News Stories

It Keeps Happening

But we don't know why - We don't know why it happened before but it seems to be happening again: Huge quantities of methane below the Arctic seabed are showing signs of leaking out into the atmosphere, which would be the tipping point for climate change.

Scientists on board Russian icebreakers have discovered that methane is leaking from the permafrost on the ocean floor far faster than they previously thought. In the March 5th edition of The London Times, Frank Pope quotes researcher Natalia Shakhova as saying, "The sub-sea permafrost should act as a cap or seal, preventing leakage. Beneath it there is methane that has accumulated at high pressure. But the permafrost is losing its ability to be an impermeable cap. The climatic consequences of this are hard to predict. This type of source has never been predicted by anyone and has not been included in climate models."

Pope quotes researcher Euan Nesbit as saying, "This is an important marker point. Arctic methane emissions are clearly implicated in changes at the end of the last Ice Age, and they have shown that [methane from beneath oceanic permafrost] is a future risk from warming."

Methane is a particularly lethal gas, but while we are worrying about tons of it rising out from the bottom of the ocean, we are spewing tons of that other greenhouse gas, carbon dioxide, out into the car with our power plants and automobiles. Rather than CURB these emissions, can we CHANGE them by turning CO2 into carbon MONoxide? Chemists are investigating this by figuring out how this happens in nature.

Biological chemists Steve Ragsdale, Elizabeth Pierce and Fraser Armstrong have figured out a way to copy nature and efficiently turn carbon dioxide into carbon monoxide using visible light (like sunlight).

Not only is it a demonstration that an abundant compound can be converted into a commercially useful compound with considerably less energy input than current methods, it's also a method that's not so different from what organisms regularly do. PhysOrg.com quotes Ragsdale as saying, "This is a first step in showing it's possible, and imagine microbes doing something similar. I don't know of any organism that uses light energy to activate carbon dioxide and reduce it to carbon monoxide, but I can imagine either finding an organism that can do it, or genetically engineering one to channel light energy to coax it to do that."

Unlike CO2, carbon monoxide is a desirable chemical that can be used to produce electricity or hydrogen. It can also be converted into methanol for use as a liquid fuel. Its main problem is that it's toxic to animals and humans, thus its generation and storage need to be carefully managed. Whew! Here at unknowncountry.com, we always tell you the truth about everything (and everything else)! Support the hard work we do: subscribe today, and if you subscribe by midnight on March 27, you'll get a FREE copy of the DVD "Dark Matter!"

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Art credit: Dreamstime.com

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