It’s happened: Methane, previously trapped in the ocean floors, is out gassing into the atmosphere at an extraordinary rate. This will cause the flow of the Gulf Stream to weaken even further, essentially producing climate change that it’s–even now–too late to do anything about. In 2010, methane levels in the arctic atmosphere were 1,850 parts per billion–higher, it is believed by paleoclimatologists–than at any time in the past 400,000 years (historically, concentrations are only 300 to 400 parts per billion).
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We’re still releasing the potent greenhouse gas methane into the atmosphere today, but there was a massive release in the past: About 55 million years ago, the Earth burped up a massive release of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere–an amount equivalent to burning all the petroleum and other fossil fuels that exist today. Geologist Will Clyde is concerned because "We don’t know where it came from. This is a big part of the carbon cycle that affected the climate system, and we don’t understand it."
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Research shows that so-called biodegradable products are actually doing more harm than good in landfills, because they are releasing a powerful greenhouse gas as they break down. Federal Trade Commission (FTC) guidelines call for products marked as “biodegradable” to decompose within "a reasonably short period of time" after disposal. But such rapid degradation may actually be environmentally harmful, because federal regulations do not require landfills that collect methane to install gas collection systems for at least two years after the waste is buried.
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Methane is one of the most highly potent greenhouse gases–25-33 times more powerful than carbon dioxide. For reasons we don’t yet understand, occasionally huge amounts of methane are outgassed from places where they are stored on Earth (such as peat bogs and permafrost) and on the ocean floor, warming the atmosphere considerably. On Coast to Coast AM last week, Whitley told us what to look for when this process starts: Record high temperatures in the northern Arctic, beginning this summer.
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