Our Saviour may be our Destroyer

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Ice that burns: Will a new discovery trigger runaway global warming?

There’s a theory that global warming cycles over the eons have been the result of the sudden sporadic release of large quantities of methane hydrate.

A tremendous release of methane gas frozen beneath the sea floor heated the Earth by up to 13 degrees Fahrenheit (7 degrees Celsius) 55 million years ago, a new NASA study confirms.

Generally, cold temperatures and high pressure keep methane stable beneath the ocean floor, however, that might not always have been the case. A movement of continental plates, like the Indian subcontinent, may have initiated a release that led to the Late Paleocene Thermal Maximum, occurred around 55 million years ago and lasted about 100,000 years.

Current theory has linked this to a vast release of frozen methane from beneath the sea floor, which led to the earth warming as a result of increased greenhouse gases in the atmosphere.

The large quantity of methane ice at the bottom of the world’s oceans today is seen as a risk factor for accelerated “runaway global warming.” As the oceans heat up, there is a risk that the methane would be released further accelerating the global warming process.

Given this backdrop, this news seems a bit alarming:

Scientists unlock frozen natural gas

For the first time, Canadian and Japanese researchers have managed to efficiently produce a constant stream of natural gas from ice-like gas hydrates that, worldwide, dwarf all known fossil fuel deposits combined.

This breakthrough is touted as something that could one day solve the world’s energy shortages.

But it strikes me that this also has the potential to trigger a fairly cataclysmic release of methane. If the methane is already becoming unstable due to gradually warming oceans, will drilling it be the catalyst for a massive release of gas?

While the engineers will no doubt assure us that there are adequate safety precautions in place, there is no way to have certainty over the outcome of drilling down into the bowels of the earth.

Just ask the people of Sidoarjo.

Deadly Mud Volcano Destroys Village

A team of British researchers says the deadly upwelling began when an exploratory gas well punched through a layer of rock 9,300 feet (2,800 meters) below the surface, allowing hot, high-pressure water to escape.