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.