Despite what is often repeated, global climate has long been suspected to change rapidly. Modern evidence suggests that at the end of the Younger Dryas there was a rapid series of temperature increases, including a 2 to 5 degree change that occurred in 1-3 years.
No-one really understands how these changes occur and what events trigger it. The huge reserves of methyl hydrates stored below sub-sea permafrost are suspected of being a possible tipping point for a rapid change in global climate.
It should be remembered, that approximately 55 million years ago the Arctic sea had an average temperature of 20ºC and there was severe extinction rates in marine life. The cause of this is generally attributed to vast releases of methane from methyl hydrates.
In certain circles, it was believed that a sea temperature rise of around 5 degrees could start a massive scale release of methane. We already know that the Arctic region has seen a 4 degree increase in the last decade.
According to the Independent, researchers have seen areas of the sea foaming with gas bubbling through "methane chimneys".
This is not good.
The problem is that whilst we talk about how we discount the environment in market economics and how we should solve this problem with financial instruments, the environment simply doesn't care. The environment gets to set the rules, not our economic or political system.
Our first duty should be to the environment, everything else is inconsequential. Instead of doing this, for the past twenty five years we've been hoping that technology and the market will come to our rescue.
We've been leaving it to chance.
Let's hope our risk assessments have been somewhat better than the wizards in the financial community, because this is one toxic asset which no government can bail us out of.