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Forum Post: A Mysterious Hole at the End of the World

Posted 5 months ago on July 17, 2014, 5:54 p.m. EST by LeoYo (5909)
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A Mysterious Hole at the End of the World

Thursday, 17 July 2014 15:26
By The Daily Take Team, The Thom Hartmann Program | Op-Ed

http://www.truth-out.org/opinion/item/25021-a-mysterious-hole-at-the-end-of-the-world

The wilderness of Siberia has just gotten a lot more mysterious.

Helicopter pilots flying over the Yamal Peninsula have discovered a giant crater-like hole in the Siberian tundra. The hole is reportedly large enough to fit "several" of the very helicopters that discovered it.

The hole, estimated to be 150 to 250 feet across, appears to have been made by some sort of blast, and is thought to be around two years old. It's also about 30 miles from one of the Yamal Peninsula's largest natural gas fields. The Yamal Peninsula is Russia's main production area for gas.

The Russian internet is ablaze with speculation about the origin of the giant hole, from a UFO drilling experiment, to a massive meteor impact.

But one of the more plausible explanations for the giant hole comes from Anna Kurchatova, from the Sub-Arctic Scientific Research Centre in Russia. She told The Siberian Times that the crater was likely formed by a water-salt and gas mixture that caused an underground explosion.

That gas that she is referring to is methane.

Methane is one of the strongest of the natural greenhouse gases, about 80 times more potent than CO2, and while it may not get as much attention as its cousin CO2, it certainly can do as much, if not more, damage to our planet. And right now, there are trillions of tons of it embedded in a kind of ice slurry called methane hydrate or methane clathrate crystals in the Arctic, including in the Siberian tundra, and in the seas around the continental shelves all around the world.

But thanks to global warming, the permafrost and Arctic sea ice, which has trapped that methane gas for thousands of years, are melting, releasing methane into the atmosphere. In the case of the giant crater, Kurchatova believes that it was melted and released methane that interacted with other elements to cause a massive explosion.

If so, we can expect to start seeing a lot more of these giant craters to start popping up around the world. That's because the permafrost and Arctic sea ice that currently trap trillions of tons of methane underground are melting at unprecedented rates.

In fact, as Gaius Publius points out over at America Blog, just about every reputable projection on the loss of Arctic sea ice has been wrong in a very, very bad way.

The lack of sea ice cover in the Arctic that we're seeing today wasn't supposed to happen for 20+ more years according to 13 of the most accurate models. As all that sea ice melts, the Arctic ice which once reflected sunlight and prevented global warming, becomes a very blue ocean that absorbs heat and causes even more melting.

And this all means that more and more methane is being released into the atmosphere much faster than expected, speeding up the process of global warming and climate change.

Meanwhile, Researchers at the University of Alaska Fairbanks International Arctic Research Center have found that Arctic methane is leaking out from the ocean floor nearly twice as fast as was previously thought.

The researchers found that the East Siberian Arctic Shelf is releasing at least 17 million tons of methane into the atmosphere each year.

As Malcolm Light writes over at Arctic News, and as I talked about in the documentary Last Hours, there are such large amounts of methane trapped underneath the Arctic surface, that if only a fraction of that methane was released, it could lead to a jump in the average temperature of the Earth's atmosphere of at least 10 degrees Celsius, and produce a Permian-like mass extinction which would wipe out the human race.

Basically, the methane that is trapped underground in the Arctic is like a giant ticking time bomb, and if it goes off, we're all screwed.

Unless we start seriously fighting back against global warming and climate change, giant craters in the Siberian wilderness will be the least of our worries.

This article was first published on Truthout and any reprint or reproduction on any other website must acknowledge Truthout as the original site of publication.

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[-] 3 points by LeoYo (5909) 5 months ago

The Caribbean: A Clean Energy Revolution on the Front Lines of Climate Change

Thursday, 17 July 2014 10:09
By Richard Schiffman, Foreign Policy in Focus | News Analysis

http://www.truth-out.org/news/item/25006-the-caribbean-a-clean-energy-revolution-on-the-front-lines-of-climate-change

Lefties Food Stall, a pint-sized eatery serving Barbados’ signature flying-fish sandwiches, recently became the first snack shack on the Caribbean island to be fitted with a solar panel. The nearby public shower facility sports a panel as well. So does the bus shelter across the street, the local police station, and scores of gaily colored houses on the coastal road leading into the capital, Bridgetown.

Like many other small island nations, Barbados has to ship in all of the oil that it uses to produce electricity—making power over four times more costly than it is in the fuel-rich United States.

That high price has proven to be a boon for Barbados’ fledgling solar industry. Nearly half of all homes boast solar water heaters on their roofs, which pay for themselves in lower electric bills in less than two years. Increasingly, industries like the island’s small desalination plant are installing solar arrays to meet a portion of their power needs.

This move to solar is being driven by tax incentives for green businesses and consumers. In an address marking the United Nations Environment Program’s (UNEP) “World Environment Day” in Bridgetown’s Independence Square, Barbados Prime Minister Freundel Stuart recently pledged that the island nation would produce 29 percent of its energy from renewables by the end of the next decade.

That rather conservative goal is still over twice what the United States currently produces with renewables. It won’t be hard to reach. Not only is the island blessed with abundant sunshine, it also has year-round trade winds to run wind turbines, and sugar cane waste—or bagasse—that can be used as a biofuel. The Barbados government is furthermore looking into harnessing the energy of the tides, as well as introducing ocean thermal energy conversion (OTEC), a technology that employs the temperature difference between cooler deep and warmer shallow sea waters to generate electricity.

Clean energy technologies are slowly making headway throughout the Caribbean. And the nearby United States, the world’s number-one historical emitter of carbon emissions, should pay attention.

A Frontline Region

Barbados is not alone in the Caribbean in its enthusiasm for green technology.

Aruba is planning a 3.5-MW solar airport, perhaps the largest such project in the world. The Dutch-speaking island has combined wind and solar power with energy efficiency measures to cut its imports of heavy fuel oil in half, saving some $50 million a year.

The volcanic islands of Nevis, Montserrat, and St. Vincent have contracted with Icelandic geothermal companies to conduct exploratory projects to determine how to tap their vast geothermal potential. Meanwhile, mountainous Dominica already meets about half of its energy demand with hydropower.

Caribbean islands don’t just have abundant resources for developing clean energy. They also have compelling reasons to do so. The region is burdened by some of the highest energy costs in the world, which have stunted its industrial development and drained its reserves of foreign exchange. The islands also have fragile ecosystems like mangrove forests and coral reefs, which are highly vulnerable to oil spills and pollution. And many countries like Barbados depend on tourists, who will flock there only so long as the places remain attractively clean and green.

But the best reason to cut carbon emissions is the danger that these island nations face if climate change proceeds unchecked. And indeed, climate change is already having a big impact. In recent years, lower rainfall in the Eastern Caribbean has posed a threat to agriculture and scarce groundwater supplies. Sea level rise as well as ocean acidification and warming have killed many protective coral reefs, leading to severe beach erosion. And the hurricane-prone region is being battered by increasingly frequent and powerful storms.

At the World Environment Day event in Bridgetown, the prime minister of St. Vincent and the Grenadines, Ralph Gonsalves, called climate change “the most serious existential threat in the world today.”

That is certainly true for St. Vincent and the Grenadines. Successive storms ripped through the islands in 2010, 2011, and 2012, leading to a yearly loss of up to 17 percent of the developing country’s GDP, as well as destroying hundreds of homes and killing dozens of islanders. “If my people don’t get flooded out on the coast,” the prime minister observed ruefully, “they will be washed away in landslides.”

Barbados’ prime minister, Freundel Stuart, echoed his counterpart’s sense of urgency. “Since the issue involves our very survival,” Stuart told the crowd, “capitulation is not an option.” Stuart said he believes that the Caribbean should set “a shining example” for the world to follow. His government recently commissioned a Green Economy Scoping Study, prepared in partnership with UNEP and released in Bridgetown in June, which includes recommendations on how to make the island’s agriculture, fisheries, transportation, and energy systems more sustainable.

It makes sense: these islands are on the front line for climate change’s destructive forces, so they should also be on the front line in cutting their own carbon emissions. They need to demonstrate how seriously they take the threat, as an example to the rest of us.

A Marshall Plan for the Caribbean

Right now, energy production in the Caribbean is anything but sustainable. Venezuela’s late socialist president Hugo Chavez offered many islands long-term loans and concessionary rates for cheaper oil. His successor has done his best to maintain the modest subsidies.

But nobody can say how long this largesse will last, given Venezuela’s current financial crisis, and still less what will happen to already stressed island economies when they are forced to pay full price for crude.

The Caribbean needs to become energy-independent in order to thrive. But overhauling energy infrastructure does not come cheaply. There are knotty technical challenges related to the stability of the grid that few small nations are currently equipped to meet. And the small scale of the demand for electricity on many of the islands makes it hard to attract international investors.

Moreover, countries like Jamaica, St. Kitts-Nevis, Grenada, Barbados, and Antigua and Barbuda are saddled with public debts that often exceed their annual GDP. So unlike an industrial powerhouse like Germany, for example, few Caribbean nations are in a position to fully exploit their renewable energy potential.

The big industrial powers that are responsible for the problems of island nations should be lending a helping hand to the folks suffering the most from climate change. Loans from international development banks, as well as technology transfers and training from wealthier countries, would go a long way. International development banks also need to prime the pump with programs to encourage prudent investment.

This isn’t charity. By helping islands that are geographically close to the United States go green, Washington won’t just be cutting harmful greenhouse gases for everyone. It will also create opportunities to learn valuable lessons in overcoming technical challenges—about how, for example, to successfully integrate intermittent inputs from wind and solar into the power grid, a problem that has limited the United States’ own adoption of renewables.

The vulnerable islands of the Caribbean are a perfect laboratory to test solutions on a small scale that can eventually be applied to the far more complex U.S. energy infrastructure.

After World War II, America lent its economic muscle to help rebuild Europe’s shattered economies through the Marshall Plan. It is time to have a Marshall Plan for clean energy— not to rebuild war-torn nations, but to help protect our abused climate system from further damage. The Caribbean, blessed with a wealth of sun, wind, and geothermal energy, is a great place to start.

This piece was reprinted by Truthout with permission or license.

[-] 1 points by DKAtoday (23961) from Coon Rapids, MN 5 months ago

Will it be the poor and needy countries of the world that will really drive the growth of green energy technology development and implementation?

If So

Then

GOOD FOR THEM

Please continue to lead the way and shame the wealthy while you are at it.

[-] 1 points by DebtNEUTRALITYpetition (641) 5 months ago

Does anyone have a link that compares the energy a solar energy panel creates over its lifetime versus the amount of petroleum it takes to create the panel? 20 years ago it allegedly was a wash, I assume it has improved since then?