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Carbon emissions are the highest they've been since dinosaurs died out

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DH Calgary Staff Mar 23, 2016 11:24 am

If this doesn’t make you want to go green, nothing will.

Carbon emissions are the highest they’ve been since a large release of CO2 wiped out three-quarters of the earth’s species, including dinosaurs, 66 million years ago.

A research team out of the University of Hawaii analyzed deep sea sediments to determine carbon levels millions of years ago. They found humans are releasing carbon at a rate 10 times faster than during any event since dinosaurs walked the earth.

“In studying one of the most dramatic episodes of global change since the end of the age of the dinosaurs, these scientists show that we are currently in uncharted territory in the rate carbon is being released into the atmosphere and oceans,” says Candace Major, program director in the National Science Foundation’s Division of Ocean Sciences.

In other words, scientists find it impossible to predict what will happen if we continue to release carbon as fast as we are. They call the climate system “non-linear” which means something as dramatic as our CO2 emissions will affect a number of different components.

At the time of the giant carbon release 66 million years ago – known as the Paleocene-Eocene Thermal Maximum – carbon was being released at a rate of four billion metric tonnes per year. In 2014, humans were releasing 37 billion metric tonnes of carbon annually.

“Because our carbon release rate is unprecedented over such a long time period in Earth’s history, it also means that we have effectively entered a ‘no-analogue’ state. This represents a big challenge for projecting future climate changes because we have no good comparison from the past,” says Richard Zeebe, professor at the University of Hawaii.

The study was published in Nature Geoscience.


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DH Calgary Staff
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