Strategies of Communication on Climate Change

Friday, July 26, 2013

So, how much for a brand new planet?

In a paper in Nature the authors estimate as about 60 trillion dollars the cost of methane release from melting permafrost. 


  1. Ed Dlugokencky is the authority I would turn to and he is gently sceptical of the basis of this Nature piece by Wadhams et al. Dlugokencky is quoted in the Washington Post article “… So far, we do not detect a permanent increase in CH4 emissions from natural Arctic CH4 sources (wetlands in permafrost regions and ocean hydrates) from our data, despite Arctic warming over the past couple decades. …”

    It is of course essential to follow the Russian research and to keep track of any methane changes, as I wrote on Cassandra's blog in 2012, but so far arctic methane does not look like a 'Kilda Basin' pulse. (The Russian researchers published a strong case January 2012 for international research to monitor the East Siberian Arctic Shelf and develop numerical regional models to incorporate in global models of climate change. I still very much agree with that case of course.)

    Wadhams however is talking of an acceleration of warming of 0.6 deg C from a sudden methane pulse. A sudden pulse that could achieve that would need to overwhelm the photochemical methane-clearance that gives methane a short half life in the atmosphere. The chronic release that we see until now is not capable of doing that.

    I hope this Nature publication stimulates useful discussion but fear it might instead detract from the credibility of the reality of climate change and ongoing climate science.

    Phil H

  2. If Nature is causing "mischief" and "the scenario in said commentary is virtually impossible" then there is clearly nothing to worry about? But a careful read of the new study which takes into account on the ground realities that earlier studies did not take into account could lead to a different conclusion from the earlier and more general studies. But be that as it may.

    In any case to.... "how much for a brand new planet"? Let me give this a crack:

    On "the low end" let's say it would take about 20 years of World GDP
    to restore the planet to a livable place. (leaving aside "for a moment" how this would be done)....At roughly 85 trillion current World GDP this would cost "only" a couple of quadrillion dollars give or take a few.

    On the high end it might require moving the entire human race to a new planet either in this galaxy or in another one. Apart from slight problems in getting there imposed by speed of light limits....this shouldn't cost more than 100 times the low end roughly 200 quadrillion dollars. But I would admit that making Mars habitable and moving there instead would probably not cost more than a couple of quadrillions. (a substantial "cost saving" and hence probably the preferred option)

    Naturally I may have made some "minor errors" in some of my "tacit assumptions" and by so doing I may be only causing "more mischief".

    Next question: How much would it cost to NOT destroy the planet we now still have? And I"ll let someone else do the approximate numbers on that one and just log off.

  3. P.S. The link to the paper in Nature identified in the first sentence above about the 60 trillion dollars, is in fact a link to a Washington Post Article ...about "the mischief". (so this might have been an error)

    Which however raises the question of whose mischief.?.... the Nature's article's mischief... or the Washington Post's article? )

    The actual article in Nature which is well worth reading (to see if one agrees with the Washington Post article or not) is at this link:

    1. Yes, it was a mistake - corrected, thanks!

  4. O.K. great. And here is a new good follow-up article -also on Arctic Methane- that came out today in Australia's Climate Spectator, which contains many additional useful links: