Methane Booms Could Make Economy Go Bust

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Methane Booms Could Make Economy Go Bust

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As climate changes cause the permafrost to thaw, methane gas is released and vaporized, and, with it, our hopes and dreams for a brighter, shinier economic future.

We're all familiar with the horror stories about what happens when the ice caps and permafrost melt: coastal floods, severe droughts, and summers that would have us saying "Winter is coming ... I think?" What we haven't heard much about is the cost associated with all that methane leaking into the atmosphere. Recently, a paper published in Nature magazine puts a potential price tag on the potential damages, and, boy is it costly. Damages from the 50 gigatons of methane stored beneath the East Siberian Sea alone could total $60 trillion - and that's not counting the methane reserves the Arctic's packing. To put this into perspective, $70 trillion was the size of the global economy in 2012. It's also the cost of reserving 240 million seats on Virgin Galactic's flights to the moon, which will be needed when we vacate the planet because New York is underwater and the air smells like farts.

The number was based on the results of an economic model which evaluated the costs of the extra-greenhouse gas emissions on sea level, temperature, flood risk, health and extreme weather. The model was run 10,000 times, resulting in the average cost of $60 trillion over a few decades.

Oil conglomerates are banking on the swiftly-melting Arctic to reveal 30 percent of the world's undiscovered gas and 13 percent of its undiscovered oil. However, even drilling these oil reserves for ten years would only amount to a paltry $100 billion, which would leave us $59,900,000,000,000 in debt. I guess we'd better start saving now.

Source: Nature

Image: Flickr

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Then you know how we fix it? GET A NEW POWER SOURCE. Wind power, fusion power, mass effect drives, I don't care! Just stop relying on fossil fuels!

Forgive me if I take this with a pinch of salt given how often these kind of predictions turn out to be accurate. Although a part of me does find the idea that the economy and potentially society might be taken down by methane gas rather than an asteroid or a zombie apocalypse to be kind of amusing.

I also like the fact you have a Madoka Magica avatar.

The Great JT:
Then you know how we fix it? GET A NEW POWER SOURCE. Wind power, fusion power, mass effect drives, I don't care! Just stop relying on fossil fuels!

Why would you do that?

After all, you could also just take out a 60 trillion dollar loan ( only 45% interest ) and easily pay off whatever damages this could potentially cause. What could possibly go wrong?

I like how oil conglomerates are actually trying to make things worse so they can squeeze out a few more oil dollars. We're reaching a point where we need someone to smack the oil companies down and use that funding for something else better.

Hagi:

The Great JT:
Then you know how we fix it? GET A NEW POWER SOURCE. Wind power, fusion power, mass effect drives, I don't care! Just stop relying on fossil fuels!

Why would you do that?

Because you could get more out of alternate power sources? I mean, you've seen how much more gas mileage the initial hybrids got than the standard gas-fueled ones. Imagine if we could make one that got even double the amount of mileage that today's hybrids get for a fraction of the price.

Legion:
Forgive me if I take this with a pinch of salt given how often these kind of predictions turn out to be accurate.

Pretty much my thoughts on the matter. Someone get Al Gore on the phone, the polar bears are surfing away with our methane shields!

The Great JT:
Then you know how we fix it? GET A NEW POWER SOURCE. Wind power, fusion power, mass effect drives, I don't care! Just stop relying on fossil fuels!

I think there is too much infrastructure and money built around the fuels market that it won;t go down either at all until it's too late or very slowly past hundreds of lifetimes :(

idk, I'm just pessimistic maybe?

Oh look, the people in the energy industry are being short-sighted world destroying morons willing to screw over the entire planet just to get a few extra bucks.

Never seen that before.

I love how such short term creatures we are.
Who cares about our imminent doom. What's more important is that we make a couple billion more bucks.
Which isn't gonna mean nothing when we are all dying.

To be honest... this would have happened sooner or later. The polar caps would have melted at some time. Sure it wouldn't happen this early but it's kind of regretting the ultimately inevitable.

The best we can hope for is that a few of us mutate the ability to breath cow farts and the ability to subsist on sand because we ain't going to be able to do anything about the current human factor. Humans have the habit to only react when it's beyond late to fix the problem.

The Great JT:

Hagi:

The Great JT:
Then you know how we fix it? GET A NEW POWER SOURCE. Wind power, fusion power, mass effect drives, I don't care! Just stop relying on fossil fuels!

Why would you do that?

Because you could get more out of alternate power sources? I mean, you've seen how much more gas mileage the initial hybrids got than the standard gas-fueled ones. Imagine if we could make one that got even double the amount of mileage that today's hybrids get for a fraction of the price.

I think Hagi was being sarcastic JT.

Anyway, the human race never does anything about any problem until it's so big that we can't ignore it anymore. We won't actually start using alternative power sources and fuels on any real scale until we either run out what we're using now or until it causes some massive catastrophe.

Talk about silent but deadly!

The temperature of the earth has been hotter than it is today and would have risen to a higher point some time in the future regardless of whether human civilisation was present or not. If the prediction turns out to be true that all the methane will escape into the atmosphere then there is nothing we can do to stop it, but I have my doubts considering there have yet to be any cataclysmic events (as far as we know) that have revolved around the mass release of methane. If it somehow causes damage to the economy rather than life (again I have no idea why it would) then we have no problem since the economy is going to implode in on itself before that happens anyway.

Dragonbums:
I love how such short term creatures we are.
Who cares about our imminent doom. What's more important is that we make a couple billion more bucks.
Which isn't gonna mean nothing when we are all dying.

That's certainly part of it. But a larger part of it is how dependent we are on fossil fuels for everything. You might even be able to say "Literally everything" and have some justification in using "Literally".

We can't wean ourselves off of fossil fuels fast enough to do much about the greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, or the changing of the climate. We need those fossil fuels far too much for our food, for our water, for our transportation to and from work, for our power generation. We can't create solar panels without fossil fuels to create the electricity to run the machines. We can't get our solar panels to stores without fossil fuels to fuel the trucks and ships and planes. A large amount of our food - perhaps the vast majority - is brought to our grocery stores from far away. Oranges from Florida or Chile. Meat from Texas, Montana and Alberta. Berries from Ontario and Georgia. Coffee from Africa and South America. Etc. The computers we are typing on require vast amounts of fossil fuels to create the plastics, to run the machines to mine and transport the minerals to the factories.

It's going to cost trillions of dollars to change things over and away from fossil fuels in the best of circumstances, and right now none of the alternative energy sources can replace fossil fuels on a large scale. And since we aren't in the best of circumstances - that is, Big Business is actively thwarting attempts to move our societies away from fossil fuels, both as a way of being greedy (oil companies don't want to lose profits, power companies don't want to go out of business, car companies don't want to have all their products become unsellable, etc.) and of being pragmatic. Think of how much it would cost for FedEx to change all of their trucks to Electric, or for a solar power plant to be created.

And part of it is that we, the consumers, don't want to pay more. We want our $5/quart of strawberries, and if it suddenly jumped to $10/quart because all the input supply costs have jumped, we just won't buy the strawberries, putting farms out of business. We wouldn't buy that new iPhone 7 because it's now cost $1000 with a 3 year plan because all of the input costs have skyrocketed. We would cut down on our consumption, maybe begin to grow and raise our own food, which sounds great for the world - but would entirely devastate our economy.

So while there is a great deal of greed going into this, it's far more complex and complicated than we would like it to be.

Lauren Admire:
which will be needed when we vacate the planet because New York is underwater and the air smells like farts.

Fortunately methane is odourless, hydrogen suphide makes farts smell of farts in a fart-like way.

1337mokro:
To be honest... this would have happened sooner or later. The polar caps would have melted at some time. Sure it wouldn't happen this early but it's kind of regretting the ultimately inevitable.

The best we can hope for is that a few of us mutate the ability to breath cow farts and the ability to subsist on sand because we ain't going to be able to do anything about the current human factor. Humans have the habit to only react when it's beyond late to fix the problem.

Eventually the sun is going to expand and consume the Earth.

I wouldn't recommend the entire human species just stay on the Earth because "It's going to happen anyways."

We have the technology to augment our environment and climate. We should use it to keep the Earth in the climate we know actually works for us.

The moment we let the Earth go and change dramatically folks are going to be fucked.

Really in the end the only real outcome to improving technology for a cleaner world is that you end up wrong and...oh shit...now the earth smells better, looks better, and works better. This is terrible :(.

Everybody! This is horrible! There's no more smog and the oceans aren't full of dead zones :/.

Is that forest?

Ew. Gross. Who stopped clearcutting all those forests :(.

I miss back when we just blindly destroyed the planet because the thought of spending even a modicum of money making it better was nauseating.

Tono Makt:
So while there is a great deal of greed going into this, it's far more complex and complicated than we would like it to be.

It's complex but basically everything about the change is positive for all but a very small group of people.

Just because switching off fossil fuels wouldn't fix the problem doesn't mean we shouldn't >.>.

We should be doing that >and< rolling out technology to strip carbon and other emissions from the air. The technology already exists as well, it could be improved but so could anything.

But yeah I agree. Super complicated but its only that complicated because a small group of people make it that complicated. At the end of the day 90% of your interactions with other humans are based on a belief structure that is only as tangible as you make it.

I'd much rather every place in the world smell like Alaska than I would it all smell like Hong Kong.

If you can get one chance in your life to visit both places you'll see what I mean.

Legion:
Forgive me if I take this with a pinch of salt given how often these kind of predictions turn out to be accurate.

This. After finding out that environmentalists in the eighties were furiously screaming for us to "SPRAY MORE CARBONS, STOP GLOBAL COOLING", I've gotten leery of anything involving environmental policy.

Gearhead mk2:
Oh look, the people in the energy industry are being short-sighted world destroying morons willing to screw over the entire planet just to get a few extra bucks.

Never seen that before.

They fulfil demand.

Everyone in first-world countries demands.

Stop demanding and they'll stop fulfilling.

I'm surprised no one's thought of this easy solution: Light a match. Pretty sure whole sky would just be on fire for 10 minutes then return to normal like that one episode of Doctor Who.

lacktheknack:
They fulfil demand.

Everyone in first-world countries demands.

Stop demanding and they'll stop fulfilling.

I've always thought of this world view like I do people who depend rapists. [The She was asking for it crowd.]

I know that sounds hyperbolic but honestly "profit for the sake of profits without any consideration for humanity" is one of the most perverse beliefs that people have ever accepted.

I figure the reason most people accept it is they think that belief means that someday they'll be rich too.

Capitalism is (to me) the world's most destructive and perverse religion.

theultimateend:

lacktheknack:
They fulfil demand.

Everyone in first-world countries demands.

Stop demanding and they'll stop fulfilling.

I've always thought of this world view like I do people who depend rapists. [The She was asking for it crowd.]

I know that sounds hyperbolic but honestly "profit for the sake of profits without any consideration for humanity" is one of the most perverse beliefs that people have ever accepted.

I figure the reason most people accept it is they think that belief means that someday they'll be rich too.

Capitalism is (to me) the world's most destructive and perverse religion.

Yeah, that's hyperbolic.

Do you want to use plastics, electronics, electricity, etc?

Because according to environmentalists, you're wrecking the world. And that's not hyperbole.

There are alternate energy sources and material sources, yes, but none are even close to replacing what fossil fuels and oil have on offer, even if you combine them. The only way they'll feasibly work (barring a crazy developmental breakthrough) is if we shrink down worldwide demand for these fuels to something manageable. But demand is not shrinking, it's only growing.

And you're a big part of the problem. Just as much as I am, probably. Point fingers all you want, but as long as you're pointing via computer keyboard, it's pretty goddamned hollow.

It has nothing to do with profits. It has everything to do with the insanity that is consumer consumption.

It's high time that people stop blaming corporations for selling them things when they won't stop buying them.

I really hoped i would not live to see the end of this world it will make me very sad. But we get to makr fqart jokes at the end of it all so i guess i'll find a good one by then.

Legion:
Forgive me if I take this with a pinch of salt given how often these kind of predictions turn out to be accurate. Although a part of me does find the idea that the economy and potentially society might be taken down by methane gas rather than an asteroid or a zombie apocalypse to be kind of amusing.

I also like the fact you have a Madoka Magica avatar.

How often does these kind of predictions turn out to be accurate, never. Scientists have been far too conservative with their guess and climate change seems to been happening faster than intially thought.

lacktheknack:

Yeah, that's hyperbolic.

Do you want to use plastics, electronics, electricity, etc?

Because according to environmentalists, you're wrecking the world. And that's not hyperbole.

There are alternate energy sources and material sources, yes, but none are even close to replacing what fossil fuels and oil have on offer, even if you combine them. The only way they'll feasibly work (barring a crazy developmental breakthrough) is if we shrink down worldwide demand for these fuels to something manageable. But demand is not shrinking, it's only growing.

And you're a big part of the problem. Just as much as I am, probably. Point fingers all you want, but as long as you're pointing via computer keyboard, it's pretty goddamned hollow.

It has nothing to do with profits. It has everything to do with the insanity that is consumer consumption.

It's high time that people stop blaming corporations for selling them things when they won't stop buying them.

So what stops these corporations from investing in green business schemes and practices, what stops the oil industry investing in solar? Oh right that stupid fucking law where the shareholders return on investment is the more important.

I may not understand climate change well enough, but what does capitalism and the oil industry have to do with natural methane buildup being released from beneath East Siberian Sea?

So, I read the title, and instantly...

..and then, I continue on my day.

The Great JT:
Then you know how we fix it? GET A NEW POWER SOURCE. Wind power, fusion power, mass effect drives, I don't care! Just stop relying on fossil fuels!

A lot of rich people are spending their time and money thinking up new ways to ensure we never do that.

The Great JT:
mass effect drives

Well, we would, but currently we're in the middle of calibrations.

Joking aside, this isn't a surprise.

What is a surprise is that there still are people that believe Climate Change is a global scientific experiment.

CAPTCHA: How many kilometres are on your car?

First of all, I don't own a car.

Secondly, if I did, is Captcha trying to shame me on a news thread regarding climate change?

balfore:
I may not understand climate change well enough, but what does capitalism and the oil industry have to do with natural methane buildup being released from beneath East Siberian Sea?

1) Capitalism and the Oil Industry originally started Global Warming (well, actually it was the Industrial Revolution, but Capitalism and Fossil Fuel consumption since then has kept it going,)

2) Global Warming starts melting the ice-caps.

3) Melted ice-caps reveal and release pockets of methane that have been buried there for aeons.

4) Methane is an even more powerful greenhouse gas than CO2, which drives Global Warming even further.

lacktheknack:

After finding out that environmentalists in the eighties were furiously screaming for us to "SPRAY MORE CARBONS, STOP GLOBAL COOLING", I've gotten leery of anything involving environmental policy.

Don't confuse environmentalists and actual scientists. 'Nature' is a scientific journal, not an environmentalists' magazine. There was never any scientific consensus on Global Cooling - it was mainly something that the press popularised and various environmental groups jumped on.

On the other hand, every scientific body of national or international standing agrees that man-made climate change is possible, and the vast majority believe it to have been proven. And that's why I consider it worth doing something about. After all, if there's a possibility that we're driving towards a cliff, it's worth at least trying the brakes...

I'm calling bullshit on this story.

Lauren Admire:
Oil conglomerates are banking on the swiftly-melting Arctic to reveal 30 percent of the world's undiscovered gas and 13 percent of its undiscovered oil. However, even drilling these oil reserves for ten years would only amount to a paltry $100 billion, which would leave us $59,900,000,000,000 in debt. I guess we'd better start saving now.

Hold on. You're claiming that the oil companies have not only just suddenly accepted carbon-powered climate change as real, but are actively trying to cause it because they think it'll make new oil easier to obtain?

I'm gonna have to demand some sources on that one. That sounds like a crazy conspiracy theory to me.

lacktheknack:

theultimateend:

lacktheknack:
They fulfil demand.

Everyone in first-world countries demands.

Stop demanding and they'll stop fulfilling.

I've always thought of this world view like I do people who depend rapists. [The She was asking for it crowd.]

I know that sounds hyperbolic but honestly "profit for the sake of profits without any consideration for humanity" is one of the most perverse beliefs that people have ever accepted.

I figure the reason most people accept it is they think that belief means that someday they'll be rich too.

Capitalism is (to me) the world's most destructive and perverse religion.

Yeah, that's hyperbolic.

Do you want to use plastics, electronics, electricity, etc?

Because according to environmentalists, you're wrecking the world. And that's not hyperbole.

There are alternate energy sources and material sources, yes, but none are even close to replacing what fossil fuels and oil have on offer, even if you combine them. The only way they'll feasibly work (barring a crazy developmental breakthrough) is if we shrink down worldwide demand for these fuels to something manageable. But demand is not shrinking, it's only growing.

And you're a big part of the problem. Just as much as I am, probably. Point fingers all you want, but as long as you're pointing via computer keyboard, it's pretty goddamned hollow.

It has nothing to do with profits. It has everything to do with the insanity that is consumer consumption.

It's high time that people stop blaming corporations for selling them things when they won't stop buying them.

It's not so much what we want that matters as what needs to be done if humanity wants to survive. I don't want to live with less comfort but that doesn't really matter because we need to. As for blaming everything on "consumer consumption" that's a bit misleading. Most of these "demanding" consumers grew up in an infrastructure that depends on these substances. Unless you have the financial independence to circumvent our societies infrastructure at your leisure your kind of stuck having to use them in order to survive. It's easy to flippantly say they should just stop demanding but the truth is that's usually not a practical choice. Most jobs in first world countries require computers many require commuting. That's not an option that's to make enough money to live. Your also ignoring another thing that's growing and that's population numbers. Even if the demands of the average person were to remain the same, hell even if they decreased but not substantially the overall global demand would increase because there is more people demanding. With our growth rate it will become impossible to demand little enough to make much of a difference without basically not having enough to survive. It's not like we can just go back to the middle ages either. Lie it or not humanity has change the world to such an extent it would not be a viable option unless nearly everyone agreed to simultaneously and even then the natural areas that made such a life style possible back then would take a long time to regenerate.

What we need are options and alternatives. As long as these companies stonewall the growth of any real viable alternative and instead insist on pinching every last penny out of us with the status quo then they are the ones to blame. If people had the viable option to use other alternatives and chose not to then you could argue that consumer demand was at fault. This is not the case and anyone who thinks it is really has a very myopic view of the world.

balfore:
I may not understand climate change well enough, but what does capitalism and the oil industry have to do with natural methane buildup being released from beneath East Siberian Sea?

The oil industry, according to this article, are hoping that global climate change will result in easier access to oil reserves in areas that are currently hard to access due to being covered with massive ice sheets and permafrost.

Also, use of a large number of oil industry products contribute to increases in the CO2 concentration in the atmosphere as well as a few other gases and particulate matter. CO2 absorbs and re-radiates energy from the sun back into the atmosphere, producing an overall warming effect. All other things being equal, doubling the concentration of C02 from pre industrial levels should produce an increase in global average temperature of about 4-5 degrees Celsius. All other things will not remain equal and the climate is very bloody complex, but essentially, pump enough CO2 into atmosphere and things should probably start to warm up.

As temperatures rise in areas covered by permafrost and ice and also in some deep sea sediments the methane held within reaches it's boiling point, and then does so, floating off into the atmosphere. Methane is about 70 times more effective at re radiating energy back into the atmosphere than CO2 in the near term, although IIRC it doesn't remain in the atmosphere as long.

If things get hotter overall you'll probably get rising sea levels and local/regional changing climate, which is going to cost lots of money to adapt to.

balfore:
I may not understand climate change well enough, but what does capitalism and the oil industry have to do with natural methane buildup being released from beneath East Siberian Sea?

Generally speaking: capitalism enabled the massive growth of industry, including the oil industry. Burning fossil fuels releases CO2, that greenhouse gas that's causing global warming. Global warming in turn causes arctic ice to melt, releasing gases trapped in pockets beneath the ice.

As referenced in this story: the same melting of ice also allows access to vast natural gas and oil depots. This means that global warming would be rather beneficial to the oil industry in the short term.

OT: This seems like one more report we can quote when things will have really gone down the shitter. I'm not entirely sure the satisfaction from the inevitable "I told you so" will be worthwhile.

CrazyCapnMorgan:
So, I read the title, and instantly...

..and then, I continue on my day.

Damn ninja'd. Oh George Carlin man did you get out just in time. Then again both he and I and entropy buffs so I can't help but think he'd have the same interest that I have watching us actively take our species life. It's like a train crash in slow motion you know it's a tragedy but there's a disquieting poetry about the whole thing too.

Loki_The_Good:

lacktheknack:

theultimateend:

I've always thought of this world view like I do people who depend rapists. [The She was asking for it crowd.]

I know that sounds hyperbolic but honestly "profit for the sake of profits without any consideration for humanity" is one of the most perverse beliefs that people have ever accepted.

I figure the reason most people accept it is they think that belief means that someday they'll be rich too.

Capitalism is (to me) the world's most destructive and perverse religion.

Yeah, that's hyperbolic.

Do you want to use plastics, electronics, electricity, etc?

Because according to environmentalists, you're wrecking the world. And that's not hyperbole.

There are alternate energy sources and material sources, yes, but none are even close to replacing what fossil fuels and oil have on offer, even if you combine them. The only way they'll feasibly work (barring a crazy developmental breakthrough) is if we shrink down worldwide demand for these fuels to something manageable. But demand is not shrinking, it's only growing.

And you're a big part of the problem. Just as much as I am, probably. Point fingers all you want, but as long as you're pointing via computer keyboard, it's pretty goddamned hollow.

It has nothing to do with profits. It has everything to do with the insanity that is consumer consumption.

It's high time that people stop blaming corporations for selling them things when they won't stop buying them.

It's not so much what we want that matters as what needs to be done if humanity wants to survive. I don't want to live with less comfort but that doesn't really matter because we need to. As for blaming everything on "consumer consumption" that's a bit misleading. Most of these "demanding" consumers grew up in an infrastructure that depends on these substances. Unless you have the financial independence to circumvent our societies infrastructure at your leisure your kind of stuck having to use them in order to survive. It's easy to flippantly say they should just stop demanding but the truth is that's usually not a practical choice. Most jobs in first world countries require computers many require commuting. That's not an option that's to make enough money to live. Your also ignoring another thing that's growing and that's population numbers. Even if the demands of the average person were to remain the same, hell even if they decreased but not substantially the overall global demand would increase because there is more people demanding. With our growth rate it will become impossible to demand little enough to make much of a difference without basically not having enough to survive. It's not like we can just go back to the middle ages either. Lie it or not humanity has change the world to such an extent it would not be a viable option unless nearly everyone agreed to simultaneously and even then the natural areas that made such a life style possible back then would take a long time to regenerate.

What we need are options and alternatives. As long as these companies stonewall the growth of any real viable alternative and instead insist on pinching every last penny out of us with the status quo then they are the ones to blame. If people had the viable option to use other alternatives and chose not to then you could argue that consumer demand was at fault. This is not the case and anyone who thinks it is really has a very myopic view of the world.

I'm fully aware of the ramifications of trying to downsize, and the reasons it's not feasible.

I'm mostly directing my anger at the newest buzztopic of "WE NEED TO LEAVE ALL REMAINING OIL RESERVES IN THE GROUND RIGHT NOW". Seriously. That's the newest hot topic everywhere I look.

And trust me, I'm aware of these things. I live in Alberta. We've literally had insane anti-tourism campaigns launched against us (from - surprise! - California) because we have the gall to supply North America with oil. Everything around here is all about oil. Our economy lives and dies on oil. So I'm aware of the arguments for and against oil, I've heard them ad infinitum.

I would absolutely die of happiness if nuclear plants became common or solar energy became cheap. I don't want us to be as oil-dependent as we've become, but realistically, we have to work with what we have, not what we want. And thus I'm stuck working for a business that services the oil drillers. The irony of life hurts a bit sometime.

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