Saturday, December 17, 2011

Like a hell-broth boil and bubble - Macbeth


For 30,000 years, the permafrost has remained quiescent, holding onto carbon dioxide and methane, it's O2 starved cousin, at bay, keeping runaway global warming from happening until we came along to upset the apple cart. 

A recent estimate suggests that the perennially frozen ground known as permafrost, which underlies nearly a quarter of the Northern Hemisphere, contains twice as much carbon as the entire atmosphere.


Temperatures are warming across much of that region, primarily, scientists believe, because of the rapid human release of greenhouse gases. Permafrost is warming, too. Some has already thawed, and other signs are emerging that the frozen carbon may be becoming unstable.

but that's not all.

When organic material comes out of the deep freeze, it is consumed by bacteria. If the material is well-aerated, bacteria that breathe oxygen will perform the breakdown, and the carbon will enter the air as carbon dioxide, the primary greenhouse gas. But in areas where oxygen is limited, like the bottom of a lake or wetland, a group of bacteria called methanogens will break down the organic material, and the carbon will emerge as methane.


Scientists are worried about both gases. They believe that most of the carbon will emerge as carbon dioxide, with only a few percent of it being converted to methane. But because methane is such a potent greenhouse gas, the 41 experts in the recent survey predicted that it would trap about as much heat as the carbon dioxide would.

In indirect fashion, the slow motion push of global warming will bring tragedy to those who cannot deal with it just as the fatal attraction to power brings tragedy to Macbeth, a supremely gifted man unable to escape the clutches of unbridled ambition.

1 WITCH.  Thrice the brinded cat hath mew'd. 
       2 WITCH.  Thrice and once, the hedge-pig whin'd. 
       3 WITCH.  Harpier cries:—'tis time! 'tis time! 
       1 WITCH.  Round about the caldron go; 
    In the poison'd entrails throw.— 
    Toad, that under cold stone, 
    Days and nights has thirty-one; 
    Swelter'd venom sleeping got, 
    Boil thou first i' the charmed pot! 
       ALL.  Double, double toil and trouble; 
    Fire burn, and caldron bubble. 
       2 WITCH.  Fillet of a fenny snake, 
    In the caldron boil and bake; 
    Eye of newt, and toe of frog, 
    Wool of bat, and tongue of dog, 
    Adder's fork, and blind-worm's sting, 
    Lizard's leg, and owlet's wing,— 
    For a charm of powerful trouble, 
    Like a hell-broth boil and bubble. 
       ALL.  Double, double toil and trouble; 
    Fire burn, and caldron bubble. 

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