Carbon levels are fast reaching a tipping point threshold that could trigger mass extinctions | GBRI

Climate change

Man’s love affair with fossil fuels refuses to abate, and as a result, the amount of carbon dioxide trapped in the Earth’s oceans is increasing rapidly. A new study undertaken by MIT geophysics Professor Daniel Rothman warns that this carbon accumulation could trigger chemical reactions in Earth’s carbon cycle similar to those which happened just before previous mass extinctions.

Rothman released new data on Monday showing that carbon levels today could be fast approaching a tipping point threshold that could trigger extreme ocean acidification similar to the kind that contributed to the Permian–Triassic mass extinction that occurred about 250 million years ago.

Over the past 540 million years, these chemical reactionss have occurred at various times, Rothman noted. But the most significant occurrences took place around the time of four out of the five mass extinction events — and today’s oceans are absorbing carbon far more quickly than they did before the Permian–Triassic extinction, in which 90 percent of life on Earth died out.

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