Methane Booms Could Make Economy Go Bust

Lauren Admire

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Aug 8, 2008
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Methane Booms Could Make Economy Go Bust



As climate changes cause the permafrost to thaw, methane gas is released and vaporized, and, with it, our hopes and dreams for a brighter, shinier economic future.

We're all familiar with the horror stories about what happens when the ice caps and permafrost melt: coastal floods, severe droughts, and summers that would have us saying "Winter is coming ... I think?" What we haven't heard much about is the cost associated with all that methane leaking into the atmosphere. Recently, a paper published in Nature magazine puts a potential price tag on the potential damages, and, boy is it costly. Damages from the 50 gigatons of methane stored beneath the East Siberian Sea alone could total $60 trillion - and that's not counting the methane reserves the Arctic's packing. To put this into perspective, $70 trillion was the size of the global economy in 2012. It's also the cost of reserving 240 million seats on Virgin Galactic's flights to the moon, which will be needed when we vacate the planet because New York is underwater and the air smells like farts.

The number was based on the results of an economic model which evaluated the costs of the extra-greenhouse gas emissions on sea level, temperature, flood risk, health and extreme weather. The model was run 10,000 times, resulting in the average cost of $60 trillion over a few decades.

Oil conglomerates are banking on the swiftly-melting Arctic to reveal 30 percent of the world's undiscovered gas and 13 percent of its undiscovered oil. However, even drilling these oil reserves for ten years would only amount to a paltry $100 billion, which would leave us $59,900,000,000,000 in debt. I guess we'd better start saving now.

Source: Nature [http://www.nature.com/nature/journal/v499/n7459/full/499401a.html]

Image: Flickr [http://www.flickr.com/photos/[email protected]/2902422030/in/photolist-5qtEX9-5tKqiA-5uB93x-5uB9ji-5uB9Yt-5uFwBC-5wnrHb-5wS38i-5AnAAP-5ArSwy-5ArSDh-5GAbLd-5GSHty-5SqZDA-5Yo8cu-5Zurzf-5ZM4jB-5ZWZ6Q-62fy6m-6dimok-6eJAFZ-6qN1ZM-6reGFX-6zWqe7-6HVJHz-6JdXiy-6M5hWV-6MJu4Z-6PijP8-6PykKk-6TMnFT-6VuxXx-72WuD1-75VPLe-7aZNz5-7bxabz-7bxau8-7bxaEr-7hbycn-7iTJed-7kB6Nz-7szB2F-7u8728-7vXJrN-bTdew4-9dPH6D-861rZ9-crkcQ7-cAQ6LE-ffdQzF-ffdR14]

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The Great JT

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Oct 6, 2008
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Then you know how we fix it? GET A NEW POWER SOURCE. Wind power, fusion power, mass effect drives, I don't care! Just stop relying on fossil fuels!
 

Legion

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Oct 2, 2008
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Forgive me if I take this with a pinch of salt given how often these kind of predictions turn out to be accurate. Although a part of me does find the idea that the economy and potentially society might be taken down by methane gas rather than an asteroid or a zombie apocalypse to be kind of amusing.

I also like the fact you have a Madoka Magica avatar.
 

Hagi

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The Great JT said:
Then you know how we fix it? GET A NEW POWER SOURCE. Wind power, fusion power, mass effect drives, I don't care! Just stop relying on fossil fuels!
Why would you do that?

After all, you could also just take out a 60 trillion dollar loan ( only 45% interest ) and easily pay off whatever damages this could potentially cause. What could possibly go wrong?
 

The Great JT

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Hagi said:
The Great JT said:
Then you know how we fix it? GET A NEW POWER SOURCE. Wind power, fusion power, mass effect drives, I don't care! Just stop relying on fossil fuels!
Why would you do that?
Because you could get more out of alternate power sources? I mean, you've seen how much more gas mileage the initial hybrids got than the standard gas-fueled ones. Imagine if we could make one that got even double the amount of mileage that today's hybrids get for a fraction of the price.
 

RJ 17

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Legion said:
Forgive me if I take this with a pinch of salt given how often these kind of predictions turn out to be accurate.
Pretty much my thoughts on the matter. Someone get Al Gore on the phone, the polar bears are surfing away with our methane shields!
 

KOMega

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The Great JT said:
Then you know how we fix it? GET A NEW POWER SOURCE. Wind power, fusion power, mass effect drives, I don't care! Just stop relying on fossil fuels!
I think there is too much infrastructure and money built around the fuels market that it won;t go down either at all until it's too late or very slowly past hundreds of lifetimes :(

idk, I'm just pessimistic maybe?
 

Gearhead mk2

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Oh look, the people in the energy industry are being short-sighted world destroying morons willing to screw over the entire planet just to get a few extra bucks.

Never seen that before.
 

Dragonbums

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May 9, 2013
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I love how such short term creatures we are.
Who cares about our imminent doom. What's more important is that we make a couple billion more bucks.
Which isn't gonna mean nothing when we are all dying.
 

1337mokro

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To be honest... this would have happened sooner or later. The polar caps would have melted at some time. Sure it wouldn't happen this early but it's kind of regretting the ultimately inevitable.

The best we can hope for is that a few of us mutate the ability to breath cow farts and the ability to subsist on sand because we ain't going to be able to do anything about the current human factor. Humans have the habit to only react when it's beyond late to fix the problem.
 

immortalfrieza

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The Great JT said:
Hagi said:
The Great JT said:
Then you know how we fix it? GET A NEW POWER SOURCE. Wind power, fusion power, mass effect drives, I don't care! Just stop relying on fossil fuels!
Why would you do that?
Because you could get more out of alternate power sources? I mean, you've seen how much more gas mileage the initial hybrids got than the standard gas-fueled ones. Imagine if we could make one that got even double the amount of mileage that today's hybrids get for a fraction of the price.
I think Hagi was being sarcastic JT.

Anyway, the human race never does anything about any problem until it's so big that we can't ignore it anymore. We won't actually start using alternative power sources and fuels on any real scale until we either run out what we're using now or until it causes some massive catastrophe.
 

Ironside

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The temperature of the earth has been hotter than it is today and would have risen to a higher point some time in the future regardless of whether human civilisation was present or not. If the prediction turns out to be true that all the methane will escape into the atmosphere then there is nothing we can do to stop it, but I have my doubts considering there have yet to be any cataclysmic events (as far as we know) that have revolved around the mass release of methane. If it somehow causes damage to the economy rather than life (again I have no idea why it would) then we have no problem since the economy is going to implode in on itself before that happens anyway.
 

Tono Makt

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Dragonbums said:
I love how such short term creatures we are.
Who cares about our imminent doom. What's more important is that we make a couple billion more bucks.
Which isn't gonna mean nothing when we are all dying.
That's certainly part of it. But a larger part of it is how dependent we are on fossil fuels for everything. You might even be able to say "Literally everything" and have some justification in using "Literally".

We can't wean ourselves off of fossil fuels fast enough to do much about the greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, or the changing of the climate. We need those fossil fuels far too much for our food, for our water, for our transportation to and from work, for our power generation. We can't create solar panels without fossil fuels to create the electricity to run the machines. We can't get our solar panels to stores without fossil fuels to fuel the trucks and ships and planes. A large amount of our food - perhaps the vast majority - is brought to our grocery stores from far away. Oranges from Florida or Chile. Meat from Texas, Montana and Alberta. Berries from Ontario and Georgia. Coffee from Africa and South America. Etc. The computers we are typing on require vast amounts of fossil fuels to create the plastics, to run the machines to mine and transport the minerals to the factories.

It's going to cost trillions of dollars to change things over and away from fossil fuels in the best of circumstances, and right now none of the alternative energy sources can replace fossil fuels on a large scale. And since we aren't in the best of circumstances - that is, Big Business is actively thwarting attempts to move our societies away from fossil fuels, both as a way of being greedy (oil companies don't want to lose profits, power companies don't want to go out of business, car companies don't want to have all their products become unsellable, etc.) and of being pragmatic. Think of how much it would cost for FedEx to change all of their trucks to Electric, or for a solar power plant to be created.

And part of it is that we, the consumers, don't want to pay more. We want our $5/quart of strawberries, and if it suddenly jumped to $10/quart because all the input supply costs have jumped, we just won't buy the strawberries, putting farms out of business. We wouldn't buy that new iPhone 7 because it's now cost $1000 with a 3 year plan because all of the input costs have skyrocketed. We would cut down on our consumption, maybe begin to grow and raise our own food, which sounds great for the world - but would entirely devastate our economy.

So while there is a great deal of greed going into this, it's far more complex and complicated than we would like it to be.
 

CriticalMiss

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Lauren Admire said:
which will be needed when we vacate the planet because New York is underwater and the air smells like farts.
Fortunately methane is odourless, hydrogen suphide makes farts smell of farts in a fart-like way.
 

theultimateend

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1337mokro said:
To be honest... this would have happened sooner or later. The polar caps would have melted at some time. Sure it wouldn't happen this early but it's kind of regretting the ultimately inevitable.

The best we can hope for is that a few of us mutate the ability to breath cow farts and the ability to subsist on sand because we ain't going to be able to do anything about the current human factor. Humans have the habit to only react when it's beyond late to fix the problem.
Eventually the sun is going to expand and consume the Earth.

I wouldn't recommend the entire human species just stay on the Earth because "It's going to happen anyways."

We have the technology to augment our environment and climate. We should use it to keep the Earth in the climate we know actually works for us.

The moment we let the Earth go and change dramatically folks are going to be fucked.

Really in the end the only real outcome to improving technology for a cleaner world is that you end up wrong and...oh shit...now the earth smells better, looks better, and works better. This is terrible :(.

Everybody! This is horrible! There's no more smog and the oceans aren't full of dead zones :/.

Is that forest?

Ew. Gross. Who stopped clearcutting all those forests :(.

I miss back when we just blindly destroyed the planet because the thought of spending even a modicum of money making it better was nauseating.

Tono Makt said:
So while there is a great deal of greed going into this, it's far more complex and complicated than we would like it to be.
It's complex but basically everything about the change is positive for all but a very small group of people.

Just because switching off fossil fuels wouldn't fix the problem doesn't mean we shouldn't >.>.

We should be doing that >and< rolling out technology to strip carbon and other emissions from the air. The technology already exists as well, it could be improved but so could anything.

But yeah I agree. Super complicated but its only that complicated because a small group of people make it that complicated. At the end of the day 90% of your interactions with other humans are based on a belief structure that is only as tangible as you make it.

I'd much rather every place in the world smell like Alaska than I would it all smell like Hong Kong.

If you can get one chance in your life to visit both places you'll see what I mean.
 

lacktheknack

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Jan 19, 2009
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Legion said:
Forgive me if I take this with a pinch of salt given how often these kind of predictions turn out to be accurate.
This. After finding out that environmentalists in the eighties were furiously screaming for us to "SPRAY MORE CARBONS, STOP GLOBAL COOLING", I've gotten leery of anything involving environmental policy.

Gearhead mk2 said:
Oh look, the people in the energy industry are being short-sighted world destroying morons willing to screw over the entire planet just to get a few extra bucks.

Never seen that before.
They fulfil demand.

Everyone in first-world countries demands.

Stop demanding and they'll stop fulfilling.
 

shadowstriker86

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I'm surprised no one's thought of this easy solution: Light a match. Pretty sure whole sky would just be on fire for 10 minutes then return to normal like that one episode of Doctor Who.
 

theultimateend

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lacktheknack said:
They fulfil demand.

Everyone in first-world countries demands.

Stop demanding and they'll stop fulfilling.
I've always thought of this world view like I do people who depend rapists. [The She was asking for it crowd.]

I know that sounds hyperbolic but honestly "profit for the sake of profits without any consideration for humanity" is one of the most perverse beliefs that people have ever accepted.

I figure the reason most people accept it is they think that belief means that someday they'll be rich too.

Capitalism is (to me) the world's most destructive and perverse religion.