The scientists who revealed what caused the “greatest crisis in the history of life of Earth”, have called for immediate action to halt the further warming of the planet through human caused climate change.
Oceanographers based in Seattle said the largest mass extinction in the planet’s history – what has been termed the “great dying” – was caused by extreme global warming that saw ocean temperatures rise by as much as 10C around 252m years ago.
The scientists said this resulted in the seas losing as much as 80 per cent of their oxygen. As much as 95 per cent of marine species, and 70 per cent of life on the land, perished as a result.
Join Indpendent Minds
For exclusive articles, events and an advertising-free read for just £5.99 €6.99 $9.99 a month
Get the best of The Independent
With an Independent Minds subscription for just £5.99 €6.99 $9.99 a month
Get the best of The Independent
Without the ads – for just £5.99 €6.99 $9.99 a month
In an interview with The Independent in their offices at the University of Washington, associate professor Curtis Deutsch and co-author Justin Penn, said the reaction to their paper in Science had been a mixture of excitement and fear – excitement at the discovery and fear of the prescient dangers if people did not act.
“I think this work has identified the leading factor in what led to the largest crisis in the history of life on earth,” said Mr Penn, a doctoral student, asked how he hoped policy makers would respond to the discovery.
“The hopeful message is that despite doing do, it also identifies the solution to that problem – which is the emission of CO2 in the atmosphere. So my hope is we decide to do something about it.”
The scientists based their discovery about the Permian period on computer modelling and calculations that took months. They also made use of information provided by chemical changes in the fossils of eel-like creatures more than 250m years old to show the extent of temperature change.
It had previously been known the mass extinction was triggered after a succession of huge volcanic eruptions in what is now Siberia. While loss of life was linked to a surge in the release of greenhouse gases, it was not previously understood what made the oceans so inimical to life.
“This is the first time that we have made a mechanistic prediction about what caused the extinction that can be directly tested with the fossil record, which then allows us to make predictions about the causes of extinction in the future,” Mr Penn wrote of their discovery, pointing out that the situation they examined 250m years ago, with the presence of increased levels of greenhouse gases and warming oceans, was similar to today.
“Under a business-as-usual emissions scenarios, by 2100 warming in the upper ocean will have approached 20 percent of warming in the late Permian, and by the year 2300 it will reach between 35 and 50 per cent. This study highlights the potential for a mass extinction arising from a similar mechanism under anthropogenic climate change.”
The scientists’ discovery comes as a succession of experts raise warning sounds about the imminent threat presented by climate change, something Donald Trump has called a hoax.
Earlier this year, the UN’s climate science body, the the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), said there was barely a dozen years to make massive changes to global energy infrastructure to limit global warming to moderate levels. “There is no documented historic precedent,” the IPPC said.
A report by the US government issued last month said climate change is already having devastating effects, and could cost the economy 10 per cent of GDP by the end of the century. Mr Trump, who withdrew the US from the Paris Accord in one of his first actions as president, said he did not believe the report’s conclusions.
Mr Deutsch said the similarities between today and the period when the mass extinction took place were striking, but said society could decide how to act.
“The response to marine ecosystems to climate change can only by countered by slowing the warming,” he said.
“There is no way we can really pull the heat out the ocean or put the oxygen back in, once the genie is out of the bottle.”
- Fox News Panel On Climate Change Says Liberals Have 'Forgotten About God,' Are 'Worshipping the Environment Instead'
- A thousand Google employees send an open letter to bosses demanding they take action on climate change and ditch contracts with fossil fuel companies
- I'm a Climate Change Scientist. Here Are Your Global Warming Questions Answered | Opinion
- Climate change made Lucifer heatwave far more likely, scientists find
- Special Report: Icebound - The climate-change secrets of 19th century ship's logbooks
- Riesling wine, holding out between pesticides and climate change
- Opinion: In times of climate change, panic rules
- Climate change is creating a hungrier, pricier future, UN warns
- Biggest US coal company funded dozens of groups questioning climate change
- Pressure mounts on Scott Morrison to act on climate change as bushfire crisis continues
- Climate change puts additional pressure on vulnerable frogs
- Seven-point plan to help tackle growing threat of climate change: Report
- It's 50 years since climate change was first seen. Now time is running out
- Manipur girl urges world leaders to act on climate change at COP25 in Madrid
- Indian 8-year-old challenges world leaders to act on climate change at COP25 in Madrid
- Scott Morrison concedes climate change ‘contributed’ to bushfires
- Remembrance Lake: In Japan, climate change unravels 600 years of history held dear
- Climate Change Will Expose Millions of People in U.S. to 'Off-the-Charts' Extreme Heat
- Lord Stern: It would be absurd to underestimate climate change risks
- Climate change: Thousands form a human chain in Brussels
Scientists who revealed cause of 'great dying' extinction call for action on climate change have 943 words, post on www.independent.co.uk at December 16, 2018. This is cached page on Business News. If you want remove this page, please contact us.