History is not often kind enough to undertake experiments for us, but new research published in Science magazine suggests that history has made an exception. New geological research has suggested that intense greenhouse effects are to blame for the Permian Extinction. This extinction event is also referred to as “The Great Dying”. This is because it is responsible for wiping out approximately 96% of marine life and 70% of terrestrial life approximately 252 million years ago.
The Permian Extinction was triggered by volcanic carbon emissions, rather than the industry that humans have used to accelerate our current climate change. The scientists conducting this research used a mixture of proxy data (paleoclimatological data gathered from natural markers like ice cores, tree rings, ocean sediments, fossilized pollen etc) and models of earths systems to conclude that rapid global warming, causing oxygen loss was responsible for over half of the magnitude of the Great Dying. They concluded that the atmospheric carbon released during this time was enough to raise ocean temperatures by roughly 10 degrees and depleted the ocean’s oxygen by approximately 80%. This essentially means that a massive inflow of carbon into the atmosphere caused for a massive loss of oxygen from the oceans, causing the species there to suffocate as they reached the limits of their metabolism.
Another factor tying The Great Dying to our current predicament (other than intense carbon emission) is that the event happened nearly instantly when speaking with regard to the geological record. Scientists posit that there is no evidence to show species dying out for the 30,000 years prior to its commencement. Our current extinction event, termed The Sixth Extinction (as it is, obviously, the sixth extinction event that has occurred in the Earth’s geological history), in addition to the rate at which we have been spewing carbon into the atmosphere has also happened geologically instantly.
The data in Science Magazine was published during the first week of the 24th Conference of the Parties to the UNFCCC in Karowice, Poland.
We can only hope that the attending world leaders will take note and see the dire point we are rushing toward.
By Nathan Booth
For an introduction to the Sixth Extinction, see this Youtube video.
Go here to purchase the important and award-winning bookby Elizabeth Kolbert.