. Except it didn’t in the Holocene Climatic Optimum or the Eemian so it must be because human warming, like human CO2, has disastrous effects the natural kind does not. And the bottom line is that they decided to panic first and think second, a plan notorious for its deleterious effects in life generally.

The Nature piece admits that “The growth of methane emissions slowed around the turn of the millennium, but began a rapid and mysterious uptick around 2007.” Mysterious. So in fact they don’t know what’s happening or why. Except of course we’re all going to die. “Scientists says the grim milestone underscores the importance of a pledge made at last year’s COP26 climate summit to curb emissions of methane, a greenhouse gas at least 28 times as potent as CO2.” At least. Could be more. The science is unsettled. As one accompanying chart concedes, “Neither trend is well understood.”

Still, the science is settled and all milestones are so grim they could be tombstones. “The emissions, which seem to have accelerated in the past few years, are a major threat to the world’s goal of limiting global warming to 1.5–2 °C over pre-industrial temperatures” according to Euan Nisbet of Royal Holloway. Whoever he might be.

Later, the article concedes that methane has been rising for two centuries and that based on various carbon isotopes involved, “human activities alone are not responsible for the increase.” Which is one way of putting it, since the actual finding is microbes 85%, humans 15%. Despite which “humans are not off the hook. Based on their latest analysis of the isotopic trends, Lan’s team estimates that anthropogenic sources such as livestock, agricultural waste, landfill and fossil-fuel extraction accounted for about 62% of total methane emissions since from 2007 to 2016”.

So there’s the settled science. Whatever’s happening is ominous and our fault. Quid Erat Opinandum.

5 comments on “Methane in the dock”

  1. Of course, the important thing is to make the numbers really, really scary. That's why methane concentration is given as 1,900 parts per billion, rather than 1.9 parts per million. In the latter case, since CO2 is over 400 parts per million, methane concentration is just a big yawn. But 1,900 parts per billion - wow, let's all panic. How about we call it 1,900,000 parts per trillion?

  2. A molecule of water or CO2 or methane absorbs a photon of infrared light (albeit at different frequencies) and then re-emits it up or down or sideways. They are all the same. I cannot fathom the twisted logic that would declare methane to be "28 times as potent as CO2".

  3. I can’t understand either.
    Given that the magnifying effect of methane will be influenced by the concentration. At this level it should be a given that the magnifying effect is 20 - 30 times that of CO2 which one is it?
    We are told that fentanyl is 20 - 100 times more dangerous than heroine! Which is it? All very airy fairy for science.

  4. And it just so happens that if we reduce methane by removing beef and other grazers from our diet we will fall in line with other parts of the lefts agenda, all for our own good. Socialism cures all! Myopia is vision!! Extremism is never of the left!! Censorship ensures freedom of speech!! Anyone see a trend here, lol!

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