Nostalgia for 2012? Methane, Optimism, Pessimism, Low Tech and the Engineers

Nostalgia for 2012? Sounds a bit odd, but old age is like that it seems.

Reposted from

I am glad to see that my tour of the methane horizon from 2012 is still hosted by Resilience.   Nice picture they put up, by the way …

If the methane gas released each year is not destroyed at a fast enough rate by the atmosphere, it accumulates.  Prompted by Ugo Bardi it was a chance in 2012 to make an appraisal of the effects of likely upper and lower estimates of the combination of fossil fuel emissions and ‘positive feedback’ in the  natural environment, and to contemplate that key context for life ”The Carbon Cycle’. ‘Pessimism’ and ‘Optimism’, if you like. There was a lull in the CH4 accumulation when I was writing back then.

In 2012 despite the ‘Kilda Conjecture’ as a possible cause of the PETM carbon-cycle collapse about 55 million years ago, I judged that industrial civilisation’s version of the  ‘methane bomb’ was not likely to trigger a similar collapse within the human future.  The accumulation of atmospheric methane had stabilised during 2000 – 2006. Since then there has been a 9% increase but I still do not think this presages a ‘new PETM’. There remains of course within the limits of present knowledge an unknown risk  of a seriously de-stablised carbon cycle over the next centuries. Nevertheless, for now environmental ‘positive feedback’ seems a lesser part of the yearly CH4 release. Quote: “The [decadal] increase was primarily fueled by human activities—especially agriculture and fossil fuels,”   

The reality of Climate Change is ongoing, but there is more, much more, going on in the  immediate future it seems, that is also mostly promoted by industrial growth. There is a present enthusiasm in richer countries for the ‘next big thing’; the electrification of transport along with substitution for all fossil fuels via solar energy, which could perhaps enable the hydrogen economy and all the Hi-Tech to go with it. This vision is in my view arguably the most dangerous utopian fantasy yet! Net zero carbon enthusiasts please note.

Listen to the engineers! A recent key-note text is published in the anglophone world. It needed to be translated from the French. Many thanks go to Professor Chris McMahon for seeing the need and for doing it.  There is an interesting review at the publisher’s site under ‘Media’, with the link  

I hope to extend an archive of links to less well known studies such as those by Philippe Bihouix and Chris McMahon, and to sites created or read by members of a private discussion group. The site was started in response to the formation of this eclectic discussion group in what is still known as The British Isles. The site was called ‘Ecosophic Isles’ by the group. I don’t think the group do much in the way of ‘prediction’, and mostly take the reference to ‘Eco Wisdom’ with a pinch of salt!😉 There is also currently archived there a copy of a letter from some other  engineers to the UK Statutory Committee on Climate Change on the constraints surrounding electrification, which some of us found instructive.


Phil H

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