Going, going…

Climate Progress reports, but I also checked out the decline in Arctic ice over the weekend.  

The trend is anything but encouraging;  

Simply put, the Arctic is shrinking.  

According to experts, the Arctic ice is in a “death spiral” and is not going to recover:

UXBRIDGE, Canada, Sep 20, 2010 (IPS) – The carbon dioxide emissions from burning fossil fuels have melted the Arctic sea ice to its lowest volume since before the rise of human civilisation, dangerously upsetting the energy balance of the entire planet, climate scientists are reporting.“The Arctic sea ice has reached its four lowest summer extents (area covered) in the last four years,” said Mark Serreze, director of the National Snow and Ice Data Center in the U.S. city of Boulder, Colorado.

The volume – extent and thickness – of ice left in the Arctic likely reached the lowest ever level this month, Serreze told IPS.

“I stand by my previous statements that the Arctic summer sea ice cover is in a death spiral. It’s not going to recover,” he said.

If that wasn’t bad enough…

While much of the debate is focused on how much CO2 we add to the atmosphere, I’m more concerned about tipping points.  CO2 is but one greenhouse gas (GHG).  

There are vast reserves of methane – an even more powerful GHC – currently frozen in Northern tundras and seas. As the world warms, this is being released into the atmosphere. Form the same story:

If the Arctic becomes six degrees warmer, then half of the world’s permafrost will likely thaw, probably to a depth of a few metres, releasing most of the carbon and methane accumulated there over thousands of years, said Vladimir Romanovsky of the University of Alaska in Fairbanks and a world expert on permafrost.

Methane is a global warming gas approximately 25 times more potent than carbon dioxide (CO2).

That would be catastrophic for human civilisation, experts agree. The permafrost region spans 13 million square kilometres of the land in Alaska, Canada, Siberia and parts of Europe and contains at least twice as much carbon as is currently present in the atmosphere – 1,672 gigatonnes of carbon, according a paper published in Nature in 2009. That’s three times more carbon than all of the worlds’ forests contain.

For a truly terrifying thought, the clathrate gun hypothesis.

This is why people like Anthony Watts are desperately, hopelessly trying to convince themselves and “sceptics” nothing is wrong.  

One can understand their response; they are terrified.   

The three horse race in which no-one is the winner  

The irony is that their denial is what is partly holding up our efforts to mitigate climate change. 

Let’s use a horse racing analogy to describe the current situation.  

Three horses are in the running:  “Physics and chemistry”, “The Denial Industry” and “Mitigation”. 

 “Physics and Chemistry” and “The Denial Industry” are out in front by several lengths.  

 Mitigation is running at odds of 1/10, struggling to keep up with the leaders.

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