THE BLOG
09/07/2006 01:50 pm ET Updated May 25, 2011

The Horror Lurking in the Back of the Times

Look! There in the back! At the bottom! On page A-22 in the lower right hand corner of the New York Times! It's hard to find, but check it out.

'Cause it's the scariest freakin' thing you're going to see anywhere this month!

More unnerving than "Snakes on A Plane" and deadlier than Paris Hilton behind the wheel, it's an itsy-bitsy teensy article entitled "Discouraging Study on Global Warming." If you can, just stop for a nanosecond and ponder the significance of these two facts:

- Methane is leaking out of Siberia's permafrost five times faster than previously thought.

- Methane is 23 times more effective than carbon dioxide at trapping heat in the atmosphere.

So, our emissions cause global warming, which melts the permafrost, which releases methane. How much methane is there in the region? An article in the Guardian a little over a year ago stated "the west Siberian peat bog could hold some 70bn tons, a quarter of all of the methane stored in the ground around the world." According to that article, the release of the Siberian methane "would effectively double atmospheric levels of the gas." It would have been nice if the Times could have shared this kind of information, but since they only devoted four vertical inches to this piece, I guess there just wasn't room.

The Times piece did manage to say this: "scientists worry about a vicious cycle: Warming already under way thaws permafrost, soil that has been frozen for thousands of years; the thawed permafrost releases methane and carbon dioxide; those gasses reach the atmosphere and help trap heat on earth; the trapped heat helps thaw more permafrost, and so on."

If scientists are correct, the repercussions of this ecological disaster will undoubtedly provide some of the greatest challenges our civilization has ever faced. So, what are we going to do? Well, we could start by collectively spending as much time thinking through this as we currently spend unraveling the mysteries of ABC's "Lost." If we don't, to borrow a phrase from Neil Postman, we are merely amusing ourselves to death. We have amazing intelligence, we are capable of great collective action, but we need to act now.

And a first step would be for our media giants to start treating this story with the gravity it deserves.

Instead, The New York Times' front page is busy covering Silicon Valley boardroom scandals and Astor family squabbles.