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Climate Change, Arctic Security, and Methane Risks – The Arctic Institute


Over the past year, the climate risks of methane (CH4) released from natural sources have attracted increasing media attention in scientific and media forums as “the Arctic climate threat that nobody’s even talking about yet.”1)      Scientific journals have likewise run articles detailing the risks that methane, in addition to CO2, poses to atmospheric climate change, following scientific research indicating the “2 degree Celsius” limit of climate talks may be physically impossible.2)      Methane therefore serves as something of an environmental “wildcard” in climate change risk assessments, posing the specter of abrupt environmental changes that move climate negotiations from diplomatic to security terms. And yet, despite the acute need to discuss methane as a security risk, such assessments have been sporadic, or not widely publicized due to the nature of the agencies conducting the assessments.

Most climate negotiations and media attention are focused on carbon dioxide (CO2), though this is only one of several important greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. Methane concentrations in the atmosphere have risen from pre-industrial levels of 715 parts per billion (ppb) to 1840 ppb in 2015, a result of agricultural, industrial, refuse and energy actions by humans over the past hundred or so years. While methane eventually breaks down into CO2 during its 15-year life cycle in the atmosphere, it is roughly 25 times more powerful as a greenhouse gas than CO2, making it a potent climate amplifier and an important factor in global climate negotiations and mitigation efforts.3)

Source: Climate Change, Arctic Security, and Methane Risks – The Arctic Institute




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