Avoiding the Clathrate Echo

I’ve been talking about the ethics of leaving the world in a condition where a major clathrate release in the rather distant future (order thousands of years) would be more likely. Others have suggested that the human influence is so strong that predicting that far would be futile. Perhaps we’ll be smart enough to be able to overcome this problem easily. Perhaps we’ll be stupid enough that we won’t be here, and we can let the rats and roaches fight it out…

Well, one way to avoid the release of clathrates in the distant future, saddling our distant descendants with a rerun of the global warming episode, would be to dig em all up now. Indeed, I am invited to a talk this week:

Gas hydrate research in India – a synoptic view

The world is searching for new and alternate energy resources due to the manifold increase in consumption of fossil fuels. Methane gas hydrates are perceived to be the future alternate energy resource. Hence, considerable interest has been generated in the field of research and technology development of these deposits world over. In order to meet the India’s energy demand, Indian National Gas Hydrate program (NGHP) was launched in 1996. NGHP is a consortium of national E&P companies and national labs steered and guided by the Directorate General of Hydrocarbon (DGH). A separate R&D intense programme on exploration and technology development on exploitation of gas hydrates has been launched by Ministry of Earth Sciences (MoES), Govt. of India with national labs as members.
The occurrence of gas hydrates in the Indian continental margins has been inferred from the presence of Bottom Simulating Reflectors (BSRs) as observed in the multi-channel seismic data. Total prognosticated gas resource from the gas hydrates in Indian offshore area is placed at around 1894 trillion cubic meters, which is almost a few hundred times the conventional natural gas resource established in the country.

… The drilling results confirm the presence of gas hydrates in the Krishna-Godavari (KG), Mahanadi and Andaman offshore basins. Krishna-Godavari basin shows a fracture-dominated massive gas hydrate deposit.

Great news, huh? You’ll notice that climate is not a primary concern among solid earth geophysicists.

Seriously, unless most of the clathrates are recoverable, this is the worst of both worlds. It makes the potential warming more severe while still leaving the gun loaded for a burst of warming in some future we can’t envision.

We need to find alternatives to fossil sources and/or sequestration strategies. Unfortunately, the people who look for fuels are talented and numerous and have little need of public funding and all the productivity overhead that comes with it.