A growing number of international officials and global security experts believe Russia sabotaged its own natural gas pipelines under the Baltic Sea, resulting in the release of an estimated 300,000 metric tons of methane gas into the atmosphere.
Researchers say that amounts to the largest-ever release of the potent greenhouse gas during a single event, with an impact similar to the annual emissions of 1 million cars. Because methane is 81 times more potent than carbon dioxide at warming the planet over a 20-year period, the rupture of the Nord Stream pipelines, which deliver gas from Russia to Western Europe, could be considered a climate disaster in its own right.
The gas could be seen rising to the surface of the ocean Monday, following what seismologists say were two explosions that didn’t appear to be caused by natural forces, such as an earthquake or underwater landslide. European security officials also said they observed Russian Navy support ships and submarines in the vicinity of the pipeline leaks Monday and Tuesday. And NATO ambassadors released an official statement Thursday, declaring that “all currently available information indicates that this is the result of deliberate, reckless, and irresponsible acts of sabotage,” which is “causing risks to shipping and substantial environmental damage.”
In that sense, the Nord Stream incident could also signal an ominous geopolitical trend that climate advocates and security experts have warned about for years—that a warmer world could also mean a less cooperative one, driven by rising conflict over territory, resources and the permeation of isolationist and nationalist ideologies. [Continue reading…]