Thursday, 22 December 2016

Scary, scary methane. More fake / pseudo-science on climate.

Consider this science news report: Data show no sign of methane boost from thawing permafrost
"Over a 100-year period, a ton of methane will cause about 25 times as much warming as a ton of CO2." ... The CO2 rise “is still bad, it’s just not as bad” as a rise in methane
At first glance it looks like this story is rebutting claims there'll be catastrophic warming due to melting tundras releasing massive amounts of methane into the atmosphere, so causing runaway global warming. You've, no doubt, read that story at a climate porn site like The Guardian. Yet the threat still remains in our subconscious to bully us because the article assumes this could happen. They legitimise speculation, dressed up in sciency clothes, scaring us into panic measures such as building more expensive electricity systems. It is in fact lies. They dont' tell you the scare story is nothing but speculation. They don't tell you they have no solid science upon which to base their methane scare stories.
  1. The greenhouse gas, GHG, effect of methane tails off logarithmically, just like other GHG. E.g. With CO2, the first 20 ppm of CO2 in the atmosphere is responsible for over 50% its GHG effect. At small concentrations the logarithmic tail off is most pronounced!
  2. Methane absorption bands also overlap with water bands. Not surprising: both molecules have sigma bonds to hydrogen. Nearly all the warming that could be done by methane is already done by far more concentrated water vapour already there. Earth's atmosphere has more water in it than CO2. The water is not well-mixed so it's hard to say exactly how much more warming happens with more water (or more methane acting almost like water).
  1. The statements made by scientists here are based on crude, bad climate models. I believe no one ever experimented to discover the effect of water / methane mixtures on atmospheric radiative forcing. It looks like they spent their research billions on modeling. Shame they could not spare a few millions for basic science to back up their models. Where are the experiments simulating actual water/methane mixtures?
  2. Nor does methane stay around in the atmosphere very long. Methane is reducing (it's actually used as a hydrogen source in industrial chemistry, in ammonia manufacture). Oxygen (present at 21%) is highly oxidising. UV sunlight is a catalyst. You guessed: methane is rather quickly oxidised away. The lifetime of methane in the atmosphere is 10 years at most. So talk about what a ton of methane does over a 100-year period is senseless.

Scaring people to death with methane is junk science. Shame on them.


  • sciency: A disparaging term for representations in mass media which use scientific sounding stories to sell an idea, or befuddle us. It is not the same as pseudoscience because sciency tries to make no actual false claims, whereas pseudoscience is wrong more than right.
  • Wuebbles, Donald J.; Hayhoe, Katharine (May 2002), "Atmospheric methane and global change", Earth Science Reviews, 57 (3): 177−210, doi:10.1016/S0012-8252(01)00062-9.

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