Saturday, April 28, 2018
#7: THE VENUS SYNDROME
I have only three days left before this blog site unbecomes a daily, but I have seven past postings yet to feature. These were monumental in some way. So I will continue this series into May.
This next one #7, occurred on 10May2012 and was entitled:
That book was a compilation of some of my Huffington Post articles, and this specific article appeared on 17June2008. This concept is worthy of showcasing because one of my next books will be a novel entitled The Venus Syndrome. I will release chapters as they are finished.
The whole idea of methane being the greenhouse gas to end life on Earth for Humanity is not generally mentioned, and first highlighted as Chapter 5 of SIMPLE SOLUTIONS for Planet Earth. I might well be the first person to develop a possible scenario, as was also provided in The Huffington Post on 18June2008 as The Venus Syndrome (Part Two).
Natural gas is mostly methane. Methane is the simplest hydrocarbon, with one carbon and four hydrogen atoms. Well, what's the big deal about methane? For one, there is hardly any methane in our atmosphere:
First of all, there are trace gases, which are only one tenth of one percent the composition of our atmosphere. Then, carbon dioxide is 93.5% of them, with methane only 0.442% of that 0.1%. How can a gas so minuscule be a source of concern?
Gallup has indicated that Americans more and more are becoming worried that global warming is a problem:
But it also depends on your party affiliation, for, according to Gallup, here is the latest poll on whether global warming is generally exaggerated:
Republican 66% 69%
Independent 32% 34%
Democrat 10% 4%
How can well-educated and mature individuals differ so much?
People just do not get too excited about a temperature increase they cannot feel or sea level rise they can't see. In fact, they mostly remember how cold it was last winter.
To quote from this #7 posting (that map is what Los Angeles would look like at max ocean rise):
What about sea level increase as a scare tactic? If all the ice melts, the oceans will rise by about 250 feet. Wow, that should strike terror into decision-makers. Yeah, but this could take milennia to actually happen. Yes, it could be up to a meter by the end of this century, but that's an extreme high, and the more probable tenth of an inch every few years can safely be ignored. We will feel sorry for those poor souls living on threatened atolls, but will not get too excited about something so infinitesimal at our coastline. Anyway, our authorities will more probably build walls around coastal cities rather than cut out fossil fuels, something known as the Iron Lung Syndrome—which is to treat the symptom, but avoid the root of the problem.
Ah, but it turns out that there is another greenhouse gas, methane, that shows promise for becoming the doomsday gas. Methane is the simplest hydrocarbon and is most of natural gas. Cows burp and flatulate this gas, while biomass generally also produces some in the decay process.
We have all been schooled to plant trees. When you do this, what happens? They eventually die, and, yes, the carbon dioxide is returned into the atmosphere, but, worse, the decomposition process also produces some methane. There was even a recent German study that seemed to hint that growing trees produced more methane than we thought, so the greening of lands might well actually hurt our environment. Stay tuned!
So what's the big deal? Well, one molecule of methane is from 20 to 72 times worse than one molecule of carbon dioxide in causing global warming. This minuscule amount of methane in our atmosphere already has half the potency of carbon dioxide in warming our globe.
Let's take the case of our planetary neighbor. Venus is mostly carbon dioxide at a surface temperature of almost 900 degrees Fahrenheit. Could you imagine a scenario where sufficient methane contaminates our atmosphere to really cause trouble? Methane tends to oxidize into carbon dioxide over time. Ergo, the potential for an atmosphere and surface temperature on Earth like Venus.
Where would this methane come from? Not cows:
We tend to ignore the ocean in our scientific analyses. Did you know that there is more combined mass in the bacteria, viruses and archaea in the ocean than in all the larger life forms (fish, trees, you) in the ocean and on land? You probably never even ever heard of archaea. The scary thing is that marine microorganisms at the surface expire, drop to the bottom of the ocean, and in an absence of oxygen, are converted into methane and other compounds, which, because of the pressure and temperature at depth, generally become trapped in ice as marine methane hydrates (see dots below).
It is said that there might be twice the energy in this methane at the seabed than all the known coal, oil and natural gas. Let me repeat: TWICE AS MUCH ENERGY IN METHANE IN METASTABLE EQUILIBRIUM AT THE BOTTOM OF THE OCEAN THAN ALL THE KNOWN COAL, OIL AND NATURAL GAS DEPOSITS, WHICH ARE RATHER SAFELY RESTING DEEP UNDERGROUND.
Over our geologic history, every few tens of million years, our planet naturally heats up. This is accompanied by heightened carbon dioxide and methane levels, or more probably, these gases caused the temperature rise...just like today. Some scientists have speculated that the primary cause might well have been a rather sudden release of marine methane hydrates into the atmosphere. Next, Part Two of THE VENUS SYNDROME will appear, providing a tale from the future on what might happen to Planet Earth if methane goes haywire.
That is the VENUS SYNDROME, and over the next many months I will now and then show first drafts of chapters on my novel. In preparation, you can read that HuffPo on Part Two, which is a kind of storyboard on the book.