Last Saturday in Sydney, Alexandra de Blas, one-time ABC Radio National Earthbeat Presenter, told everyone at that conference which I attended at the NSW State Library that Siberia’s permafrost was melting.
According to de Blas this was yet another sign of catastrophic global warming – the end is nigh etcetera.
de Blas had probably been reading New Scientist (http://www.newscientist.com/article.ns?id=mg18725124.500):
THE world’s largest frozen peat bog is melting. An area stretching for a million square kilometres across the permafrost of western Siberia is turning into a mass of shallow lakes as the ground melts, according to Russian researchers just back from the region.
The sudden melting of a bog the size of France and Germany combined could unleash billions of tonnes of methane, a potent greenhouse gas, into the atmosphere.
The news of the dramatic transformation of one of the world’s least visited landscapes comes from Sergei Kirpotin, a botanist at Tomsk State University, Russia, and Judith Marquand at the University of Oxford.
Kirpotin describes an “ecological landslide that is probably irreversible and is undoubtedly connected to climatic warming”. He says that the entire western Siberian sub-Arctic region has begun to melt, and this “has all happened in the last three or four years”.
The fellow who sat beside me on the Virgin Blue flight to Sydney also told me that “Siberia was melting”. He was terribly worried.
But according to the official Russian news agency (http://en.rian.ru/analysis/20050822/41201605.html):
The Russian Academy of Sciences has found that the annual temperature of soils (with seasonable variations) has been remaining stable despite the increased average annual air temperature caused by climate change. If anything, the depth of seasonal melting has decreased slightly.
“Unscrupulous scientists are exaggerating and peddling fears about permafrost thawing and swamp methane becoming aggressive,” said Professor Nikolai Alexeyevsky, Doctor of Geography and head of the land hydrology department at Moscow State University. “Siberia has vast natural resources, oil and gas above all. The article aims to set public opinion against Western Siberia and discourage investment in its industry, oil and gas. They are saying, “Swamp methane poses a global threat, so don’t touch Siberia.” They are deliberately trying to cause panic.
Alexeyevsky says that permafrost has a natural cycle of change, and that it advanced and retreated in the pre-industrial era as well.
Interestingly Russia has a whole academy dedicated to the study of the permafrost (http://www.sitc.ru/ync/ync_eng/ice.htm ).
Who should I believe?
de Blas went on to tell the crowd at the NSW State Library that global warming would destroy the Great Barrier Reef. Now that is plain wrong, see http://www.jennifermarohasy.com/blog/archives/000762.html .