ARCTIC DEATH SPIRAL AND THE METHANE TIME BOMB We interrupt our programming. THIS IS A NATIONAL EMERGENCY. Important details will follow. The emergency alert "system" has been activated. Ladies and gentleman. The very word secrecy is repugnant, in a free and open society. We decided long ago, that the dangers of excessive and unwarranted concealment, of pertinent facts, far outweigh the dangers, which are cited to justify it. But I am asking your help, in the tremendous task, of informing and alerting the American people. For I have complete confidence, in the response and dedication of our citizens. Whenever they are fully informed. Many rivers and the air in many cities, remain badly polluted. And our citizens, suffer, from breathing that air. We lived with conditions like these for many many years.
But much that we once accepted as inevitable, we now find absolutely intolerable. Each of us all across this great land has a stake in maintaining and improving environmental qualities. Clean air and clean waters. The wise use of our lands. The protection of wildlife and natural beauty. Parks for all to enjoy. These are part of the birthright of every American. To guarantee that birthright… We must act. And act decisively. It is literally now, or never. Our program, will emphasize conservation. The amount of energy being wasted, which could be saved, is greater than the total energy that we are importing from foreign countries. We will also stress development of our rich coal reserves. In an environmentally sound way. Now it seems to me that if, we would concentrate on resolving the problems, uh… Of the automobile, the combustion engine, thee, the pollution factor and we've gone a long way in that. I think of myself as an environmentalist. I uh.
.. I don't wanna see all this beauty around us wiped out and destroyed. We all know. That human activities are changing the atmosphere in unexpected, and in unprecedented ways. I recommend that we adopt, a BTU tax. On the heat content of energy, as the best way to provide us with revenue to lower the deficit because it also combats pollution, promotes energy efficiency, promotes the independence economically of this country as well as helping to reduce the debt. And it is environmentally responsible. It will help us in the future, as well as in the present with the deficit. The United States is committed to strengthening our energy security and confronting Global Climate change. And the best way to meet these goals is for America to continue leading the way toward the development of cleaner, and more energy efficient technology. We're gonna leave this planet.
.. At least as good as the, planet we inherited, from our parents but, we've got, we've got uh bigger problem with climate change. We sent, we sent a billion dollars to foreign nations. Many of them hostile. And in the… Because of our addiction to oil, and in the bargain we're melting the polar ice caps. Changing the weather patterns all around the globe… The science is clear that man-made emissions of air pollution and global warming gases are changing our atmosphere. Anthropogenic global warming is still an issue that the scientists are still debating and you know it and I know it. The debate on the causes of Climate Change are far from settled. Well the climate's always changing. That's not the fundamental question. The fundamental question is whether man-made activity, is the, is what's contributing most to.
.. I think CO2. (Laughter) Is a problem, and therefore I don't think it needs to be regulated. We all breathe CO2, uh climate changes. But there's no evidence at all that it's man-made CO2 that causes the climate to change. The idea of human induced global climate change is… One of the greatest hoaxes perpetrated out of the scientific community. It is a hoax. I'm only concerned about thee uh, incredible frenzy and hype for something that's a total myth. It's AMAZING to me how uh, upset so many people are… The existence of all these billions of people on earth, have all influenced the climate of earth. But NONE of it, is of significance, uhh, and thank goodness. Things are doing just fine. The question is the degree to which man influences the climate and whether actually we can, we can, this is anything we should worry about and, whether we should be bombing thee global economy into the dark ages to try and stop it. Ya know, the greatest hoax I think has been around, uh, in many many years, if not hundreds of years has been this uhh hoax on the environment and global warming.
You notice they don't call it global warming anymore. No no no. It's because it's getting cooler! It's "Weather Control". Yeah! It's getting cooler, you can't call it global warming anymore. So what we need, what the world needs is more fossil fuels. The evidence we have, is not just that fossil fuels aren't ruining our planet. They're making it much better… Climate related deaths are going down. And, so, what we need is many many more fossil fuels. So that people can eat. And they can have food. Through the years of high school, "Aqua Net" hair spray use have done more damage to the ozone than any global warming scam has. Aqua. I remember Aqua Net. Aqua Net. (Laughter) Every every, every. I remember Brill, Brill creme. But I don't think that had anything to do with the climate change. "A little dab'll do ya" That's it! Remember that? (Laughter) There's more! The CO2 can also go..
. (Crazy Gestures & Comic Sounds) At CO, at times when CO2 was rich in the atmosphere, there was… greater growth of, farms, vineyards and so forth. Uh, I guess in England, there was a time when growth of vineyards was so great there was this wine all over the place and… But I'm still open to the possibility. So if there's anyone from Exxon-Mobile here… I've got a bank account and routing number available for you. (Laughter) One could argue from an economic point-of-view… We should be burning fossil-fuels like "Gangbusters" to generate as much wealth as we can. Divert some of that into alternative energy research and we might get to those alternative energies faster, than if we… starve poor people, and ruin the world's economies, and reduce CO2 emissions. (Applause) Now, as we agreed, you owe me two beers. "Scientific American" editorialized on the escalating ugliness of climate denier tactics.
The editors wondered if we are a people increasingly estranged from critical thinking, divorced from logic, alienated from objective truth. Now to the big headline from "Climate Scientists" tonight. the UN International panel on Climate Change says we are hurdling toward the day when Climate Change could be irreversible, with catastrophic consequences they say. It's only going to get worse if we don't take drastic measures. We've seen an increasing number of regions over the decades, starting to lose ice, but this is the first time we've seen it ALMOST globally. Most ominously, the report says we are in REAL danger of exceeding our carbon limit of one-trillion tons. Scientists say that would warm the earth more than three and a half degrees Fahrenheit, making the impacts of climate change MUCH more dangerous… And that's the worry. Many of the worlds cities are in the crosshairs. Most of the people around the world live in coastal areas, it's where most of your major cities are because that's where ports are.
And they are at sea level. So even small changes in sea level rise can displace millions of people. Scientists fly over a giant chunk of Antarctic ice as it cracks and collapses. The chunk is enormous. About seven times the size of Manhattan 160 Square Miles. It was part of the Wilkins Ice shelf. The biggest on Antarctica yet, scientists say to fall victim to Global Warming. Watching Wilkins ice shelf disappear at the moment. We learn a lot more about how Ice responds to climate change. The Ice is just a small fraction of the Antarctic ice sheet. But it broke off well before scientists predicted. A sign they said that Climate Change may be happening faster than expected. One expert told us last year: "I think what we, what we do know is that ice, uhh. Uh. Is probably our best sensor, of these large scale changes taking place. And in many ways I think we're in unchartered territory." Ice plays a vital role in cooling the Earth's temperature and regulating sea levels. As ice lost, the planet gets warmer.
Sea level rise, and more ice is threatened. A vicious environmental circle. Threr Glaciologists now who are getting very worried. But they haven't really come out and said, what, they think. Take a good look, because it won't be there for long. It's cracking and it's breaking up. And it's only one of dozens of Antarctic ice shelves collapsing faster than anyone predicted. I would say the vast majority of we we're looking at back there is broken up this year. It was a cool summer right? Chicago, New York, places like that, so. How could it be Global Warming? This is how. Look at the context. These blue dots over North America represent below average temperatures for the Summer… June, July, August. What we call "Climate Logical Summer". But look at the context.
They're lost in a sea of red dots across much of the rest of the globe. Just a couple other blue dots here and there. Those red dots are above-average temperatures. What that translates to in terms of a ranking for this summer and for August globally, second warmest on record. Period of record going back a little more than a century. June through August globally. The third warmest on record. The oceans which had cooled for a couple years now recovered with a vengeance. August the warmest on record. June through August also the warmest on record. Now if, the scientists are anywhere near correct. Then this is the greatest challenge facing humanity today. It is the greatest challenge humanity has ever faced, and probably WILL ever face. If someone asks me, if the climate system were changing. I would say, look at the data. The Arctic is, is experiencing, uh.. I would say a crisis. The meltdown is changing long held beliefs about the Arctic and it's weather patterns.
As well as being blamed for affecting conditions around the globe, and triggering a rise in global sea levels. From all these collective calving of the whole Arctic region, you can see that it's warming much faster than the, than the rest of the planet. In 2012, we had the new record set in terms of melting over the Greenland ice sheet. But here, amid this snow and ice It's hard to believe that the ice sheet is melting as fast as scientists say. But it is. Scientists say, we are watching the polar regions melt right before our eyes. So you can tell, there's a stream, here. And then there's a bunch of flow coming down on this right side. Interpreting the info that comes from satellites called "The Gravity Recovery And Climate Experiment". In science circles, it's called "GRACE". "GRACE" can detect the most subtle minute changes in land ice, down to the width of a human hair. The faster speeds that we're seeing uhh.
.. In Greenland are not going to slow down. That's not the way, uh, ice sheets behave. (Oh's and Ah's) "Here come's the water… Uh oh." "Look at that." "Uh oh, uh oh…" So how big, was this calving event that we just looked at? We'll resort to some illustrations again to give you a sense of scale. It's as if the entire lower tip of Manhattan broke off. Except that… the thickness, the height of it Is equivalent to buildings that are two and a half or three times higher than they are. That's a magical Miraculous Horrible Scary thing I don't know that anybody's really seen the miracle and horror of that. It took a hundred years for it to retreat eight miles From 1900 to 2000. From 2000 to 2010, it retreated nine miles. So in ten years, it retreated more than it had in the previous one-hundred.
First of all We're going to look at the runaway behavior, that is actually happening, to the Arctic system. Going almost exponential. We saw the rate of change of ice area. accelerating… We saw the change in ice mass, or thickness also accelerating and moving towards zero, over the next two or three years. And taken all together. We have the unmistakable footprint of a system in, what we call, self-amplification or, "Runaway Behavior". Uhh, you may remember that in 2007 there was a, uh a big study that came out from this group called "The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change". And, they looked at computer models of how rapidly Arctic ice would go away. And, as of early 2007 this is what they were telling us. That, um. We would see, gradual drop in Arctic, uh, ice minimum. going down to where we probably still have a fair amount of ice left in the year 2100. Worst case, maybe by 2070.
We would see open water. In uh, in the Arctic. In the Summertime of that very same year uhh, we saw, in the actual observations, a huge drop in the Arctic ice. And, that drop has continued so that in 2012. This is now where we are. So we're something like fifty years ahead of the worst case scenarios, that, the scientists were giving us just five years ago with Arctic ice. I, I'm actually in agreement with many climate change deniers, in that the IPCC is wrong. But I think, they're actually wrong, because they're too conservative. And they haven't really been telling the story of what really could happen… Can you summarize the effect of an ice-free Arctic on the world. Yes, the effect of an ice-free Arctic on the world is a very large one because it goes way beyond the Arctic itself.
Because once thee sea ice has disappeared Firstly, uh, that produces uh, a decrease in the global albedo. The amount of radiation reflected, uh by the earth. And has a knock-on effect in the sense that the warmer air masses in the Arctic in summer, cause a retreat of the snowline. And the snow-line decrease has just as big an effect on the albedo as the sea ice decrease has. So this global albedo, change, which affects thee temperature of thee entire planet. It warms it all up. Uh, and then, there's the fact that as the sea ice retreats It, uh, allows the, the water masses around the shelves of the Arctic to warm up. And that warms up the seabed, and releases more Methane from thee uh, sub-sea permafrost which is melting away. And, that Methane itself is a very very powerful greenhouse gas. So we're having a Methane kick, uh, coming in from the retreat of the sea ice. Which again, is a global effect rather than simply an Arctic effect. When the IPCC is uh.
.. It's not a whole load of people agreeing. It's a load of people saying, oh, it's this, it's this, it's this. It's just that, nearly, everybody thinks that we are warming the planet, they, disagree about how fast it'll happen. They disagree about whether negative or positive feedbacks are going to be more important. Their one of the more conservative scientific bodies on the planet that work by consensus. And, after the scientists reach consensus… they then, vet they're report through the political process. So politicians have to sign off on the IPCC's assessment before it's released. And they conclude that, that we've reached "Runaway", in the absence of Geo-engineering. And, this is not in the model. The models don't show this happening. This IS happening. So what happens when we update the models, so that it does reflect that, that the Arctic is melting. So we're seeing effects.
And, one of thee primary effects, that, uh… grabs most peoples attention is what's happening with thee Arctic sea ice. The ice that's floating on the Arctic ocean. That covers usually most of the Arctic Ocean. Last year 2012 was thee, record low as lowest, Arctic Summer ice that we have seen ever since we've been observing it. Whereas the rest of the globe has cooled since 1997, temperature in the Arctic has started to increase and increase, increasingly rapidly. The hotter it gets, the faster it gets hotter. 2007 alone, in one year, it melted more in the previous year by an area equal to three times the size of California. And it will be all gone, in five or ten years. It's pretty clear from the, the death spiral, that's the way in which the, the volumes of ice in the summer are zeroing in towards uh, towards zero. That, um the ice can't last more than a couple more years. There's no way… That ice mass at the end of September, can't continue going round this circle, for the next five decades.
It's moving very rapidly into the zero point in the center. It's been decreasing for several decades. In fact, way back into the nineteen-sixties and seventies, we have a trend pattern, of decreasing area of sea ice. Particularly at it's minimum and minimum sea ice occurs in September of the end of the summer warming. But, do have a look at the last few years, from 2007 onwards. The data points have been pulling way down below the straight line. It becomes more and more obvious that straight line representations are no longer the appropriate statistical tool for demonstrating what is going on in the Arctic. Then we see it looks like the end of the Arctic sea ice area in September. By about, 2015. So we're seeing a temperature rise, this is the NASA temperature graph, going back to 1880 when we feel we have good global coverage with instruments. We can take it back much further, in fact. A very significant paper came out, just this past Spring, which looked at a number of different…
Temperature Proxies. As we call em, like tree rings and corals and uh, stalactites in caves and things like that. And we pushed back the temperature record eleven-thousand years… And what you've got is this, uh. You've got us coming out of the ice age back here and then we've got a slow slow slow gradual gradual decline… Until the last century. And then, this is us. Here. So, uhh… We're we're… we're pretty clear that, that uhh… Uhh… Something's changed in the last uhh, two-hundred years and the only thing that we've been able to track down that really, uh, answers it is the… The, uhh… greenhouse gases that human beings have been putting out. (Deep Breath) What's going on in the Arctic area at the moment is, probably the fastest moving response, to Global Warming and Climate Change anywhere around on the planet. In 1859, the English physicist John Tyndall, using equipment of his own design, showed that certain gases in the atmosphere, blocked and absorbed long wave or heat radiation. Four decades later, Svante Arrhenius, with thousands of manual calculations, made an estimate of the global warming power of CO2, that was very close to today's best models.
In the 1950's, American Charles Keeling began to measure accurately the steady increase of CO2 in the atmosphere. Spectrographic analysis soon showed that the new carbon was, without a doubt, man-made. So it's a rare gas. The atmosphere is almost all, Nitrogen and Oxygen. But you see here that, out of a million molecules of air in 1958, about 314 of them would be carbon dioxide molecules. And you see the graph there at the lower left tracing the first few years. So, you can see a lot of things on this graph just, right away. First of all, it's increasing with time. And here's what the Keeling curve, which is the popular name for this… looks like today… And you can see that what was 314 then, is now 395 or so pushing 400 today. That's a remarkable story right there. Because that increase is something like 25%. Mankind is changing the chemical composition of the atmosphere in important ways. And, the greenhouse effect had been understood for a long time. The fact that Carbon Dioxide, and other molecules trap infrared energy, they trap heat essentially, had been known to experimental physicists in the middle 1800's.
John Tyndall in London put Carbon Dioxide in a tube and measured how it could absorb infrared energy which he could shine on it. The first attempts to understand the implications of this for climate date back to the 1890's. So, in a sense, the science was there, connecting Carbon Dioxide amounts of the atmosphere to Climate Change until we had the measurements showing that the CO2 was actually increasing and increasing much more quickly than had been foreseen in the nineteen century. There were more people using more coal and oil and natural gas, and the rapidity of the growth of CO2 was a surprise to everyone. Popular mechanics magazine wrote about this in 1953. The products of research were showing us that if we continue to add Carbon Dioxide to the atmosphere by burning fossil fuels..
. We're going to see a rise in temperature. This was the work of Doctor Gilbert Plas who published a very significant paper on this. This had been an issue that had been kicked around for the previous hundred years or so, but, it was this research that really kind of nailed it in so far as making the science clear. Yet it's taken us this long to really even begin to get through to the public dialogue on how important this is. The amount of Carbon Dioxide in the atmosphere is what matters to the climate. Climate just reacts to how many of what kinds of heat trapping gases are there. The more there are of an important gas like CO2 which is by far the most important man-made gas. The warmer it gets. Now, on this graph is temperature and Carbon Dioxide.
Let's look at the black line first. That's Carbon Dioxide. 1880 on the left, the present on the right, and so, we know that it was rising gradually before Keelings measurements began. And that, in the times before the 1800's, when human activities presumably had no strong effect on climate. It was near a value of two-hundred and eighty and these same units of molecules per million molecules. So CO2 has been rising, but in all the years before the 1930's, you might say, every year was below that average, and in recent years, every year's been above it. Again, the natural variability is due to factors like El Nino and the occasional strong Volcano, which temporarily cools the climate for a year or two. And uh, so these things here are some of the strongest El Nino's on record.
But that there's a warming now and that this period is different from this period isn't any doubt at all. So the question that people typically ask is… How do we know this isn't just some kind of a normal cycle. OK. It's getting warmer but, It's been warmer in the past. It's been colder in the past. How do we know this is different from the past? Well. We can measure what's coming into and out of the planet by satellite, and the satellites do a pretty good job of this. We know, that, the planet is in energy imbalance. We know that that energy imbalance is completely consistent with the predictions that have been made about greenhouse gases. And we know that that's quite a big energy imbalance. It's not small. In fact, it's equal to about 400 thousand Hiroshima nuclear bombs exploding everyday. That's about four or five every second or so. That's how much energy is being trapped, primarily in the ocean because the ocean is the biggest heat sink, by far.
So natural sources are in balance between emission and absorption. The oceans are actually net absorbers but… Human beings. It's one-way traffic. So it's only us that can be causing the increase. Everything else, even volcanoes, is balanced by uptake. So, it's only us, that can be causing the increase. From here you are in the early nineteen hundreds til today. Blue is cooler than average, and Yellow and Orange are warmer than average and you can see here it's still some Blue areas and so on. But starting in the nineteen seventies, you start to see the Yellow and Orange colors predominating. By the time this ends in 2010 or so, you can see what the world looks like today in this picture. There's warming everywhere. There's more warming over the continents than over the oceans. There's more warming in the North than in the South. And there's the strongest warming in the Arctic. This is a Mercator projection so it exaggerates the area of the Arctic. But the warming is strongest in high Northern latitudes.
And that's because of a number of feedbacks that we think we understand of which the most important is that when warming occurs in the far North. The ice and snow melt as we've seen. And, the ice and snow having melted revealed darker water and darker land that was under them, which reflect less sunlight and therefore absorb more sunlight. So the chain of events is Carbon Dioxide causes the warming, the warming melts snow and ice, the melted snow and ice make the surface darker, the darker surface absorbs more sunlight, and that adds to the warming. The human trigger, is now almost irrelevant. The feedbacks have taken over. the mirror that's at the top of the world is gonna be gone. It won't be gone in the wintertime but the Sun's not shining on it in the Wintertime. So, it matters in the summertime. One of the, key effects that this has is that when al of these Northern areas are covered with white reflective snow and ice, it bounces most of the Solar energy off, bounces it back off into space. But, when we are seeing more and more open water, dark soil and dark surfaces, then the solar energy tends to get absorbed.
So instead of reflecting 90% of all the energy, you're absorbing 90% of all the energy. So, this is what scientists call: "A Positive Feedback", and they don't mean that it's good. It's not a positive thing for us because, it's more like a vicious cycle, more heat equals less ice, and less ice equals more heat and it just sort of continues on in a spiral. And that's what we're seeing in the Arctic. And that's why the Arctic is warming at about twice the rate of the rest of the planet. And that means that Sun's energy is being absorbed into the tundra, the frozen areas of the Northern continental masses and into the open ocean where the ice was. So that the whole system is now accelerating and accelerating and accelerating and the hotter it gets the faster it gets hotter. The faster it gets hotter, the more water vapor.
The more water vapor, the faster it gets hotter. The faster it gets hotter, the less ice. The less ice, the less reflection so the faster it gets hotter… You begin to get the idea? It has to be a downward curving, what we call exponential decay. And you project that line forward as is done in this particular setting of the equations and understanding of Arctic ice mass loss, then, once again, it shows zero ice floating on the Arctic ocean… by the end of Summer… 2015. Which confirms precisely, my own work on thee decay of Arctic ice area to the same date. Mind you, at the same time, the thickness of the ice, has also been diminishing. The ice, in the Arctic now is thinner than it used to be, thus more vulnerable to melting. And just to give you an example of what's happening just in this past season…
This is from March March and April of 2013. Looking at this area above Alaska. You had a cyclone going on up in this area that was moving, causing some torque on this ice and the ice just started to fracture and break up in a manner that was very very unusual. I talked to scientists at the National Snow and Ice Data Center. and they said, "What you're seeing here is happening because this ice would've been maybe twenty feet thick thirty years ago. Now it's only three feet thick." And much of this did in fact refreeze. But it refroze in a manner that was much thinner, much more fragile and it is now being pushed around a deformed much more easily and melted much more quickly then it would've been fifty years ago. When our people think about Climate Change they think in 2100. 2100, we might have two feet of more sea level.
Gee, well, I can kinda deal with that… We're talking about 2010. 2020. It's gonna be really serious impacts. If any of these things happen which could happen, anytime. It's like playin Russian Roulette with kind of a few bullets in the chamber. As the temperature starts to increase more quickly, then other feedbacks are also brought into play, and more powerfully then they had been previously. The sixth consequence concerns what's happening to the Greenland icecap. Now, it sits there as a one-and-a-half mile thick layer of ice across a large piece of land mass. Once upon a time, fifteen thousand years ago, we had great ice sheets, covering our most populous zones in the Western hemisphere. Those ice sheets retreated, very rapidly when the climate and the oceans switched. And what we're getting here now is a rate of retreat that I believe is unprecedented in terms of the last ten-thousand years.
Earlier this month, the surface of the ice sheet covering Greenland melted more widely than has been seen in thirty-three years of satellite imagery. We got some reports that there was melt going on around Greenland. Literally, like so much water running off that it was washing out bridges and things. That there were runways that were on the snow that were having problems. You just had to be here. This time last year, to watch this bridge, completely wash-out. The discharge of the river, at the point was… basically two-hundred times that of the Themes. The effect is small, so far… but, Greenland's mass loss has doubled over the last decade. And if that pattern of doubling continues over coming decades, then we're gonna have to rewrite some of the predictions that we've made about how rapidly this is gonna happen.
The better the ice sheet and the interior ice sheet is frozen to it's base. And it's starting to slip. This is the bedrock OK. And this is your ice. And this is your water. And that this water suddenly and violently drains through this channel. Then suddenly you have a change in direction but it goes very fast. We're focusing on this little lake over here, you can see these mountain water lakes popping up across the surface of the ice sheet as the weather gets warmer and warmer. So what you'll see here is this meanders along, it meanders along until it goes down, into the ice, right there. And as it goes down. It's delivering all that heat down into the deep levels of the ice. So now the heat goes down here and just like a stick of butter. The ice sheet begins to get soft. It begins to move faster and that water goes down to the bottom and because it's an incompressible fluid. It will support, even a kilometer of ice.
It will lubricate, even a huge volume of ice and make it move faster over that rocky surface. So that accelerates the process as well. The water across the surface of this ice sheet is rampant, and it's causing untold damage to the base of the ice sheet, and it's doing that in deep interior regions that never before. Not least in the last ten-thousand years, have been susceptible to that warming. That water input That water draining down into the ice is relatively warm. The average temperature of the ice sheet at depth is several degrees below the freezing point, whereas the water that's draining in is right at the freezing point. So this is relatively warm water that drains in and it heats the ice sheet, internally. Warmer ice deforms more easily than cold ice. So, an increase in melt water draining in to the ice sheet has a softening effect, especially when the amount of melt water is increasing. You know, Greenland is 23 feet of sea level. 7.3 meters, if it all melts. And the history is very clear. When it was warm, there's no ice on Greenland.
When it's cold, there's lots of ice on Greenland. And so it's very clear Greenland is very tightly tied to temperature and if it gets too hot It goes away. And too hot is not very many degrees above where we are now… And this is the Ilulissat glacier. This is the calving front of Ilulissat glacier that we flew along on the first day. This is the fastest moving ice stream in the world. It's 400 feet high. The water is coming down under the ice and squirting out down here, below the water line, like… a Jacuzzi. And it's, creating circulation down here and it's drawing warm ocean water in underneath the water line here. And it makes it accelerate the calving off of the giant glaciers. And this whole bay here is just full of gigantic glaciers.
As that movement accelerates… the ice upstream begins to crack and deform like this, and you can see as it cracks, that water begins to collect, in those cracks. And that water begins to absorb more heat and because water is heavier than ice it actually begins to hydro fracture it's way, down into the ice sheet. Accelerating the movement even further. So what you're seeing is that, at every stage there is a different kind of a process that, not only feeds on itself, but feeds into all the other processes in the cycle. On the ice sheet, if you wanna know what's happening you need to just follow the water. And, and see what it's telling you. And this is the story that it's telling us. This is why scientists are starting to feel that Greenland and ice sheets across the planet have the capacity to move much faster then what they have during human experience.
So the big concern is that we don't tip ourselves into some kind of an event like that where the ice sheets begin to move at a pace that is really beyond human capacity to keep up with. As we move to acceleratingly increasing temperature change, as the waters all around Greenland are no longer covered with floating ice, and as the temperature of those waters around begins to increase, so, of course the air over Greenland is hotter. The waters around it are hotter. The ice surface begins to melt. Right across the dome. Well, last year in this place where we actually flew into, Kangerlussuaq, this is what the river looked like there. It was overflowing. This bridge was washing out, giant machinery was being swept away because you were seeing melting that was happening over the entire surface of the ice sheet.
They had never seen this kind of water flow there in that river. So. The consequences for the Greenland ice cap are massive. And as it melts, it adds fresh water to the global ocean, and starts to raise the sea level… If it goes quickly then we can expect two, three, five, seven meters of sea level change… right across the world. To happen, on a decadal basis. I.E. Within ten to twenty years. That would be, catastrophic for civilization, many of whose urban centers, would be below sea level in their new situation. Actually, the Greenland ice sheet is de-glaciating. It's retreating… but it's retreat is, dynamic. It's drawing down the interior of the ice sheet, faster than the models assume at present. And hence the ice sheet, and it's interior is accelerating, and the melt of the margin, is enhanced, and I think that that means, that, this ice sheet, is…
actively de-glaciating. And that's… a pretty serious problem, for sea level rise. Let's move on now to the fourth consequence. And that is, the impact on the tundra. Those land masses that border onto the Arctic ocean, now have a warmer, open sea coast, and the warmer air and the warmer temperatures are being fed back over the land mass. And of course what that does is increase the rate of melting of the tundra permafrost, and we get this, depth of permafrost melt, Which we call the cast, increases year on year. That also has consequences. For instance, there's a lot of, biological material in the deep freeze of the tundra, and as that thaws out, it begins to decay the microbes have a field day and out comes more carbon dioxide and more methane from the rotting vegetation. So, methane is being released into the atmosphere…
not only from the ocean floor, but also, as I said, from the melting of the tundra. And the more methane there is in the atmosphere, as this next slide shows… The greater the greenhouse effect, and methane is a very powerful greenhouse gas. When the permafrost thaws, the organic matter in the permafrost thaws as well. And begins to decay. The microorganisms start to eat it. If, there's no oxygen, the microorganisms make methane. If there's oxygen, the microorganisms make carbon dioxide. Ahh, permafrost. Right here. Frozen dirt. We found, as far as, the organic matter coming out of this hill slope, is that it's much more, bio-available. Meaning, it's yummier for the microbes that are decomposing it. Then carbon, or organic matter near the surface today. So that has climate implications. Because that means that this organic matter is processed quicker, it's return to the atmosphere is carbon dioxide and methane, and, can feed back on climate that way.
Sites like this where the permafrost is releasing organic matter act as accelerators. They speed up the process of human caused climate change. So it's uh, it's a large amplification of what we're doing. It feeds back on to our impact. It's important to realize that the scale and rate of change that we're talking about now is several degrees, two to five degrees in just a hundred years. So this is much faster than has happened in the last fifty million years. We're talking about unprecedented climate change and a very rapid abrupt response from this eco-system. There have been changes in the Arctic, in the permafrost, in terms of the temperature overtime. Not only in the shallow layers near the surface, but at ten, twenty and fifty meter depths. You're seeing changes that are even more rapid. That indicates that not only is there heating near the surface, but that this heat, is being transported to depth, very efficiently. The permafrost, stores methane, as Richard was talking about.
It's currently melting. It's warmer up there. It's like, five degrees warmer up in the Arctic than it is. The average temperature of the world is only up a degree but in the Arctic it's up five degrees. And it's releasing fifty-million tons per year which is a billion tons of CO2. And it's obviously rising. If it all went. We'd basically all be dead. I mean. And, it's happening now. And the problem here is it's accelerating. Once it starts generating through this process or any of the other ones I talk about. Once those processes generate more CO2 than we do, it won't matter if we stopped completely, it's gonna keep going. These are positive, feedback loops.
And by the way, it's not in the models. The fifth implication of the Arctic dynamics concerns thee feedback of the methane release. It is probably one of thee most important issues that we have to examine. We will be in danger of destabilizing these things called methane hydrates which store a lots of methane on the bottom of the ocean, in a kind of frozen form. Ten-thousand billion tons of this stuff. And they are known to be destabilized by warming. This chunk of ice may look pretty unremarkable at first glance. but put a match to it and something amazing happens… as reported in this month's issue of the Atlantic, it's called methane hydrate. And it's actually not unusual at all. In fact, there are more than one-hundred thousand trillion cubic feet of it on Earth. Volume wise, that's like the size of the Mediterranean sea.
And, it has a greater energy capacity than all the coal, oil and natural gas on Earth combined. And well methane burns clean. Unburned methane is a potent greenhouse gas, and if it leaks, it can be devastating to the environment. The USGS is confident leakage won't be a problem, as long as proper precautions are taken. There are potential irreversible effects of melting the sea ice. If it begins, to allow thee Arctic ocean to warm up and warm the ocean floor, then, we'll begin to release methane hydrate. About, eighty years ago we switched to studying the East Siberian Arctic shelf. And actually, we've been studying it for the last eight years. Continuously, year by year by year. Conducting one or two expeditions a year. That hydrocarbons are produced within the sedimentary drape, was sealed and prevented the methane escape into the atmosphere. That is why we're telling that this should be the largest hydrocarbon stock in the world.
Over there… There is a potential risk that if warming continues, the larger and maybe great and massive amount of methane could be released from this Arctic shelf. Of course there is a potential risk. And in terms of potential risk, I would say that this Siberian Arctic shelf has the most potential. Because as we said, the carbon pool was huge and the wall of the shell is very shallow and the warming occurs stronger than in different areas of the worlds ocean. And of course it is a potential risk. So the methane in the atmosphere, the amount, the total amount of methane in the atmosphere, in the current atmosphere, it's about five Gigatonnes. The amount of carbon preserved in the form of methane in this East Siberian Arctic shelf, is approximately… from hundreds to thousands of Gigatonnes.
And of course it's only one percent of that amount is required to double the atmosphere burden of methane. But to destabilize one percent of this carbon pool, I think it's not much effort needed. Considering that, the state of permafrost and the amount of methane currently involved. Because what divides this methane from the atmosphere is a very shallow water column, and a weakening permafrost. Which is losing it's ability to seal, to serve as a seal. And this is, I think it's a matter of… it's not a matter of thousands of years, it's a matter of decades. I think, maybe, at most, hundred years but I think, matter of decades. It might potentially happen because, I would list many factors that might, that are very convenient .. convincing for us. So that might happen. Not anytime. Anytime sounds like it might happen today. It might happen tomorrow.
The day after tomorrow. Think so? Igor is very convinced person because he spend a lot of time over there. And where the ice should be about two meters thick, it was 40 centimeters thick… That means that the processes… All the processes that serves the stabilization of everything… of the sea, ice, of the water column, of the currents increasing. The currents, I mean the movement of water beneath the sea ice increased. So everything, everything looks anomalous. Even from our experience from this ten years, everything looks anomalous. And this is what makes him thinking that… making him think that the worst thing might happen… Truly speaking, we do not like what we see there, absolutely do not like. Uh, look at this. In a matter of, days… Just days, We're having this huge, this huge area..
. Look at this…. going, almost exploding with methane. The only way this is possible is by melting of methane clathrate. Hi, um, how long do you think we have before it becomes socially and otherwise unacceptable to emit carbon. And, I mean, how radically do you think we need to act consensually. Right, well I mean… I think, it's, the more we act, the better things will be for future generations. I don't, yeah, I mean there's all sorts of estimates. And um… Basically, if we do a huge amount within the next ten years, we will still face quite an uncomfortable future, and less we do, the worse it will get. How much of it we can prevent, depends on how bold we are. How much we're prepared to do, and that in turn is going to depend on changing social opinions. What are the implications of all this? For global dynamic behavior? Both in climate, and indeed, for humanity as a civilization, and, the biosphere of which we are a part. Well obviously, the Arctic is connected to the rest of the world, it is part of the world, and what happens in the Arctic inevitably has implications and consequences and spin-off for the rest of the planet.
Socially, we know we will be beginning to remove some of thee aerosols, these particulates in the atmosphere that at the moment are reflecting much of the solar energy back into space. We also know that much energy is being taken up by heating of the deeper ocean at the moment. And as the effects of carbon dioxide and the other greenhouse gases and the global behavior as a whole, begin to come back on stream, so, global temperatures will begin to respond much as Arctic temperatures did. Co2 begins to increase temperature… Increased temperature drives water vapor feedback…. Water vapor feedback accelerates heating…. And then we begin to get hotter conditions for some of the tropical forests, we get burn and dieback and increased release of carbon dioxide from the bio-mass of the planet. It's a different set of feedbacks from that operating in the high Arctic, but it nonetheless potent.
And as in the Arctic, so tomorrow, in the world, as a whole. And if the implications of jet-stream behavior and food production and Arctic dynamics spin-off into our survival as a species, into our economics, into our food production, into the abandonment of the poor, and the inability to sustain a population of eight, nine, ten billion people, so, also… The increasing acceleration of global behavior… which will inevitably follow… unless we are able to intervene, to slow it down… bring it to a halt… and reverse it, then, without that intervention… global dynamics, hold, a dark future for humanity… a dark future for the biosphere of which we are a part. It is time to take action… Not only for the Arctic… but for the global crisis in which we are all placed. There's not agreement on how much we need to do, how fast.
To be honest, I don't think there needs to be because the one thing I am certain of is that we will not do as much as the scientists say we need to do. That's why I've never sort of looked that closely at that particular question because, what the scientists say we need to do is over here… what we're currently doing is way over here…. and what various global agreements have tried to get us to do and often failed, is somewhere over here… So the gulf is so enormous… that um, I yeah, I mean, it's a perfectly fair question…. but for that reason I've never really looked at it in much detail. But I do believe that the more people believe this… that the more likely they are to act, so I suspect that there's also denial can operate on many levels.
.. You can sort of believe something factually, but not believe it deep down in your heart, and so, if you say, oh yes, I accept climate change, but, but you just won't allow yourself on an emotional level to think about what is gonna happen to the planet in the future, and you can sort of separate your everyday life from what you believe in the more academic side of your mind. So, I think that uh… in many ways, changing social opinion is the most important thing we can do at present… to deal with this problem, because then… people might start moving towards what the scientists are saying we need to do. We've got a lot of work to do and not much time to do it. Um, as I Iook at the world which is sort of where I start. Um… We've gotta cut carbon emissions fast.
Then it becomes clear, we need to cut carbon emissions 80%, not by 2050, but by 2020. For decades now, we environmentalists have been talking about the need to save the planet. But as I think about it, the planet's gonna be around for a long time to come… What we need to save now is civilization itself… This is, this is what's at stake… Coming up here today, I have no hidden agenda. I am fighting for my future. I am here to speak for all generations to come. I am here to speak on behalf of the starving children around the world whose cries go unheard. I am here to speak for the countless animals, dying across this planet, because they have no where left to go… And now we hear of animals and plants going extinct, everyday, vanishing forever… All this is happening before our eyes and yet we act as if we have all the time we want and all the solutions.
You don't know how to fix the holes in our ozone layer. You don't know how to bring the salmon back up in a dead stream… You don't know how to bring back an animal now extinct. And you can't bring back the forest that once grew where there is now a desert… If you don't know how to fix it, please… Stop breaking it. I'm only a child yet I know we are all in this together, and should act as one single world towards one single goal. If a child on the streets who has nothing is willing to share then why are we who have everything still so greedy? I am only a child yet I know if all the money spent on war was spent on finding environmental answers, ending poverty, and finding treaties, what a wonderful place this earth would be. At school, even in Kindergarten, you teach us how to behave in the world. You teach us, not to fight with others.
.. To respect others. To clean up our mess. Not to hurt other creatures. To share. Not be greedy. Then why do you go out and do the things you tell us not to do? You are deciding what kind of a world we are growing up in. Parent's should be able to comfort their children by saying "Everything's going to be alright, it's not the end of the world, and we're doing the best that we can…" But I don't think you can say that to us anymore… Are we even on your list of priorities? My dad always says "You are what you do, not what you say." Well, what you do makes me cry at night. You grown-ups say you love us. But I challenge you, please, make your actions reflect your words. Thank you..