Alberta Wildfires Out of Control. Blame Climate Change, with a little help from Hillary Clinton

Perhaps I'm beating a dead horse in the eyes of some here, but when I see a headline like this - Fort McMurray: Fire could double in size, Canadian official says - from CNN, I find it more than a little disturbing.

Dry, windy conditions are fueling the blaze, which has already raged over 1,010 square kilometers (389 square miles). By Saturday, it might be twice as big.

"It's extremely dry out there. Wind continues to push from the southwest, to push the fire to the northeast into the forested areas," Alberta Wildfire official Chad Morrison said Friday afternoon. "There is a high potential that this fire could double in size by the end of the day tomorrow."

This is just one of forty (40) wildfires ravaging Alberta. And it's only May. As for those who see this as just another strange weather event that we should not tie to anthropogenic climate change, well, again, that's not what the experts at Climate Central, a popular and respected climate science website, are saying in their article: "Here’s the Climate Context For the Fort McMurray Wildfire."

The wildfire is the latest in a lengthening lineage of early wildfires in the northern reaches of the globe that are indicative of a changing climate. As the planet continues to warm, these types of fires will likely only become more common and intense as spring snowpack disappears and temperatures warm.

If you followed the links from the excerpt of article above, you would see references to a series of massive, disastrous wildfires across the upper Northern hemisphere, including boreal forests in Siberia, Alaska and the Northwest Territories in Canada since 2013, which predates the current extreme El Nino event. This sharp increase in both the extent and intensity of wildfires this far north, and the lengthening of the wildfire season across the globe, as acknowledged by this report in The New York Times, "Wildfires, Once Confined to a Season, Burn Earlier and Longer," is seen by many climate scientists as a clear indication that global warming is the clear culprit.

Here's a list of a few of the sources that support this claim:

NASA

A new analysis of 35 years of meteorological data confirms fire seasons have become longer. Fire season, which varies in timing and duration based on location, is defined as the time of year when wildfires are most likely to ignite, spread, and affect resources. [...]

The researchers found that fire weather seasons have lengthened across one quarter of Earth’s vegetated surface. In certain areas, extending the fire season by a bit each year added up to a large change over the full study period. For instance, parts of the western United States and Mexico, Brazil, and East Africa now face wildfire seasons that are more than a month longer than they were 35 years ago.

Climate Central

The National Interagency Fire Center’s numbers vividly illustrate how 2015 was a record setter. U.S. wildfires scorched 10.12 million acres. [...]

That bests the previous mark of 9.87 million acres set in 2006, and it's the first time wildfire acreage burned has crossed the 10-million acre threshold. The impacts of climate change mean that the threshold will likely be crossed more often in the coming century as wildfire season lasts longer and sparks more large fires. [...]

.... In Alaska, scientists have raised concerns that wildfires could send vast reserves of carbon locked in the soil up in smoke. That could raise temperatures further and lead to even more fires and speed up the march of climate change in a dangerous feedback loop.

PNAS Journal article "Recent burning of boreal forests exceeds fire regime limits of the past 10,000 years."

Fire frequency and area burned increased ∼6,000–3,000 y ago, probably as a result of elevated landscape flammability associated with increased Picea mariana in the regional vegetation. During the Medieval Climate Anomaly (MCA; ∼1,000–500 cal B.P.), the period most similar to recent decades, warm and dry climatic conditions resulted in peak biomass burning, but severe fires favored less-flammable deciduous vegetation, such that fire frequency remained relatively stationary. These results suggest that boreal forests can sustain high-severity fire regimes for centuries under warm and dry conditions, with vegetation feedbacks modulating climate–fire linkages. The apparent limit to [Medieval Climate Anomaly] burning has been surpassed by the regional fire regime of recent decades, which is characterized by exceptionally high fire frequency and biomass burning. This extreme combination suggests a transition to a unique regime of unprecedented fire activity.

Perhaps you don't think this has anything to do with the current election, and in one sense you are correct. The media certainly hasn't made climate change a major topic of discussion, nor have the candidates. The Republicans, including the likely nominee, Donald Trump, almost to a man and woman, reject the science of climate change and deny that what we are seeing with our own eyes is real. It's happening now, not in some distant future when we will all be dead and won't have to worry about it. But they deny, deny, deny because to do otherwise would be to reject the position of their financial backers and all those conservatives who buy into the Fox Noise propaganda.

What's more troubling, however, is that, despite a few rhetorical statements and stated policy positions (which you can easily find on her campaign's website, so I won't bother linking to it here), Hillary Clinton, the leader in the number of delegates in the current Democratic Party's nomination selection process, seems oblivious or indifferent to the effects that climate change is re-shaping our world at an alarming and ever increasing rate. Instead of responding to legitimate complaints regarding her record by environmental critics, she has lashed out in anger at them instead. And no wonder. Her record, from promoting fracking around the world to approving the transport of tar sands pipelines while Secretary if State is not a good one. Let's look at some examples, shall we, beginning with her concerted effortss at State to promote fracking.

When Hillary Clinton took over the State Department, she set up a special arm, the Bureau of Energy Resources, after close consultation with oil and gas executives. This bureau, with 63 employees, was soon helping sponsor conferences around the world. And much more: Diplomatic cables released by WikiLeaks show that the secretary of state was essentially acting as a broker for the shale-gas industry, twisting the arms of world leaders to make sure US firms got to frack at will.

Unfortunately, Hillary continues to claim that fracking is a clean source of energy, despite the recent evidence that methane emissions in the US alone increased 30% after the fracking and shale gas boom began, and studies that show natural gas would do little to stop the increase in greenhouse gas emissions, while simultaneously blocking increased utilization of renewable energy, such as wind and solar power.

We’ve reached the point where Denmark can generate 42 percent of its power from the wind, and where Bangladesh is planning to solarize every village in the country within the next five years. We’ve reached the point, that is, where the idea of natural gas as a “bridge fuel” to a renewable future is a marketing slogan, not a realistic claim (even if that’s precisely the phrase that Hillary Clinton used to defend fracking in a debate earlier this month).

Joe Romm, a climate analyst at the Center for American Progress, has been tracking the various economic studies more closely than anyone else. Even if you could cut the methane-leakage rates to zero, Romm says, fracked gas (which, remember, still produces 50 percent of the CO2 level emitted by coal when you burn it) would do little to cut the world’s greenhouse-gas emissions because it would displace so much truly clean power. A Stanford forum in 2014 assembled more than a dozen expert teams, and their models showed what a drag on a sustainable future cheap, abundant gas would be. “Cutting greenhouse-gas emissions by burning natural gas is like dieting by eating reduced-fat cookies,” the principal investigator of the Stanford forum explained. “If you really want to lose weight, you probably need to avoid cookies altogether.” [...]

Clinton continues to conflate and confuse the chemistry: Natural gas, she said in a recent position paper, has helped US carbon emissions “reach their lowest level in 20 years.” It appears that many in power would like to carry on the fracking revolution, albeit a tad more carefully.

I guess she isn't paying attention to the research or the EPA's own confession that they drastically underestimated methane emissions (though their current estimates of methane emissions are still likely too conservative). But she's against coal, right? Not so fast. Just recently, after criticism from coal miners and the coal mining industry in West Virginia, Hillary Clinton publicly reversed her previous position that coal as an energy source should be phased out as soon as possible.

Mrs. Clinton said earlier this year that more miners would be put out of work if she is elected president and vowed to continue President Obama’s unprecedented crackdown on carbon emissions through federal regulation.

The former secretary of state then tried to retract her comments by saying she was merely opining on the fact that the U.S. coal industry is declining.

“I don’t know how to explain it other than what I said was totally out of context from what I meant because I have been talking about helping coal country for a very long time, and I did put out a plan last summer,” she said. “I didn’t mean that we were going to do it. What I said was that is going to happen unless we take action to try to help and prevent it,” Mrs. Clinton said at a town hall meeting in West Virginia this week.

A profile in political courage, this is not. Then again, in 2008, she avidly supported coal as the fuel of the future. And now she appears to be back on the clean coal bandwagon, supporting pie-in-the-sky carbon sequestration as the solution to keeping coal miners and their employers in business.

Earlier on Monday, Clinton expanded on what sort of "action" she would take during a conversation about "economic barriers and jobs," which was held in Ashland, Kentucky.

"We've got to do a lot more on carbon capture and sequestration," she told voters, "and try to see how we can get coal to be a fuel that can continue to be sold and continue to be mined."

Carbon capture and sequestration (CCS), or "clean coal," has long been touted as a greener method of burning fossil fuels and is a pillar of Clinton's energy agenda.

Then, of course, there is her dubious record at the State Department, when she green-lighted (pun intended) the Alberta Clipper pipeline to make the transport of tar sand oil production in western Canada economically viable, despite the consensus among the scientific community that it is a dirtier, more harmful source of fossil fuels that should not be pursued.

As [President Obama spoke about America's leadership in the fight against Climate Change], another pipeline known as the Alberta Clipper was already transporting some 800,000 barrels per day (BPD) of tar sands crude—the same type and essentially the same volume of oil as the proposed Keystone—to U.S. refineries.

While Keystone has monopolized public outrage, the State Department has quietly allowed a similar project to move ahead. The Clipper is one link in a broader network of pipelines, operated by Canadian oil giant Enbridge, Inc., that extends from the Alberta tar sands all the way to refineries on the Gulf Coast. Environmental groups warn that this could lead to a dramatic increase in the production of tar-sands oil—one of the dirtiest and most environmentally hazardous types of fuel— with little public scrutiny

Perhaps it should come as no surprise to anyone, that three major US oil companies, Chevron, ExxonMobil and ConocoPhillips, who held significant investments in Canadian tar sands, lobbied the State Department under Secretary Clinton to approve the Alberta Clipper pipeline. All three companies then contributed millions of dollars to the Clinton Foundation after this tar sands pipeline was approved.

In 2009, the Clinton-led State Department approved a permit for the 400-mile Alberta Clipper pipeline, which is designed to pump up to 450,000 barrels of oil per day from the Canadian oil sands to Wisconsin (where recent polls show Democratic primary voters are concerned about its impact). According to federal lobbying records reviewed by the IBT, Chevron and ConocoPhillips both lobbied the State Department specifically on the issue of “oil sands” in the immediate months prior to the department's approval, as did a trade association funded by ExxonMobil.

Those three oil companies have delivered between between $2.5 million and $3 million to the Clinton Foundation. That is on top of money their executives and lobbyists delivered to Clinton’s campaign and super PAC in her 2008 presidential bid — the year before she approved the pipeline. [...]

In the year prior to the approval, Chevron’s Laurence Humphries was a top fundraising “bundler” for Clinton’s 2008 presidential bid, raising more than $100,000 for her run, according to the watchdog group Public Citizen. Following the pipeline approval, Chevron hosted an event at the Clinton Global Initiative in 2010, according to CGI’s website. The company also gave the Clinton Foundation $250,000 in 2013, reported the Wall Street Journal. In all, Chevron has given between $500,000 and $1 million to the foundation. Two Chevron lobbyists are listed as fundraising bundlers for Clinton’s 2016 campaign, according to the Huffington Post.

It is both sad and ironic that the people who have been forced to evacuate their homes as a result of these wildfires, which are literally creating its own "weather," live in the very region that is heavily dependent on income from the development of tar sands oil. Tar sands oil that would not have been developed absent the approval of the Alberta pipeline by Hillary Clinton, the beneficiary of millions of dollars of dirty oil money. That Greenpeace protestor who confronted Hillary in New York was telling the truth, and Hillary was lying. Like Bill McKibben, I have no faith that she will do anything significant to halt fossil fuel use and/or ameliorate the horrific consequences of climate change that are occurring now.

Meanwhile, Alberta burns.

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The rule of thumb for fire seasons used to be: in the east, the driest time was the mid and late spring and that's when the greatest danger of forest fires was. It's a time before seasonal greening and the eastern fuels get moister as the summer progresses.

In the west, the vegetation and fine fuels were as moist as they were going to get at snowmelt and things got drier was the year wore on. Summer and early fall was the fire season.

In the far north, it was usually to moist to sustain fire as the top of the permafrost melted. This is not the case now over much of the muskeg region as the warmer and drier and longer season helps sustain wildfire.

I think climate change can be readily seen in the far north and I believe it was predicted that the far north, expecially including the area north of 60 degrees would see the warmest change in termperatures.

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"The justness of individual land right is not justifiable to those to whom the land by right of first claim collectively belonged"

Damnit Janet's picture

Alberta. It's Canada's Texas. Oil. Tar Sands. Money before nature. Profits before people.

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"Love One Another" ~ George Harrison

Steven D's picture

fuck em for their denial of her corruption.

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"You can't just leave those who created the problem in charge of the solution."---Tyree Scott

I was only there for 10 months and MM did people a favor by throwing progressives and leftists off his site. I surely don't miss it with the professionally venal and corrupt atmosphere fostered there.

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"The justness of individual land right is not justifiable to those to whom the land by right of first claim collectively belonged"

tapu dali's picture

got the expected response from the "usual suspects".

Only MB came out to say that neither of them have a credible plan.

As for the rest, "dumbest diary ever!" was one of the milder responses.

Of course, accompanied with the usual RW/Republican talking points such as "nothing to do with climate change", "they always get forest fires up there", and "shame on you for using a human tragedy to make political points!"

TOP is going full into climate denial, because Hillary.

Good for you.

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There are known knowns; there are things we know we know. We also know there are known unknowns; that is to say we know there are some things we do not know. But there are also unknown unknowns – the ones we don't know we don't know.

Steven D's picture

No rebuttal. Just insults. Not unexpected.

Surprised they didn't even bother the HR my tip jar.

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"You can't just leave those who created the problem in charge of the solution."---Tyree Scott

Damnit Janet's picture

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"Love One Another" ~ George Harrison

Steven D's picture

I am told frequently that I hate Hillary.

I do not hate her.

I hate corruption. I hate lies. I hate the fact the Democratic party has become the GOP of the 1950s. Hillary is an iconic figure in that she symbolizes all that is wrong with the party and our country. But if it wasn't her, it would be some other person chosen to wear the mask, pretending he or she cares about us while eating at the trough with the other pigs.

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"You can't just leave those who created the problem in charge of the solution."---Tyree Scott

Damnit Janet's picture

why do you insist on making me think on things? Biggrin

All week I have typed on and on about how I hate her. Cause I do. But it's also because she does all those things and such but .. ya you're right... or at least more enlightened about it than I am and I will try to incorporate some of your keen wisdom into my daily rant about how I hate. Because lately I have been trying to focus more of my energy towards possibilities that might matter or make some difference. Things are just better overall when people are working towards what will make things better for all than focusing on how we hate. But I am on a good path, it's just you say things so much damn better than I do. Thanks my friend. You always have helped me find not just my voice but a stronger, better voice.

Smile thanksimeanit.

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"Love One Another" ~ George Harrison

Hillary is defending existing profit streams from change. Those who are rich and saw the future (such as T. Boone Pickens) were hounded back into compliance with the existing business lines of the very profitable money machine. There must be an unwritten law that says once one is a member of the Mammonite Society, one must enhance the earning capacity of Society members and defend them against the people rising up angry and demanding change.

Hillary has been bought by the Mammonites, and she must do their bidding lest they unleash the Email Kraken and claw it all back from her. Nothing would be more terrifying to her than to have to again be a part of the unwashed masses without money.

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Vowing To Oppose Everything Trump Attempts.

larryrant's picture

Extra points for that.

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Cassiodorus's picture

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"There is no good future for the US if neoliberalism, and neoliberal elites, continue to rule." -- Ian Welsh

Cassiodorus's picture

there's all the fun to be had if you run out of gasoline when you're in the convoy. From Reuters:

http://www.reuters.com/article/us-canada-wildfire-fortmcmurray-idUSKCN0X...

Earlier in the week most evacuees headed south by car on Alberta Highway 63, the only land route out of the area, in a slow-moving exodus that left many temporarily stranded on the roadside as they ran out of gasoline.

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"There is no good future for the US if neoliberalism, and neoliberal elites, continue to rule." -- Ian Welsh

Ravensword's picture

A dynasty that merely is a conduit for elite-class special interests. Whereas European and Asian classes werethe elite-class special interests, and with power. The Clintons are just mere tools, and they're more than happy to allow themselves to be exploited. That's a pretty pathetic dynasty.

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riverlover's picture

has now extended the outdoor burning ban in NY until the nudge end of May. I had to look that up, because publicity.

Martha said that an area around Ft McMurray in flames is now larger than the city extent of Toronto. Imagine the Adirondacks burning.

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Hey! my dear friends or soon-to-be's, JtC could use the donations to keep this site functioning for those of us who can still see the life preserver or flotsam in the water.

Steven D's picture

Such a tool.

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"You can't just leave those who created the problem in charge of the solution."---Tyree Scott

featheredsprite's picture

has been reached and we are at the beginning of the acceleration phase. Scary. And nobody knows how far the acceleration phase will reach.

Those of us who have been bitching about this for years are very frustrated. I sometimes feel like Cassandra, who could see where present actions were leading but no one believed her.

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Life is strong. I'm weak, but Life is strong.

WoodsDweller's picture

Fort McMurray dated 5 May

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"The greatest shortcoming of the human race is our inability to understand the exponential function." -- Albert Bartlett

Martha Pearce-Smith's picture

remember this the next time you need to fly somewhere...eh?

west jet.jpg

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First Nations News

Deja's picture

And look at all that leg room! Is that 1st class?

Those poor people. Best universal energy I can muster to them all!

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of fracking and tar sands: banks on the hook for billions: and all the "insurance" money available, I wonder if this wasn't planned and executed by certain investment interests and fossil fuel companies: will this EVER be investigated?

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MarilynW's picture

This is from Elizabeth Kolbert, Pulitzer prize-winner who writes for The New Yorker.

Fort McMurray and the Fires of Climate Change
The town exists to get at the tar sands, and the tar sands produce a particularly carbon-intensive form of fuel. (The fight over the Keystone XL pipeline is, at its heart, a fight over whether the U.S. should be encouraging —or, if you prefer, profiting from—the exploitation of the tar sands.) The more carbon that goes into the atmosphere, the warmer the world will get, and the more likely we are to see devastating fires like the one now raging.

To raise environmental concerns in the midst of human tragedy is to risk the charge of insensitivity. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau alluded to this danger at a recent news conference: “Any time we try to make a political argument out of one particular disaster, I think there’s a bit of a shortcut that can sometimes not have the desired outcome.” And certainly it would be wrong to blame the residents of Fort McMurray for the disaster that has befallen them. As Andrew Weaver, a Canadian climate scientist who is a Green Party member of British Columbia’s provincial legislature, noted, “The reality is we are all consumers of products that come from oil.”

But to fail to acknowledge the connection is to risk another kind of offense. We are all consumers of oil, not to mention coal and natural gas, which means that we’ve all contributed to the latest inferno. We need to own up to our responsibility, and then we need to do something about it. The fire next time is one that we’ve been warned about, and that we’ve all had a hand in starting.

Elizabeth Kolbert also wrote The Sixth Extinction: An Unnatural History
There has been some backlash against environmentalists for daring to make the link between this massive ecological disaster and climate change. I think this is not a good time to discuss this point while 100,000 people have become homeless. We need to be more concerned with the victims of the fire at the moment.

There are many people who blame the people who live in Fort McMurray. But really as long as we cling to a fossil fuel culture and as long as the planet keeps heating up because of this, we are all to blame.

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jamess's picture

for the post.

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ngant17's picture

I am sure that exponential increases are in the cards, whether in the form of greenhouse emissions, the clath rates in arctic and permafrost, or the associated mean global temps. Those won't be easily predicted, but I would think it will be sooner rather than later.

“...that there will be no chance of recovery for the Earth in this time frame, because the methane release will cause the oceans to begin boiling off between 115oC and 120oC (Severson, 2013) in 2080 and the Earth's atmosphere will have reached temperatures equivalent to those on Venus by 2096 (460oC to 467oC)(Wales, 2013; Moon Phases, 2013).

https://sites.google.com/site/runawayglobalwarming/the-non-disclosed-ext...

By Malcolm P.R. Light , 22nd December, 2013 

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WoodsDweller's picture

The Earth is a good deal farther from the sun than Venus, and Venus' atmosphere has a lot of sulfur compounds.
We pretty much know what the Earth looks like when all the GHGs are released, the "Jurassic Park" state, which is (IIRC) about 10C or 12C above baseline. Nowhere near boiling off the oceans. That will have to wait for the sun to age another half billion years.
This event may be worse than recent (100 million years) events since the carbon that was securely locked away as fossil fuels has been dug up and added to the atmosphere, but no worse than the very distant past.

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"The greatest shortcoming of the human race is our inability to understand the exponential function." -- Albert Bartlett

ngant17's picture

and James Hansen doesn't think a boil-off of oceans on Earth is possible, even if all fossil fuels are burned and all sources of dormant methane are released into stratosphere.

I'm seeing now that his thoughts into that 'Venus syndrome' scenario are extensions of his own logic and not directly from the referenced sources.

I would entertain, rather than the Venus Syndrome, that we will first experience multiple Fukushima-grade nuclear meltdowns in which the deadly long-lasting radioactive isotopes are evenly distributed across every corner of the globe, for hundreds of thousands of years. Basically from increased sea levels, superstorms, earthquakes and tidal waves.

Geothermal power stations are sustainable and should be used while nuclear is being phased out immediately.

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Damnit Janet's picture

pruning and weeding.

It's been really windy here and we're feeling it more because of all the new "housing" aka really expensive apartments. They cut down the trees and put up apartments or big ass condos (they all look the same to me nowadays) so now our trees are being hit harder by the wind and there's so much more dust.

Thankfully my spouse has a degree in forestry and was able to prune some of our trees because we truly could not afford the upkeep on our trees. Who can? just awaiting a disaster I guess...

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"Love One Another" ~ George Harrison

ngant17's picture

Guy McPherson in his March 2014 presentation states there is approx. a 40-year lag between GHG emissions and global temp increase.

He makes the point of 'climate change' as separate from global warming. Climate change being the increasing variances between low temps and high temps. An average increases, the variance also increases. That's a classic unstable system. My comments, not his.

Human extinction by 2040. Climate change is irreversible. How do you manage something that is inherently unstable? It's not like you're try to tame a wild horse. This is a system that's a little bit bigger than breaking in a wild horse, or a very large herd of wild horses. Maybe like taming a million herds of wild horses.

Current levels of C02 will exist for at least the next 1000 years.

The oceans are absorbing a lot of the global heat. In which case, a 50-gigaton of methane “burp” is highly possible at an time.

As for the so-called clath rate gun, part of his presentation shows a photo of someone in a Siberian taiga (boreal forest) lighting up a bog fire from the smaller methane vents in permafrost. Not recommended these days with the bigger vents! Of course, there's always random lightning strikes and static electrical charges.

Here is an after-effect of a recent large methane release in that area.
yamal-crater-with-explorers.jpg
My guess is when methane gas leaching out of areas near a boreal forest, given sufficiently strong winds to distribute the combustible gas in the right direction, it would make for a great compliment to already-uncontrollable wildfires which are increasing in frequency in Western Siberia. That's what you get when a system become unstable.

Not mentioned as it's unrelated to global warming: The US west coast is radioactive from the 300+ tons of Fukushima isotopes entering the biosphere every day since March 2011. The Canadian and Alaskan coastlines has been hit the hardest.

Sorry, that's all the good news I have. The bad news for the immediate future is that we will likely have Madam Dragonlady in charge of an arsenal of nuclear missiles and looking for an excuse, such as another false flag, to send them across the other side of the planet. Why the rush? All the +400 crumbling nuclear reactors will do approximately the same thing my dear, if you would just be a little more patient.

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