The Climate Disaster Bubbling in the Arctic
Study: twice as much methane as previously thought being released from East Siberian Arctic Shelf
New research reveals that the amount of the potent greenhouse gas methane escaping from an area in the Arctic is over twice the amount previously estimated.
For the study published Sunday in the journal Nature Geoscience, researchers looked at the East Siberian Arctic Shelf, a 2-million square kilometer area off the coast of Northern Siberia, and used various techniques including sonar technology to measure the methane escaping.
“It is now on par with the methane being released from the arctic tundra, which is considered to be one of the major sources of methane in the Northern Hemisphere,” said Natalia Shakhova, a lead author of the study and a scientist at the University of Alaska Fairbanks.
Methane, 25 - 30 times more potent of a greenhouse gas than CO2, can be stored under the sea bed as hydrates if sub-sea permafrost remains frozen. The methane escapes when the permafrost thaws and holes are created. The study found that the release of the gas was abetted by storms, which churn up the waters and help speed release of the gas into the atmosphere.
The researchers found that at least 17 teragrams (1 million tons) of the methane are being released into the atmosphere each year; an ealier study found that the East Siberian Arctic Shelf was releasing 7 teragrams of methane yearly.
They note that methane plays an important role in climate change because it's part of a "positive feedback loop"—as the planet warms, more methane is released, and more methane emissions mean more global warming.
“Increased methane releases in this area are a possible new climate-change-driven factor that will strengthen over time,” stated Shakhova, a leader in methane studies on the East Siberian Shelf.
“We believe that the release of methane from the Arctic, and in particular this part of the Arctic, could impact the entire globe,” she said
Proposed fee on smelly cows, hogs angers farmers...BOB JOHNSON
For farmers, this stinks: Belching and gaseous cows and hogs could start costing them money if a federal proposal to charge fees for air-polluting animals becomes law.
Farmers so far are turning their noses up at the notion, which is one of several put forward by the Environmental Protection Agency after the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in 2007 that greenhouse gases emitted by belching and flatulence amounts to air pollution.
"This is one of the most ridiculous things the federal government has tried to do," said Alabama Agriculture Commissioner Ron Sparks, an outspoken opponent of the proposal.
It would require farms or ranches with more than 25 dairy cows, 50 beef cattle or 200 hogs to pay an annual fee of about $175 for each dairy cow, $87.50 per head of beef cattle and $20 for each hog.
The executive vice president of the Wyoming Farm Bureau Federation, Ken Hamilton, estimated the fee would cost owners of a modest-sized cattle ranch $30,000 to $40,000 a year. He said he has talked to a number of livestock owners about the proposals, and "all have said if the fees were carried out, it would bankrupt them."
Sparks said Wednesday he's worried the fee could be extended to chickens and other farm animals and cause more meat to be imported.
"We'll let other countries put food on our tables like they are putting gas in our cars. Other countries don't have the health standards we have," Sparks said.
EPA spokesman Nick Butterfield said the fee was proposed for farms with livestock operations that emit more than 100 tons of carbon emissions in a year and fall under federal Clean Air Act provisions.
Butterfield said the EPA has not taken a position on any of the proposals. But farmers from across the country have expressed outrage over the idea, both on Internet sites and in opinions sent to EPA during a public comment period that ended last week.
"It's something that really has a very big potential adverse impact for the livestock industry," said Rick Krause, the senior director of congressional relations for the American Farm Bureau Federation.
The fee would cover the cost of a permit for the livestock operations. While farmers say it would drive them out of business, an organization supporting the proposal hopes it forces the farms and ranches to switch to healthier crops.
"It makes perfect sense if you are looking for ways to cut down on meat consumption and recoup environmental losses," said Bruce Friedrich, a spokesman in Washington for People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals.
We certainly support making factory farms pay their fair share," he said.
U.S. Rep. Robert Aderholt, a Republican from Haleyville in northwest Alabama, said he has spoken with EPA officials and doesn't believe the cow tax is a serious proposal that will ever be adopted by the agency.
"Who comes up with this kind of stuff?" said Perry Mobley, director of the Alabama Farmers Federation's beef division. "It seems there is an ulterior motive, to destroy livestock farms. This would certainly put them out of business."
Butterfield said the EPA is reviewing the public comments and didn't have a timetable for the next steps.