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     The THIRD absolutely crucial, critical, earth-changing fact about global warming and climate change, which any voter (and any candidate for Congress) should know about, is this:


            As the arctic regions get warmer, the land regions that commonly are called "tundra" and/or "permafrost", have already begun melting, at huge scales, and will continue melting at even faster rates, in the future. This is already being seen in very large areas in Siberia, the northern Scandinavian countries, and the northern parts of Canada.

            And, here is the critical problem which is being made even worse (and potentially catastrophic), by the melting of large areas of tundra and permafrost: those melting areas are beginning to release, into the atmosphere, HUGE quantities (usually expressed in GIGA-tons) of methane.

          For those who might need a brief refresher, methane is a gas, under normal unfrozen conditions. It is the absolute lightest `organic’ molecule (defined as, having at least 1 carbon atom), as well as the absolute lightest `hydrocarbon’ (defined as, having no atoms other than carbon and hydrogen). It has only 1 carbon atom, surrounded by four hydrogen atoms, so its formula is CH4. It is (by far) the largest and most important gas in `natural gas’ (which also contains much lower quantities of ethane and a few other small organic molecules), which is one of the main fuels used for heating buildings, and for generating electricity.

            Why does the unfreezing – and release into the atmosphere – of multi-GIGA-ton quantities (the prefix `giga-’ refers to a billion units, so a `giga-ton’ is a billion tons) of methane gas – which, for millions of years, has been "locked" into the dead grasses, hard-frozen mud and ice, and other materials that make up tundra and permafrost – create even more serious problems, for global warming?

            The answer is because of each and both of two factors:

            (i) when measured on any equal weight basis (e.g., pound-for-pound, ton-for-ton, etc.), methane gas is much-much-much "more potent" (also known as, more powerful, more effective, more dangerous, more destructive, or any similar terms) than carbon dioxide (i.e., CO2, the "classic" greenhouse gas), when it comes to trapping and holding in "infra-red" radiation (which is exactly the same type of heat-carrying radiation described in the "Good Science" section, later in this website).

            (ii) Each molecule of CO2 in the atmosphere is likely to last thousands of years. Why? Because it is a VERY stable, low-energy molecule; as an analogy, think of a deflated basketball, sitting on a 30-mile wide slab of granite, at sea level. About the only thing that can change a molecule of CO2, into something else, occurs when a plant, algae cell, or other organism grabs it, and uses photosynthesis (as an energy source) to break the carbon out of the CO2, and place that carbon in a larger organic molecule.

          By contrast, CH4 (methane) is a relatively unstable molecule which is carrying energy in a stored form (which is why it can burn, and even explode under certain conditions). That stored energy allows it it can be converted into other things, in a much wider variety of chemical reactions, without needing plants or photosynthesis. As a result, each molecule of CH4 typically will last only about 10 years, in the atmosphere, compared to a thousand or more years, for a molecule of CO2.

            To deal with that complicating factor, scientists have adopted comparison numbers, called "Global Warming Potential" (GWP) ratios, to help them factor in all of the variables that will affect how much "damage" (in terms of, `contributing to unwanted global warming') a ton of CH4 (or any other `greenhouse gas') will ultimately inflict on the environment, compared to a ton of CO2 which reaches the atmosphere. The estimates that have emerged, from those studies, is that each ton of CH4 which is released into the atmosphere will cause about 25 to 28 times as much "global warming damage", as each ton of CO2 which is released into the atmosphere. More information is provided by sources such as the U.S. EPA ( and the "Global Carbon Project" (

          When a heated planetary surface (either land, or water) tries to send infra-red radiation (which carries heat energy, as described in the section on "Good Science") out into deep space, as a way of maintaining a normal, healthy, and stable temperature and climate, methane gas is like an extra-super-hyper version of CO2, on steroids and amphetamines. Methane is bad, bad stuff, once it reaches the atmosphere. Melting permafrost and tundra regions have already released multiple giga-tons, of that really bad stuff. And, as things grow worse, the quantities and weights of the "even more" methane gas that will be released into the atmosphere, every year, will grow even larger, and will threaten (quite seriously, and realistically) to create yet another "runaway" (or `self-reinforcing’, `self-accelerating’, etc.) crisis, of the same type described above.

            In other words, as the far-northern arctic regions get warmer, they will begin releasing even more methane gas, at even faster rates than are occurring now.

            And, as even MORE of that methane gas is release, causing it to trap even MORE heat, the rates of additional warming, in those northern regions, will become even faster.

          And, as those rates of additional warming grow even faster, they will accelerate and drive the release of even still more methane gas – which will then cause even still more faster global warming. Each part of that "runaway" cycle will make the other part even worse, with no end in sight, until pretty much ALL of that methane has been unfrozen, and unlocked, and then released as free gas, into the atmosphere.

            About all one can say, realistically, is, “Ummm . . . that does NOT look good, for us.”

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