Please note: the original email has been slightly edited.
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Organization: Green Innovations Inc
From: "Philip Sutton" <Philip.Sutton @ green-innovations.asn.au>
Date sent: Sat, 13 Aug 2005 01:40:48 +1000
Subject: [greenleap] Siberia, warming & 10 year program to restructure the economy
In 1973 I had a strong intuition that that year would go down in history because of the oil crisis.
Similarly I think that 2005 will go down in history as the year when the world realised that global warning is a dire threat to the stability of the world (ecologically, economically and socially).
For me, the news just in, about the rapid melting of the Siberian permafrost, is the decider (see at the end of this message).
We've known for some years that a great many glaciers are in retreat around the world, we know about the very significant thinning of the Arctic ice and loss of ice in some sections of Antarctica. This is bad enough but this type of melting can probably go on for some time before it triggers some severe step changes in environmental conditions. But the melting of the permafrost is different. It will release huge amounts of methane which is a considerably more potent greenhouse gas than CO2 so we should now expect a marked acceleration in global warming. Where this acceleration will lead is anybody's guess but unless the warm sea current passing Europe shuts off as a result of warming it is hard to see what will stop further major warming.
New climate patterns will mean that agriculture will have to adapt very quickly, but possibly worse still, more frequent extreme weather events driven by global warming will make it increasingly difficult for farmers to get crops and even stock through to market.
It is also quite possible that we will also have to deal with huge increases in the cost of oil as the world get to the peak of conventional oil production.
It looks like we will be in for some very difficult times if we don't urgently take steps to massively cut greenhouse gas emissions, to start removing excess CO2 in the air and to deal with the oncoming threat of the peaking of conventional oil supply.
I think that there is a solid case that now, this year, is the time to begin a 'crash program' to restructure the economy over the next 10 years.
By a crash program I mean a program "marked by concerted effort and effected in the shortest possible time."
Given that most governments, agencies and companies have been locked into very small-scale slow responses to these issues for the last few decades a move to begin a crash program of full-scale industry restructuring is likely to be greeted with greeted with skepticism. But I think we just have to live with that - and work to change it.
I think there is a great deal that can be done via both the private sector and the public sector if managers start to act now on necessary elements of a restructuring - even if top level managers have not yet reached a consensus to take major concerted action. This, by the way, was the how Intel went from being a memory chip maker to being the world's leading central processing unit maker. The sales teams and the manufacturing managers simply started shifting what they were doing even though top management hadn't yet figured out the need for a new strategy. (See Robert Burgleman's book "Strategy is Destiny" 2002, The Free Press.)
I would urge everyone to raise the need for a crash-program of industrial restructuring with colleagues, friends and your managers and to begin to allocate time and other resources to this task of restructuring - to the maximum of your ability.
People with good information about such a crash programs will be given priority in postings to Greenleap.
I will also be actively involved in developing and finding such ideas and in working to turn the best of them into reality as fast as possible.
I'm now convinced that the time for prevarication has passed and that we must all get down to the task of making the change - not just in our awareness but in things on the ground.
We need to stop using fossil fuels. We need to change our transport system. We all need to move as fast as possible to 100% greenpower. And much more. Supply and demand need to move together.
If you are not sure what to do then you have found the very first thing that you need to do. And that is to find out or work out what to do next!
Could anyone interested in gathering information on how to carry out a crash 10 year program of industrial restructuring please contact me. We need to find an organisation to host this information on their website or failing that we should set up a new website for the task.
Climate warming drives massive melting of Siberian permafrost
Climate warning as Siberia melts
11 August 2005
NewScientist.com news service
The world's largest frozen peat bog is melting. An area stretching for a million square kilometres across the permafrost of western Siberia is turning into a mass of shallow lakes as the ground melts, according to Russian researchers just back from the region.
The sudden melting of a bog the size of France and Germany combined could unleash billions of tonnes of methane, a potent greenhouse gas, into the atmosphere.
The news of the dramatic transformation of one of the world's least visited landscapes comes from Sergei Kirpotin, a botanist at Tomsk State University, Russia, and Judith Marquand at the University of Oxford.
Kirpotin describes an "ecological landslide that is probably irreversible and is undoubtedly connected to climatic warming". He says that the entire western Siberian sub-Arctic region has begun to melt, and this "has all happened in the last three or four years".
What was until recently a featureless expanse of frozen peat is turninginto a watery landscape of lakes, some more than a kilometre across.
Kirpotin suspects that some unknown critical threshold has been crossed, triggering the melting.
Western Siberia has warmed faster than almost anywhere else on the planet, with an increase in average temperatures of some 3 °C in the last 40 years. The warming is believed to be a combination of man-made climate change, a cyclical change in atmospheric circulation known as the Arctic oscillation, plus feedbacks caused by melting ice, which exposes bare ground and ocean. These absorb more solar heat than white ice and snow.
Similar warming has also been taking place in Alaska: earlier this summer Jon Pelletier of the University of Arizona in Tucson reported a major expansion of lakes on the North Slope fringing the Arctic Ocean. The findings from western Siberia follow a report two months ago that thousands of lakes in eastern Siberia have disappeared in the last 30 years, also because of climate change (New Scientist, 11 June, p 16). This apparent contradiction arises because the two events represent opposite end of the same process, known as thermokarsk.
In this process, rising air temperatures first create "frost-heave", which turns the flat permafrost into a series of hollows and hummocks known as salsas. Then as the permafrost begins to melt, water collects on the surface, forming ponds that are prevented from draining away by the frozen bog beneath. The ponds coalesce into ever larger lakes until, finally, the last permafrost melts and the lakes drain away underground.
Siberia's peat bogs formed around 11,000 years ago at the end of the last ice age. Since then they have been generating methane, most of which has been trapped within the permafrost, and sometimes deeper in ice-like structures known as clathrates. Larry Smith of the University of California, Los Angeles, estimates that the west Siberian bog alone contains some 70 billion tonnes of methane, a quarter of all the methane stored on the land surface worldwide.
His colleague Karen Frey says if the bogs dry out as they warm, the methane will oxidise and escape into the air as carbon dioxide. But if the bogs remain wet, as is the case in western Siberia today, then the methane will be released straight into the atmosphere. Methane is 20 times as potent a greenhouse gas as carbon dioxide.
In May this year, Katey Walter of the University of Alaska Fairbanks told a meeting in Washington of the Arctic Research Consortium of the US that she had found methane hotspots in eastern Siberia, where the gas was bubbling from thawing permafrost so fast it was preventing the surface from freezing, even in the midst of winter.
An international research partnership known as the Global Carbon Project earlier this year identified melting permafrost as a major source of feedbacks that could accelerate climate change by releasing greenhouse gases into the atmosphere. "Several hundred billion tonnes of carbon could be released," said the project's chief scientist, Pep Canadell of the CSIRO Division of Marine and Atmospheric Research in Canberra, Australia
From issue 2512 of New Scientist magazine, 11 August 2005, page 12
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