Easing concerns about a catastrophic release of greenhouse gases

“Concerns about global warming having a domino effect — unleashing 600 billion tons of carbon in vast expanses of peat in the Northern hemisphere and accelerating warming to disastrous proportions — may be less justified than previously thought.”

The media release is below.

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New ACS Podcast: Easing concerns about a catastrophic release of greenhouse gases

WASHINGTON — The latest episode in the American Chemical Society’s (ACS) award-winning “Global Challenges/Chemistry Solutions” podcast series puts forth the reassuring finding that concerns about global warming having a domino effect — unleashing 600 billion tons of carbon in vast expanses of peat in the Northern hemisphere and accelerating warming to disastrous proportions — may be less justified than previously thought.

In the podcast, Christian Blodau, Ph.D., explains that peat bogs — wet deposits of partially decayed plants that are the source of fuel and gardeners’ peat moss — hold about one-third of the world’s carbon. Scientists have been concerned that global warming might dry out the surface of peatlands, allowing the release into the atmosphere of carbon dioxide and methane (a greenhouse gas even more potent than carbon dioxide) produced from decaying organic matter.

To see whether this catastrophic domino effect is a realistic possibility, Blodau and colleagues conducted laboratory simulations studying the decomposition of wet bog peat for nearly two years.

Far from observing sudden releases of greenhouse gases, they found that carbon release and methane production slowed down considerably in deeply buried wet peat, most likely because deeper peat is shielded from exchange of water and gases with the atmosphere.

In connection with previous work, they concluded that even under moderately changing climatic conditions, peatlands will continue to sequester, or isolate from the atmosphere, their huge deposits of carbon and methane.

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The new podcast is available without charge at iTunes and from http://www.acs.org/globalchallenges.

6 thoughts on “Easing concerns about a catastrophic release of greenhouse gases”

  1. Gee, so those geysers of methane / co2 in Alaska and Siberia just don’t exist? If you people stick your heads any further in the sand, your going to see China!

  2. So where did the figure of “about 1/3 of the worlds’ carbon” is held in peat come from? Who mapped the peat bogs, in terms of location, aerial extend and depth and conducted the tests to determine how much carbon is contained in a cubic foot or the measure of your choice?

  3. One thousand years ago in the middle of the Medivial Warming Period temperatures were thought to be 2 degrees C. above present temperatures. Why didn’t all the carbon dioxide escape then?

    I am FOIA

  4. Whatever happened to entropy? As close to settled science as possible, and yet the fear of out-of-control natural process persists. Get a grip.

  5. This is wonderful – no foolin’ … these people actually did an EXPERIMENT and reported the results!

    This type of behavior must be encouraged as powerfully as possible.

  6. In physical chemistry we study chemical reactions. Some chemical reactions do not occur easily or quickly because they require large amounts of energy input. Other reactions do not occur, not because they require energy input but because of what we call ‘kinetics.” This means that the prerequisites for the reaction may all be there, but they are not in the ideal configuration for a rapid reaction.
    Gunpowder, for example, reacts well if the carbon, nitrate, and sulfur are all finely divided and well mixed, but if you simply pour saltpeter and then sulfur on a pile of charcoal briquettes, there will be no *Bang!* for your buck.
    For the release of methane from cold water in a peat sponge (a modified form of the methane clathrate decomposition), you need to heat it.
    Since the release absorbs heat, and the peat itself is a good insulator, the heat cannot possibly get to all the wet methane-laden peat fast enough to create a ‘catastrophic’ (or even self-catalyzed) release of methane. If anything, the by-product of dry peat will inhibit the decomposition reaction by slowing down the progress of the heat.

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