The Methane 'Time Bomb': A Sobering Look

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Public Domain. US Geological Survey

Does this look like 'alarmism' to you?

Whenever we talk about the notion of 'having twelve years to save the planet', or discuss the rate at which we need to decarbonize, it's inevitable that some friendly denizen of the Internet will pop up to level charges of alarmism.

"These climate scientists are just trying to scare us."

"They're only in it for the money, so they have to hype the threat."

Etcetera, etcetera, etcetera. Besides the fact that ignoring a threat because it sounds too scary has never seemed like a solid survival mechanism to me, I've always loathed these arguments because they misrepresent the careful, measured and—some would say—cautious-to-a-fault way that the majority of climate scientists have tended to communicate.

I was thinking about this when I watched the latest video from Yale Climate Connections, which tackles one of the more genuinely scary factors around climate change—the fact that natural feedback loops, specifically methane released from melting permafrost and other natural 'sinks', could trigger a burst in emissions that would essentially make whatever climate action we take ineffectual in the face of a 'runaway train' of chain reactions.

We've talked about this threat before, and we've featured voices pushing back against some of the wilder claims about this very real threat. But it's good to see Yale Climate Connections talking with some of the experts in this field, sharing what they know, and putting some of the crazier scenarios you can find on YouTube into some much needed context.

The basic gist of the video is this: We do need to worry. Climate feedback loops are real. And the quicker we curb emissions, the less impact such natural phenomena will have. But the idea that we are going to face an immediate and catastrophic release of methane that makes our own efforts to curb climate change ineffectual is simply not supported by the current scientific evidence.

The future is still in our hands. Now does that sound like alarmism to you?