Carbon emissions are highest in 66 million years. Dinosaur-era fossils have conclusively proven that human beings are the worst polluters.
Modern-day humans are undoubtedly responsible for actively increasing the rate of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. However, the rate in this era is higher than at any time in the past 66 million years. According to a study, fossil records stretching back to the age of the dinosaurs proved humans are pumping carbon dioxide at a rate that’s about 10 times faster than any historical geological phenomenon that happened over that period of time.
The study, published Monday in the journal Nature Geoscience, offers a clear marker to guide predictions on how climate change and global warming will affect the world in coming years. Humans have been responsible for releasing more amounts of greenhouse gases than the largest naturally-occurring phenomenon.
“Given currently available records, the present anthropogenic carbon release rate is unprecedented during the past 66 million years.”
Fossil records indicate the largest natural surge in carbon emissions happened when frozen stores of greenhouse gases beneath the seabed were abruptly released into the water and the atmosphere. The surge was powerful enough to drive the temperatures up by about 9 degrees Fahrenheit (5 degrees Celcius). The surge was responsible for making the oceans acidic and ruining aquatic flora and fauna.
The researchers analyzed sediments to chart trends in carbon and oxygen isotopes, which can confidently give a clear idea about the change Earth’s atmosphere has gone through. Specifically, researchers examined ancient sediments, laid down millions of years ago, off the coast of Millville, New Jersey. They looked at the chemical composition of sediment layers and analyzed the amount of carbon and oxygen that was present within them. From a chemical perspective, the carbon isotopes represent new carbon coming into the climate system, and the oxygen isotopes represent the climate’s response to this pulse of excess carbon, reported Mashable.
The sudden, undesirable, and downright harmful change can be considered as a clear indicator or marker to the current rate of carbon dioxide buildup in the atmosphere. Similar or even worse changes can dramatically alter the current ecology, challenging the very existence of a lot of plants and animals that depend on the delicate balance of various components that make up their surroundings.
The published findings follow the news that the level of carbon dioxide in the Earth’s atmosphere spiked by the largest amount on record in 2015. Coupled with the fact that 2015, then January and then February, were the hottest time periods in recorded history are a strong indicator that the Earth is rapidly headed into a number of problems.
Just how bad are the carbon emissions? Current carbon emissions are about 10 billion tons a year. Fifty-six million years ago, the emissions were just 1.1 billion tons a year. Even more concerning is that for 4,000 years, the emissions remained the same, allowing the atmosphere to process the same and ensure the life wasn’t largely affected, reported Business Insider.
Needless to say, the climate system simply can’t respond or adapt instantaneously to a sharp rise in greenhouse gasses that are being spewed into the atmosphere by the burning of fossil fuels. Carbon dioxide is processed very slowly using the planet’s oceans and land-based carbon sinks, like forests.
The huge amounts of carbon emissions are ending up into the oceans. Similar to what happened about 66 million years ago, oceans have started to become ever more acidic. The first victims to show the signs are scallops and oysters. These species are not able to get the required amount of calcium carbonate to make their shells.
There’s little doubt that pollution is soaring in many regions of the world, and the primary culprit is the burning of fossil fuels, reported ZME Science. However, such studies indicate the long-term consequences of the dependence on such sources of energy that produce carbon emissions.
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