The time to attack methane is now

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By Harold Hensel

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Katey Walter from the University of Alaska Fairbanks introduced me to her methane research with an online presentation at the Science Museum in London in 2006. She warned that thawing of the permafrost in Siberia and Alaska was creating ponds and lakes that were producing huge amounts of methane. Only a handful of climate scientists were aware of this and few understand the potential danger to the climate.

I have followed this issue with intense interest since then. I am a member of the American Geophysical Union and I am aware of much of their research.

At last fall’s AGU annual meeting, the recently formed Arctic Methane Emergency Group made a presentation. Top climate scientists belong to this group. One of them, Sam Carana, and I connected. Through many years of separate study, we had arrived at the same conclusions. I was invited into their exclusive email group.

There, I got to know Malcolm Light, inventor of the radio frequency transmitter that is designed to decompose methane in the atmosphere. He authorized me to present his proposal to Rockwell Collins.

He has no patent on his invention and is sharing it with no strings attached. He said we don’t have enough time to get a patent on it. He is a retired professor from the University of Texas but he lives in Spain.

Brion Hurley, who works at Rockwell Collins, agreed to forward the proposal for consideration. (Editor’s note: Hurley told The Gazette last week that the device needs more testing and funding before any project can advance).

Here is the urgency of the problem. Methane has become the most immediate greenhouse gas problem. It is about 20 to 30 times more effective as a GHG than carbon dioxide over a 100-year period. However, methane is 100 times more effective as a GHG over 10 years.

There are thousands of ponds and lakes in the Arctic that are producing methane like little landfills. Put Chersky, Russia, in Google Earth and take a look for yourself. The East Siberian Arctic Ocean is also producing methane.

As the ice on the surface and on the floor thaws, methane escapes into the atmosphere. Methane heats up the atmosphere, which in turn helps thaw out more permafrost and ice, which in turn releases more methane.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, a U.S. government agency, has acknowledged that an “amplifying” effect exists in the Arctic. The National Center for Atmospheric Research, HIPPO Project, has observed and confirmed the existence of a methane feedback loop.

Researchers at the International Arctic Research Center, University of Alaska, from their research ship, have observed huge amounts of methane bubbling up from the East Siberian Sea. The area studied is about 700 miles wide, 2,400 miles long and about 160 feet deep.

The atmosphere holds about 850 billion tons of carbon now; 2,100 billion tons of methane is poised to come up just in this area; 50 billion tons of “free methane” could come up suddenly any time.

Prevention only is no longer an option. We must attack methane directly in the atmosphere as well.

The radio frequency transmission project is worthy of consideration. This project also could be a boost for Rockwell Collins and Cedar Rapids.

Harold Hensel, a Cedar Rapids insurance business owner, has a B.S. in science and is a member of the Wapsi Valley Sierra Club board of directors as well as several climate advocacy groups. Comments: mhhensel@earthlink.net

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