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[greenyes] Methane Not CO2 Key to Last Global Warming

This is an interesting article. Does anyone have some numbers -- with
documentation -- on how much methane would be released from bio-reactor
landfills, and what percentage of the US greenhouse gases this would

John Reindl

> -----Original Message-----
> From: Peter Anderson [mailto:anderson@no.address]
> Sent: Sunday, July 11, 2004 4:46 PM
> To: GreenYes
> Subject: [greenyes] Methane Not CO2 Key to Last Global Warming
> fyi- Landfills are the major source of manmade methane, and, if the shift
> on-the-cheap bioreactors goes forward, this already bad situation will
> dramatically worsen in the near term.
> Peter
> The Observer
> Prehistoric clues put greenhouse accomplices in dock
> Are these the real enemies of the earth?
> Robin McKie, science editor
> Sunday July 11, 2004
> The Observer
> It was a time when horses and rodents first evolved, monkeys
> took their
> first swings in the trees and grasslands spread across Earth.
> But the Eocene epoch was also distinguished by a remarkable climatic
> catastrophe: one that has dramatic implications for mankind.
> Fifty million years ago, temperatures soared to unprecedented
> levels and the
> seas became a staggering 12C hotter than today. But
> researchers have found
> this massive warming had little to do with carbon dioxide,
> the main cause of
> today's climate changes. The trigger was instead rising
> levels of methane,
> ozone and nitrous oxide, gases that are accorded relatively
> scant attention
> by current climate treaties.
> 'The fact Earth got so hot because methane and other gases
> were increasing
> is worrying,' said Professor David Beerling, of the
> University of Sheffield.
> 'We are rightly obsessed with carbon dioxide, but clearly we
> risk missing
> other dangers.'
> The discovery has been made by Sheffield and Bristol
> researchers who were
> investigating Earth's ancient greenhouse crisis. Scientists
> had already
> discovered the stifling temperatures that existed 50 million
> years ago by
> studying marine fossils. Oxygen trapped in their shells leave
> a distinct
> isotope pattern that reflects the warmth of the sea at the time.
> In this way researchers have built a precise picture of Earth's past
> temperature fluctuations and found that 50 million years ago
> it reached
> levels that dwarf Earth's current climate crisis. Most experts assumed
> carbon dioxide, whose levels fluctuate naturally in the air, were
> responsible. Global warming today is blamed on industrial
> outputs of the
> gas, after all.
> Beerling decided to investigate and used a breakthrough made by his
> colleague Professor Ian Woodward, who had discovered that
> stomata, the pores
> on a plant's leaf, decrease in number as carbon dioxide
> levels rise. 'That
> gives you a perfect way to study carbon dioxide on ancient
> Earth,' Woodward
> said.
> Beerling's group grew ginkgo trees in different
> concentrations of carbon
> dioxide and then compared their leaves with those of ginkgo
> fossils from the
> Eocene. 'Essentially, we breathalysed ancient Earth,' said Beerling.
> 'What we discovered gave us quite a shock. Carbon dioxide
> levels were no
> different 50 million years ago than today's. Yet the planet
> was incredibly
> hot - much, much warmer than it is today.'
> Using climate models developed by Britain's Hadley Centre for Climate
> Prediction and Research, Beerling and his collaborator, Professor Paul
> Valdes, at Bristol University, analysed the meteorological
> parameters for
> the Eocene, including data on carbon dioxide.
> 'The conclusion was clear,' said Beerling. 'There must have
> been much more
> ozone, methane, and nitrous oxide in the atmosphere then.'
> Molecule for molecule, these gases are much more effective at
> trapping solar
> heat than carbon dioxide. So even modest elevations will
> produced striking
> temperature hikes. At the time Earth was covered in wetlands,
> which produce
> high levels of methane. This was one of the major contributors to the
> runaway global warming that gripped the Earth, the Sheffield
> and Bristol
> groups conclude. Today termites, cows and other animals are
> major sources of
> the gas.
> "...
> 'That is why this discovery is so important,' said Beerling. 'We are
> currently attempting to control emissions of carbon dioxide
> to stop global
> warming. But our obsession with it is making us overlook the
> dangers posed
> by methane, and the others.
> "...
> 'So even if we control the problem of carbon dioxide, we
> could still be in
> dire straits thanks to these gases, which receive much less
> attention from
> politicians and campaigners. That is the real lesson of this
> research.'
> _________________________
> Peter Anderson, President
> 4513 Vernon Blvd. Suite 15
> Madison, WI 53705-4964
> Ph: (608) 231-1100
> Fax: (608) 233-0011
> Cell: (608) 698-1314
> eMail: anderson@no.address
> web:
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