Arctic Methane Emergency

Speakers: John Nissen (Arctic Methane Emergency Group), Prof Peter Wadhams (Polar Oceans Physics Group University of Cambridge), Emily Lewis-Brown

review by Siobhan Carleton-Green


The melting of the sea ice in the Artic is an issue that has been brought up time and time again especially when it comes to the wildlife that depends on it. What has not had as much coverage if any is how fast that ice is disappearing and the hidden threat that lies beneath it. The Arctic summer sea ice is in a rapid, extremely dangerous meltdown process. The Arctic summer ice albedo loss feedback (i.e., open sea absorbs more heat than ice, which reflects much of it) passed its tipping point in 2007 – many decades earlier than models projected, and scientists now agree the Arctic will be ice free during the summer by 2030. Models of sea ice volume indicate a seasonally ice-free Arctic likely by 2015 and possibly as soon as the summer of 2013.

Once the ice has melted enough the methane hydrates frozen beneath will begin to thaw releasing tons of methane into the atmosphere. Methane is a greenhouse gas that is over 70 times more potent than carbon dioxide for 20 years after emission. This release of methane could trigger runaway climate change if it is not stopped.

Unfortunately governments and some scientific establishments are denying the danger and are arguing the data “credible”.  Some also argue that the current methane emissions are too slow to be off concern. What is also difficult is that the only possible solution currently being recommended is Geoengineering which some consider as being an unacceptable solution.

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