‘Completely Terrifying’: Study Warns Carbon-Saturated Oceans Headed Toward Tipping Point That Could Unleash Mass Extinction Event

Jerri-Lynn here. A new MIT study shows that carbon levels could be approaching a threshold that previously triggered ocean acidification that was followed by mass extinction events.

“Once we’re over the threshold, how we got there may not matter,” says David Rothman, professor of geophysics and co-director of the Lorenz Center in MIT’s Department of Earth, Atmospheric and Planetary Sciences. “Once you get over it, you’re dealing with how the Earth works, and it goes on its own ride.”

I would have liked to include a link to the full study. Alas, it has not yet been published – but will be later this week, in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. Rothman’s research was in part funded by NASA and the National Science Foundation.

This Common Dreams account is a bit short. Until the full study appears, interested readers may find further detail in this slightly longer account released Monday by the MIT News Office: Breaching a “carbon threshold” could lead to mass extinction.

Common Dreams notes that the Rothman study represents a clear call for immediate action to reduce the amount of carbon currently being pumped into the world’s oceans. As necessary as that might be – and crucial to the survival of many forms of life on earth – in a week in which Trump managed to deliver a major environmental speech without mentioning climate change, such action looks unlikely. Or if it does come to pass, the US government won’t be playing any sort of leading role.

By Julia Conley, a staff writer for Common Dreams. Originally published at Common Dreams

The continuous accumulation of carbon dioxide in the planet’s oceans—which shows no sign of stopping due to humanity’s relentless consumption of fossil fuels—is likely to trigger a chemical reaction in Earth’s carbon cycle similar to those which happened just before mass extinction events, according to a new study.

MIT geophysics professor Daniel 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 thatcontributed to the Permian–Triassic mass extinction that occurred about 250 million years ago.

Rothman’s new research comes two years after he predicted that a mass extinction event could take place at the end of this century. Since 2017, he has been working to understand how life on Earth might be wiped out due to increased carbon in the oceans.

Rothman created a model in which he simulated adding carbon dioxide to oceans, finding that when the gas was added to an already-stable marine environment, only temporary acidification occurred.

When he continuously pumped carbon into the oceans, however, as humans have been doing at greater and greater levels since the late 18th century, the ocean model eventually reached a threshold which triggered what MIT called “a cascade of chemical feedbacks,” or “excitation,” causing extreme acidification and worsening the warming effects of the originally-added carbon.

Over the past 540 million years, these chemical feedbacks have occurred at various times, Rothman noted.

But the most significant occurances 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.

The planet may now be “at the precipice of excitation,” Rothman told MIT News.

On social media, one critic called the study’s implications about life on Earth “completely terrifying.”

The study, which was completed with support from NASA and the National Science Foundation, also notes that even though humans have only been pumping carbon into the oceans for hundreds of years rather than the thousands of years it took for volcanic eruptions and other events to bring about other extinctions, the result will likely be the same.

“Once we’re over the threshold, how we got there may not matter,” Rothman told MIT News. “Once you get over it, you’re dealing with how the Earth works, and it goes on its own ride.”

Other scientists said the study, which will be published this week in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, represents a clear call for immediate action to drastically reduce the amount of carbon that is being pumped into the world’s oceans. Climate action groups and grassroots movements have long called on governments to impose a moratorium on fossil fuel drilling, which pumps about a billion metric tons of carbon into the atmosphere every year.

“We already know that our CO2-emitting actions will have consequences for many millennia,” says Timothy Lenton, a professor of climate change and earth systems science at the University of Exeter. “This study suggests those consequences could be much more dramatic than previously expected.”

“If we push the Earth system too far,” Lenton added, “then it takes over and determines its own response—past that point there will be little we can do about it.”

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  1. PlutoniumKun

    This is one of the classic positive feedbacks – terrifying isn’t the word.

    There is one proposal that could fend it off for a while – the use of Olivine, a common volcanic mineral. Its been proposed that ground up olivine in coastal marine environments could absorb CO2, essentially changing it into a new layer of limestone (most carboniferous limestone beds were laid down when vast quantities of olivine were washed into the oceans as earlier volcanic uplifts were eroded).

    As so often of course, we’ve been far too slow to test these things. There may be little option but to play Russian roulette with various forms of geoengineering such as olivine mining to stave off complete disaster.

    1. Stadist

      But then if we consider on what scales we need to be mining and dumping olivine in to the oceans the solution should become impractical.

      Still by far the easiest method to reduce carbon footprint is reforestation and massive reductions in consumption. Both are really easy solutions in practice, we could start right now, however the critical failures are that:

      1) no one will get rich doing these so it’s not a ‘credible’ suggestion.
      2) reductions in consumption are antithesis to the capitalist system we have.

      This whole techno-hubristic approach to solving global warming (EVs, PVs, renewable energy) all satisfy the conditions of 1) some one making money and getting rich, 2) enabling consumption of new products and thus they are approved solutions in capitalistic system.

      1. PlutoniumKun

        Actually, the attraction of olivine dumping is precisely that its practical, affordable, and fast . In the short term at least there are a number of very large deposits, such as in Norway, which could easily be mined and then dumped using existing vessels off the coast of Europe to allow natural marine processed to break it down. It could also be added to soils at roughly the same cost of liming soils.

        This assumes of course that it would work, but there is no certainty yet. However, as solutions go, its probably one of the least riskiest as its a very simple chemical process. There are fewer unknowns than in tree planting (which is surprisingly complicated when it comes to modelling its real effects). Ideally of course you could do both. Most marginal lands suitable for tree planting in the tropics and the higher northern hemispheres are quite acidic due to high rainfall. So adding Olivine would almost certainly improve growth rates (adding lime to new plantations is quite common).

        The main problem though is that the main deposits aren’t enough to do more than buy us a couple of decades at best. But that’s certainly better than nothing.

        1. Carla

          The thing I don’t get about tree-planting is that none of the articles I’ve read advocating it seem to mention how long it takes for trees to GROW.

          1. BlueMoose

            Exactly. And we should have started 40 years ago. Also, trees don’t grow at all without water. We have water for fracking, we have water for Nestles, but no water for people. Where is the water going to come from to water all these trees? Just stopping the chopping going on now would be a good start. Not going to happen.

          2. jrs

            It depends. I mean various “weed trees” grow fast. They die fast as well though. So if one was throwing anything against the wall (and yes we should try many things but with some forethought, and I don’t actually know if weed trees would make any sense, an ecosystem they aren’t) then maybe. A real established forest, oh yea that takes time.

            1. Wukchumni

              If you want quick & dirty, Eucalyptus is your tree. The Pigpen of trees, they’re like your basic slob.

              There’s a stand of them on Hwy 198 that somebody planted 15 years ago as a curtain, and they’re 60-70 feet tall now.

              1. JBird4049

                Ick. Australia’s worse contribution to horticulture. Can’t it be something else besides Eucalyptus trees? They are common in the Bay Area as a replacement for all the forest especially Redwoods that were chopped down. I guess they wanted to shave off the thirty to fifty extra years it would have taken for the replanted native Redwoods and native oaks to fill in.

                Unlike the native trees it is not fire resistant and it doesn’t seem very drought tolerant. So we have wannabe Roman Candles planted all over areas, often near homes, that are supposed to burn every decade or so.

                1. drumlin woodchuckles

                  We should introduce koala bears to help control and contain the eucalyptuses.

          3. rd

            Its the growth that sequesters the carbon. When they die, it gets recycled back as CO2 if digestion is aerobic. However, many tree species live 100+ years, so the carbon would be locked in as the tree grows over the decades.

            There has been speculation that part of the cause of the Little Ice Age 200-400 years ago was due to reforestation of areas that had been cleared in the Americas by the First Nations because 90% of them died from disease. The reforestation then consumed carbon in the atmosphere but then clearing resumed in the 1800s.

            One of the things that may happen if areas become unfarmable due to climate change is they will be abandoned (like New England farms in the early 1800s) and revert to forest or prairie. Abandoned mid-West properties could be seeded with native grasses that build up a large root mass along with tree species. floodplains that are flooding are a good place to do this.

      2. Math is Your Friend

        “Still by far the easiest method to reduce carbon footprint is reforestation and massive reductions in consumption. Both are really easy solutions in practice”

        No, these are not “easy solutions”.

        They are easy to ‘hand-wave’ but insanely difficult to do quickly because of scale, scientific uncertainties, resources, fragmented jurisdictions, different national goals and priorities, and economic and practical barriers.

        We saw a post a couple of days ago that indicated a gradual conversion of 88% of the vehicles in use by < .001 of the world's population would require, every year, between 100% and 650% of the world's total production of a number of materials that are also needed for other things and other people – just for the batteries.

        That doesn't take into account the resource, economic, geographic, and political requirements for additional power generation, additional power distribution, vastly more complex problems in grid balancing and management, as well as dealing with orders of magnitude more components that could fail and affect wide areas. Remember the blackout that put 60 million people in the dark for days? Caused by a single switch failing? Then multiply the chances of failing grid components by a factor of 100, and contemplate the emergent behaviour of such a complex, multiply connected, interacting system.

        And you can’;t just cut off consumption. Energy is at the base of a myriad social enterprises vital to survival, including food production and distribution, education, production of vital goods, moving raw materials and finished products, health care, and so on.

        Chop that off abruptly and billions will die. Only they won't, because they will refuse to commit suicide by co-operating with such a course, and if necessary, they will resist with whatever level of military force is required.

        Imposing your will/control on the world has been a goal of empires, political movements, and religions from the time awareness of the scope of the world emerged… thousands of years. No one has managed it, because no everyone will submit to outsiders whose priorities do not match those of the people resisting subjugation.

        It really isn’t any different today. Even the United States, with a degree of military dominance unmatched in history is discovering limits to what it can impose, while watching that dominance erode as other countries improve their relative capabilities.

        One of the ways they are doing this is building their economies and technologies as fast as they can to catch up. That's why they are building more than a thousand coal power plants in non First World nations… and they are not going to meekly stop because someone else has decided they shouldn't. Starve and submit on demand or keep doing what you are planning to do for yourself… what do you think most nations would choose?

          1. Wukchumni

            Anybody up for a Reindeer game?

            In 1944, 29 reindeer were introduced to the island by the United States Coast Guard to provide an emergency food source. The Coast Guard abandoned the island a few years later, leaving the reindeer. Subsequently, the reindeer population rose to about 6,000 by 1963 and then died off in the next two years to 42 animals. A scientific study attributed the population crash to the limited food supply in interaction with climatic factors (the winter of 1963–64 was exceptionally severe in the region).By the 1980s, the reindeer population had completely died out. Environmentalists see this as an issue of overpopulation. For example, ecologist Garrett Hardin cited the “natural experiment” of St. Matthew Island of the reindeer population explosion and collapse as a paradigmatic example of the consequences of overpopulation in his essay An Ecolate View of the Human Predicament.


        1. jrs

          It seems at that point though that there is no choice. Because they will starve regardless when it becomes impossible to grow food, but it won’t be on demand so it’s so much better a starving, why it barely even hurts.

          1. False Solace

            Sounds like a version of the trolley problem.

            The trolley is hurtling down the track toward five helpless victims tied to the tracks. The brakes don’t work. All five people are doomed.

            You have the option of activating a switch. This will cause the trolley to swerve onto a different set of tracks, where one helpless victim awaits. If you activate the switch, five people will be spared but your actions will kill one person who currently is not in any danger.

            If we do nothing, billions die. If we force conservation onto the populace, they rebel or go to war, or at any rate some die due to the reduced energy consumption. But probably fewer die than if we do nothing. Doing nothing, by the way, will result in the destruction of our civilization.

            Which maybe ought to be destroyed, in its current incarnation….

        2. Steve

          You are spot on! We seem to be past the point that no matter how dire the reality becomes there are more than enough people in the world who will fight any solution. Their numbers are large enough to make even the most concerted effort fail. Just in the US we have millions of people who believe in and want the “end of times” scenario to happen. The 1% have a plan and we are not part of it.

          1. Anarcissie

            In any case, the publication of apocalyptic scenarios, however couched in conditionals and subjunctives, paralyzes the will and imagination and ensures that nothing will be done, at least not by humans. The bacteria, though, may have something up their little sleeves.

      3. John

        No, by far the easiest and most effective method to reduce our carbon footprint is for us to stop eating red meat.

        Besides that, you can check Project Drawdown’s list. Amazingly, it appears to be the only such objective list ever compiled. I sure hope policymakers actually act on it (not holding my breath). But not eating red meat is definitely the easiest one.

          1. John

            There was a Jacobin article that did a pretty good job of addressing this silly claim. The carbon footprint of the average African is a tiny fraction of the average American’s despite the Africans having a much higher birth rate. A vegetarian family with two kids would have a much lower carbon footprint than the average American couple that chose not to have kids. The problem isn’t our (already low) birth rate, it’s the way we’ve designed our economy, especially regarding transportation, energy, and housing (and, most of all, our love of red meat).

            It’s a moot point, because getting people to eat less red meat would be a lot easier than enacting a one-child policy. And even if we were to bring our birth rate down from an average of two kids to one, we’d probably just spend the extra money on consumer goods and vacations (flights), leaving us with about the same carbon footprint. Most families would still have two cars, the same size house, etc. Even if it were possible, it would be a terribly ineffective solution.

            1. drumlin woodchuckles

              If our love of red meat were strictly and only targeted to pasture-and-range red meat, and/or fast-moving tight-packed herd-of-animals red meat rotating around within a no-till bio-correct operation like Gabe Brown has, then that strictly limited and defined red meat would drive the process of sky-carbon suckdown and soil-carbon storage.

              Gabe Brown tells us he gets $20.00/lb for his carbon-capture shinola-grade
              meat. That is the price of global-recooling carbon-capture meat. How many “save-the-earth” type people are ready to pay that price? $20.00/lb for carbon-capture meat? $20.00/lb or no meat for you! How many people are ready to accept that?

              Here is a whole lotta buncha Gabe Brown videos where he explains what he does and how it works.

            2. Ian Perkins

              I think the Jacobin article did a pretty silly job of addressing this serious claim.
              Firstly, from the paper in question: “having one fewer child (an average for developed countries of 58.6 tonnes CO2-equivalent (tCO2e) emission reductions per year)”. This makes it clear to me that they’re not talking about the average African. They’re talking about people in developed countries, whose children will generally go on to live high-carbon lifestyles while their parents continue to do so.
              Secondly, the paper isn’t trying to blame people as the Jacobin article implies. It’s suggesting solutions. Even if we stop the fossil fuel industry tomorrow, we’ll still be left with global warming, which will continue to worsen for a while due to a lag between CO2 emissions and temperature rises.
              Third, you might be surprised at how many scientists share, or are coming to share, the view that it’s “the fossil fuel industry’s hold on the way we organize our society, and the capitalist incentives to put profits over the planet” causing global warming and a host of other problems. Rightly or wrongly, they generally keep those views out of their published academic papers.

  2. coo coo

    So sad. Will Americans wake up? It’s doubtful. They’re actually headed in the opposite direction. Just look at the ever increasing numbers of gigantic pickup trucks and SUVs clogging up the roads. Each one of those behemoths takes up the space of two small cars. It’s absolutely nuts.

    1. polecat

      It’s not just the U.S. .. it’s a global. Last I heard, the Europeans weren’t buying, for instance, fewer jet aircraft, or cars .. of whatever propulsion. People around the Planet what STUFF AND BREAD TO BUY IT !! …. and then some – Ghost cities in China, anyone ??
      There’s plenty of blame to go around.

      A question for you, Mr. Rothman .. What are you .. AND by extention, your scientist brethren, doing personally .. to reduce Your carbon footprint ??

      1. Matt

        Personal sacrifice will not solve climate change. You will not convince individual humans to make sacrifices that their neighbors are not willing to make.

        1. polecat

          My point is with the larger Science community, in talking histronics over CO2 and climate changes, yet not walking the walk ! .. you know – as in lead, by example !! This, I believe, is one big reason why many people ignore, or are dismissive of pronouncements from academics. Who should walk the talk, if not they ?

          1. pretzelattack

            so where’s the evidence that scientists don’t walk the walk, and why do you believe that has a significant effect if it turns out they are just like normal humans? some of them have risked their jobs on promoting the actual science (not histrionics), that should count.

        2. drumlin woodchuckles

          Personal sacrifice on visible display might motivate some onlooker neighbors to do the same.
          That would increase the number of personal sacrificers with personal credibility to make the case that since all these personal sacrifices still aren’t enough, society-wide conservation engineering will be necessary.

          And why necessarily “sacrifice”? Why not maintain and retain some basic comfort with much more intelligent use of energy? And model THAT approach for people to see?

          Here is an example of what I mean: say you like hard boiled eggs. But that takes energy!
          The personal-sacrifice answer is to eat the eggs raw. The applied intelligence answer is to hard cook the eggs with less energy than classical boiling in a pot full of water. How? Well, for example . . .put a quarter-inch of water in the bottom of the pot and soak the eggs in the steam for hard-steamed eggs. Or even better, one could hard-steam the eggs for several minutes and then put the pot into a passive heat-retention heat-trap cooker to hard-cook the rest of the way on their own trapped heat. That gets the eggs just as hard as classical boiling for only a tiny fraction of the energy.

          Applying that kind of thinking all over the suburban neo-peasant survivalist doomstead would maintain a lifestyle okay enough to not scare the neighbors on a fraction of the “normal” energy input.

    2. Joe Well

      But even the small cars are more than the planet can support. Even the electric cars may be more than the planet can handle now that it’s this far gone. At least the SUV and pickup driving climate change denialists are logically consistent.

      We need buses, bicycles, and dense apartment blocks. But the Tesla and Prius drivers won’t have it. They’re the most dangerous people in America.

      1. Dwight

        A climate group sent me a fundraising email. They were selling raffle tickets to win a donated Tesla. It looked like a cool car, but I thought they might as well be raffling a gas-guzzling SUV.

      2. Bob_Dole

        Holy Hyperbole. The most dangerous people in America are the Republican party and Trump, who are actively promoting fossil fuels and sending the world toward oblivion.

        1. Joe Well

          What you aren’t seeing is that the Tesla/Prius brigade are on the side of fossil fuels. They are succeeding at subverting the response to fossil fuels, which should be radical conservation, i.e., buses and bicycles.

        2. jrs

          Yes if the term most is to retain any meaning at all. Doesn’t mean others can’t also be wrong.

  3. Louis Fyne

    (arguably generally) in nature, going from a steady-state equilibrium to a new equilibrium is violent and exponentially quick. Climate probably will be no exception.

    Good luck trying to convey the implications of that idea to the general media or public.

    the planet needs less consumption + more wind + more solar + more fission + zero population growth (developed word is practically zero but for immigration and higher fertility of immigrants v. natives ….other regions not so—then toss in increased consumption as those countries develop to middle-income+)

    less consumption = non-starter, more fission = non-starter, less developing world population growth = politically incorrect to mention in polite conversation, and charged given that whole “white man’s burden” turned out.

    Either human civilization is going to crash into a “Fermi’s Paradox”-type wall at 88 mph or boffins will rescue everyone with Star Trek-level material/chemistry/engineering breakthroughs.

    Good luck to us all….I wish I could know if human civilization as we know it will reach 3000 AD.

    1. Stadist

      Thank you for mentioning Fermi Paradox, looking at our current trajectory the most obvious explanation is that civilizations just do not survive interactions with their planets. Humans engage in silly amounts of self glorification and satisfaction considering that we are in direct trajectory to massive population reductions within next 500 years with current nearly runaway climate change and how it will affect global and local food production. When the big significant feedback loops starts churning and widespread ecologic and climate changes start manifesting then predictable and consistent agriculture becomes a myth from history and the civilization will end. Even though currently at least in western countries less than 5% of people are directly working in agriculture and food production the society can’t be qualified post-agricultural in any sense even if the economy is, we are still dependent on agricultural production for our basic sustenance and this fact is not going change in foreseeable future.

      Humans are no different from animal populations that outgrow their sustainable population sizes and then collapse.

        1. DW Bartoo

          Your article, Haydar Khan, was (and continues to be) much appreciated when first I read it in January. Thank you for the link and reminder.

          Some might suggest that what you term “MESS” is merely “human nature”. I have long suggested what you describe as being far more akin to cultural convention, as it makes precisely just as much sense, in other cultures, to hold that all actions ought be premised upon their effects and consequences seven generations hence.

          What is held to be universal “human nature” may be simply convenient excuse used to justify violence, extraction, plunder, pillage, and notions such as “greed is good”.

          While the U$ has played the lead role in establishing (and enforcing) this short-term mindset, it is very unlikely that it will wittingly play any significant part in a paradigm shift away from instant gratification. Such push-back (blow-back?) as there might be, will have to come from societies with a longer time sense and a different social measure of “success”.

          I am not especially given to wild or even mild hopes that, in the near term, the U$ will behave realistically sane enough that alternative approaches may take root unless, of course, the U$ were to find itself sufficiently preoccupied with internal catastrophe or calamity such that its ability to “meddle” with or attack, either with economic or “conventional” military weapons, other nations were severely limited.

          I realize that singles out the U$, perhaps unfairly, as empire had a long and sordid history well before Manifest Destiny (and,later, Humanitarian Intervention) excused a litany of abuses.

          Nonetheless, though the “American Century” has not attained 100 years of Full
          Spectrum Dominance, it has held pernicious sway for 75.

          I doubt the “Mess” may be cleaned up, or even much acknowledged, until U$ hegemony is defanged, declawed, and deflated.

      1. Isotope_C14

        “Humans are no different from animal populations that outgrow their sustainable population sizes and then collapse.”

        I don’t think that is entirely true.

        If you grow up e.coli in a 5L beaker, it will not be able to kill itself off with nuclear weapons or run the risk of pumping so many greenhouse gases into the environment to turn the planet into Venus 2.0.

        I’d argue that Humans are different from animal populations in that we are just smart enough to evade the natural carrying capacity of our species just long enough to cause not only our species to collapse, but all the other ones that share our predilection for a temperate climate.

        None of us will be around to see if the Archaea and Bacteria are able to reverse a very hot planet…

        1. Synoia

          The e.coli dies in it’s own excrement.

          As will we humans. How the excrement is produced is unimportant.

            1. Lambert Strether

              IIRC, the current human population is the result of small bands — small, as in hundreds — escaping an evolutionary chokepoint in Africa. So, humans may well be that lucky. They were once before.

              1. DW Bartoo

                Would such survival not depend upon which or what specific “chokepoint” the species were to impose on itself?

                A nuclear Armageddon might supply a “winter” of discontent sufficiently lengthy, planet-wide, that growing (or foraging) food would not be possible, aside from other dangers presented by the “fallout”, not just that which remained aloft, blocking the Sun, but that which would continue gently wafting down … contaminating water sources.

                The conditions, prevailing, on the planet, would have aspects of “hostility” rather different from being a prey species and playing with fire, no matter the “retooling” which many humans today might imagine as possible.

                As well, were temperatures comparable with those from the daze of the dinosaurs, which would make the recent heat waves in certain places look like cool
                respite, to become common globally, how quickly would evolution select for the traits which could survive or thrive under such conditions?

                One imagines that the technological marvels of the wealthiest elite “secure” enclaves would need servicing, even if “self–replicating”.

                I suppose it possible that some are prepared for cataclysmic change, yet I doubt they’ve thought out all contingencies.

                The only ones deliberately capable of such preparation and provision, have to be among those driving the whole extinction racket.
                So they would need their arsenal of technology to be “state of the art”. But how much technical expertise, beyond pushing the buttons, and programming “the system” have those who could afford to stock their retreats with such things?

                Now, you may postulate pockets of fortuitous good luck, where local conditions permit human existence, along with all the other species that even such happenstance existence requires.

                Certainly, that cannot be discounted or ignored, as human beings exist because of many interactions, whether acknowledged, considered, or even comprehended, let alone appreciated.

                Yet, counting ON any such thing does require either hope or faith.

                As a final gamble, it might be in the range of going over Niagra Falls in a barrel, which still has far higher odds of success.

                Not to mention a mastery of primitive survival skills far less displayed by Wall Street predators than practiced by all of our ancestors fifty thousand years ago.

                Presumably, the general consensus is that even such freak survival would be a “good” thing.

                Were some lucky “astute” to actually survive, it would probably be very helpful to their continued existence were Friday to show up, any day of the week.

                Better yet, were the entire “tribe” to be what we term “primitive”.

                Being “modern, sophisticated, or evolved”, in comparison, puts us at a severe disadvantage, especially those of us who consider ourselves “tough”.

                If we really had a clue, then what would we do?

                Got any ideas?

                Why are those ideas not being widely discussed?

                It is a good thing that we are all so intelligent.

                If we were not, then things would be really grim.

                But yes, lucky we are.

                We would not likely
                even be here, had that
                asteroid not smacked into Mexico 66 million years ago.

                Had the planet not ended up just the right distance from its star.

                Had the planet’s satellite not stirred the primeval stew in the early oceans and seas.

                Yes, we have been very lucky.

                The Fortunate Ape.

                Will the luck hold?

                What else do we have to “work” with?

              2. Isotope_C14

                While it is possible, if the nuke plants meltdown, it won’t be an issue. Humans are not very well adapted to radioactivity. The issue here is the the time it takes to get to reproductive age is long in humans compared to say mice. Now if some mammals survive this disaster, I’d expect it to be a high R^2 mammal, like rodents. Desert mice particularly may make it.

              3. drumlin woodchuckles

                Among the lower 99 per cent, those humans most pre-adapted for luckiness in tomorrow’s hypoxic atmosphere future are going to be the Tibetans, Andeans, and Ethiopian Highlanders. I have read that each group of people has its own population-wide suite of low-oxygen atmosphere-survival adaptations.

                What if the intellectual elite leadership classes of those three peoples were to set up a three-way dating service, to breed up a bunch of descendants all bearing all three sets of adaptations . . . . a hybrid groups of EthioTibetAndeans? Such people might be VERY favored to survive the coming hypoxia chokepoint.

                1. drumlin woodchuckles

                  Or a less unwieldy name for such people might be Tibetandeothiopians. The Leadership Elites of those three population groups should get to work right away on a three-way dating service if they want to breed up a low-Oxygen-adapted race possibly fit to Inherit the Earth.

      2. Hari Seldon

        “We now know that animal populations have behavior patterns of which the individual animal is unaware, but which he nevertheless helps to execute. Thus the rabbit is unaware of cycles, but he is the vehicle for cycles.
        We cannot discern these behavior patterns in the individual, or in short periods of time. The most intense scrutiny of an individual rabbit tells us nothing of cycles. The cycle concept springs from a scrutiny of the mass through decades.
        This raises the disquieting question: do human populations have behavior patterns of which we are unaware, but which we help to execute? Are mobs and wars, unrests and revolutions, cut of such cloth?
        Many historians and philosophers persist in interpreting our mass behaviors as the collective result of individual acts of volition. The whole subject matter of diplomacy assumes that the political group has the properties of an honorable person. On the other hand, some economists see the whole of society as a plaything for processes, our knowledge of which is largely ex post facto.
        It is reasonable to suppose that our social processes have a higher volitional content than those of the rabbit, but it is also reasonable to suppose that we, as a species, contain population behavior patterns of which nothing is known because circumstance has never evoked them. We may have others the meaning of which we have misread.”
        – Aldo Leopold, “Wildlife in American Culture”

      3. Math is Your Friend

        “Thank you for mentioning Fermi Paradox, looking at our current trajectory the most obvious explanation is that civilizations just do not survive interactions with their planets.”

        The other obvious possibility is that they agree with Stephen Hawking – that it is a bad idea to attract attention, and either curtail broadcasts or don’t start them on a large scale in the first place… or choose frequencies naturally contained within their atmosphere. To see how this works in detail, see any good description of radio propagation and the ionospheric D, E, and F layers.

        For an interesting fictional look at this, check out The Forge of God, by Greg Bear.

        1. Jeotsu

          Another book on this topic is “The Killing Star” by Zebrowski and Pelligrino.

          The middle of the book involves (as far as I know actual) emails between Carl Sagan and other early SETI pioneers discussing the civilizational-survival-necessity of listening over broadcasting, and what happens if you have one “bad neighbour” in your interstellar vicinity.

        2. Lambert Strether

          > The Forge of God, by Greg Bear.

          Anvil of Stars is also, IMNSHO, the best, not just for the shipboard dynamics but because Bear invents plausible non-humanoid alien race, which isn’t easy).

          I would have sworn this was a trilogy, but apparently not.

  4. oaf

    …Olivine…very nice!…How much energy is required to source; process and transport this mineral? It is generally found as a relatively small component in massive rock, rather than as concentrated deposits. So, there would be gargantuan energy expenditures, never mind the direct environmental impacts were this to be implemented. Olivine is often found in meteorites; maybe a convenient big one will come smashing in, and solve the problem for us.
    If we are to get enough olivine to *do the trick*, better get hustling!…and no fossil fuel allowed to be used…
    …perhaps: lots of baking soda?


    1. PlutoniumKun

      There is plenty of research addressing the questions you raise – the answer to your first is ‘very little’, as natural weathering processes will do most of the work. Your second point is simply wrong – there are major concentrated orebodies of olivine around the world, often very accessible, in places like Norway, Alaska and New Guinea, many of which are currently mined on a small scale, especially in Norway.

      1. divadab

        Yes. Olivine is the most common mineral in the earth’s crust. There are deposits all over the world – wherever volcanic activity and mountain building have occurred – all around the Pacific, for example. There is olivine in BC, Washington, Oregon, California and Mexico. I know a fellow who mines it in Washington and makes a good living – his sales are mostly for use in construction, monuments and art but olivine is widely mined for use in the steel industry.

        However, I am not sure humanity will be capable of geo-engineering on the scale required to de-acidify the oceans. IMHO the planet will be de-carbonised by destruction of our civilization and massive population reductions. Humans will survive in much smaller numbers in the the degraded world we have caused – of course! We are the most adaptable species ever, even if we have to live underground and farm in subsurface greenhouses due to 300 mph winds, humans will survive. But what a shithole we are turning our lovely living planet into because of our vanity, ignorance, pride, and greed.

        1. rd

          The primary work will be to crush it so that there is a lot of surface area exposed. Otherwise, the kinetics will be very slow as CO2 will need to diffuse into the rock which is a slow process. The chemical reaction with carbon is already slow.

          Olivine is common in mafic rocks like basalt (e.g. Hudson River Pallisades, Columbia River Plateau, Mid-Atlantic Ridge) so it is accessible in many areas. Much of the ocean floor in the Ring of Fire and mid-Atlantic is basalt containing olivine, but the surface is smooth and doesn’t allow for a lot of reaction to occur even though the basalt deposits are thick.

          The large deposits of dolomites deposited during the Ordovician (e.g. Lockport Dolomite caprock forming Niagara Falls) were probably created by calcium carbonite from sea critters mixing with magnesium-rich groundwater from olivine in ocean floor bedrock where the magnesium would slowly replace the calcium in the calcium carbonate (limestone). If the olivine were exposed directly to he ocean water, that is when it would interact directly with the CO2 in the ocean water.

        2. oaf

          …Olivine is *thought to be* the most common mineral in the Earth’s MANTLE….Yes; there are numerous places where it is found;my understanding is that most of them contain Olivine as incidental components of rock. For instance: It may be found in Basalt, but is not a required component; and not always found in useful amounts. What is the percentage? There are a number of significant and accessible Olivine/Forsterite deposits with high concentrations. Most of the production is used industrially. According to Wikipedia.
          Those accessible deposits may be inadequate for the task; especially if the current production should continue to be required for its current uses.
          My point was: Most readily accessible rock listed as (possibly) containing Olivine does not have high enough percentages to meet the demand without a massive increase in mining and energy(fossil fuel???) expenditure.Then it has to be transported; etc…
          Mindat shows two potentially mineable localities in Antarctica.They are presumably off limits, at least for now….

  5. Itamar

    If you read the article in full it seems like the short term effects of climate change are what we should be worrying about:

    “It’s difficult to know how things will end up given what’s happening today,” Rothman says. “But we’re probably close to a critical threshold. Any spike would reach its maximum after about 10,000 years. Hopefully that would give us time to find a solution.”

    We should all be fighting climate change, but from that quote at least is sounds like we have a lot of immediate impacts to worry about before we get to this one.

    1. Ian Perkins

      Not the way I read the article.
      “When he introduced carbon dioxide [into his differential equations] at greater rates, he found that once the levels crossed a critical threshold, the carbon cycle reacted with a cascade of positive feedbacks that magnified the original trigger, causing the entire system to spike, in the form of severe ocean acidification. The system did, eventually, return to equilibrium, after tens of thousands of years in today’s oceans — an indication that, despite a violent reaction, the carbon cycle will resume its steady state.”
      In other words, mass extinction pretty quick, recovery pretty slow.

    2. Lee

      “If you read the article in full it seems like the short term effects of climate change are what we should be worrying about”

      Drought, flood, famine, and increased military conflicts resulting therefrom will so drastically reduce our number, causing a collapse of technologically advanced civilization, that the immiserated few of our kind that remain will greet mass extinction with a sigh of relief.

        1. MichaelSF

          Shouldn’t there be four elephants and the Great A’tuin supporting them under that image of Discworld?

    3. rd

      This would not be climate change. This would be a chemical reaction due to excess CO2 dissolving into water which is different from the greenhouse effect of CO2 and methane in the atmosphere.

      Another thing that is in delicate balance is methane hydrates in the ocean floor. At low loss rates, the natural systems can deal with that. an accelerated loss rate could lead to numerous problems, including rapidly accelerated climate change in a positive (not a good thing) feedback loop. https://worldoceanreview.com/en/wor-1/ocean-chemistry/climate-change-and-methane-hydrates/

  6. The Rev Kev

    I use to read as much science fiction as I could as a teenager and you could see common ideas across a lot of stories. One was that only those civilizations that resisted the idea of waging atomic wars would get to go to space. I remember a line from one book where it described one race that had built up civilization three times but each time atomic wars had blasted them back to the swamps before they changed their ways and finally got into space.
    In very few stories was the idea that a civilization also had to resist the urge to zero out their resources and turn it into pollution that would wreck the planet as a sort of test for that civilization. Philip Wylie’s 1972 book “The End of the Dream” would be one that did. Articles like this show we are failing this test badly and mostly for the benefit of a tiny portion of the human population. The worse is that most of this colossal damage has taken place within one human lifespan’s time.

  7. divadab

    Sorry for the double post.

    My consolation is that the living planet has survived much worse than we are throwing at it and will survive our depredations. There is still time in the life of the planet to evolve a better apex species than we killer apes.

    1. samhill

      If I got it right, the first vertebrate was 500 million years ago, sun has another 2 billion years before it goes red dwarf, so figure the planet could do it all over again from the first little fish critter to the third chimpanzee landing on the moon 3 or 4 more times. Sheesh, everyone is sooo pessimistic!

    2. rd

      Yep. but occasionally it burps and something like the Permian extinction causes 90% extinction rates.

  8. TroyIA

    I recommend “Under a Green Sky: Global Warming, the Mass Extinctions of the Past, and What they Can Tell Us About Our Future” by Peter Ward for further reading.

  9. Ignacio

    Hello Jerry Lynn, thanks a lot for bringing this important study that opens a new risk window that in my opinion resembles very much that of the hole in the ozone layer in the sense that It migth effectively trigger fast and deleterious effects. I will read the PNAS article when it comes to light and my guess is that this work will or at least ougth to result in a political debate about the mess we are creating with fossil fuel massive usage. This goes well beyond a paulatine climate change but surfaces potential catastrophic and instant (as opposed to our vision of paulatine) effects that cannot be ignored. This work will be challenged and if it resists it migth be “pivotal” on how we confront the problem of carbon emissions.

    How the dynamic equilibriums of carbon and carbon ions dissolved in water may result in a sudden and dramatic change in ocean pH with displacement on carbon solidification/solubilization rates in mollusc shells as well as calcareous soils in contact with the oceans and its potential for massive extintions is indeed terrifiyng to me.

  10. James

    Capital Gains = deferred Capital Punishment

    Maybe glorious entropy was the whole point though.

  11. Skip in DC

    I’m wondering if acidification of the oceans might inhibit the tiny organisms that munch up methane that escapes from a frozen state deep in the ocean before the methane reaches the surface. If so, as underwater methane permafrost melts, I’d guess we could look forward to another round of cascading, overlapping impacts that exponentially speed disaster.

    If in DC, don’t miss the renovated David H. Koch Fossil Hall at the Natural History Museum. The joke’s on Koch, he had no input on content. The exhibit, including short films on mass extinctions and carbon buildup interspersed among the impressive dinosaurs, builds the most eloquent statement on man’s impact on climate that one could want. Also catch the new Phillips Gallery multimedia exhibit, The Warmth of Other Suns, on the travails of migrants and refugees, there until Sept. 22. Connect the dots between the exhibits and ponder the speed with which climate will rev up migration chaos.

    After soaking in the offerings of these exhibits, the challenge is to keep from hiding under the bed.

    1. samhill

      The Koch’s sponsoring science museums and PBS science series is like BP changing it old logo to the green and yellow sun/flower thing.

      This occurred to me just to add to the bummer since I was so upbeat in my other post, mass extinction (rotting bio-mass) is going to add an awful lot of carbon to the atmosphere, another feedback reinforcement.

  12. Susan the other`

    The stuff about olivine is a tiny bit comforting. The rest just makes me sick. How we let ourselves get in this mess in the first place is the tragedy.

  13. Jeremy Grimm

    I think I’ll wait for the PNAS article before I set my hair on fire. The threshold event — was identified using a model to simulate adding carbon dioxide to oceans. This threshold event “triggered what MIT called ‘a cascade of chemical feedbacks,’ or ‘excitation,’ causing extreme acidification and worsening the warming effects of the originally added carbon.” … “This study suggests those consequences could be much more dramatic than previously expected.”

    Before this MIT professor sounded the alarm we were already overfishing the oceans, creating dead zones from agricultural runoff, and driving up the acidity of the oceans. We are already observing widespread extinctions of animals and plants in our oceans and on land. Our weather is growing more extreme and chaotic. The poles are melting threatening accelerated heating of the oceans and land along with even more chaotic weather. So before the study — consequences of the increased CO2 levels in the atmosphere were dramatic. Exactly what “worsening [of] the warming effects of the originally added carbon” does this model predict? Until I find out more, I remain convinced the melting of the Arctic pole for an ice-free summer Arctic is the threshold event to worry about, and worry about sooner than the end of this century.

    There are far too many positive — and negative feedbacks in the climate system that we do not understand and which are not yet captured in the best climate models. I regard the study of recent Paleoclimate as far better predictor for what to expect than any of the best models we now have. Past climate transitions are marked by extremely rapid and violent changes in weather, in sea level, and thereby the survival of plant and animal life short and long term. Without seeing the PNAS article I am concerned that vague restatements of university press releases which vaguely restate a yet to be published scientific article will accomplish more harm than good.

    1. Ian Perkins

      I’m waiting for the PNAS article too. The MIT press release seemed pretty muddled or obscure in places – “He found that no matter the rate at which he added carbon dioxide to an already stable system, the carbon cycle in the upper ocean remained stable. … When he introduced carbon dioxide at greater rates, he found that once the levels crossed a critical threshold, the carbon cycle reacted with a cascade of positive feedbacks that magnified the original trigger, causing the entire system to spike, in the form of severe ocean acidification.”
      Maybe it all hinges on what constitutes an ‘already stable system’, or maybe MIT’s press office is more concerned with making a splash than summarising the paper accurately. I’m still grateful to Naked Capitalism and Common Dreams for this article though, as it means I’ll be on the lookout for the paper when it’s published.

        1. DDC

          I got the article through my university’s library subscription. I wish the author had expressed himself more clearly (not being a climatologist, I don’t know whether experts would agree), but the gist as I see it is this.

          The threshold at which the climate begins following a path that will eventually produce conditions conducive to mass extinctions is not invariable. It decreases, for a given amount of CO2 injected into the atmosphere, once the period of injection is less than 10,000 years, in inverse proportion to the period of injection (where more CO2 per annum yields a shorter period).

          The massive amount of CO2 injected recently by human activity implies a significant lowering of the threshold at which feedback effects take over. Once they do — and no matter what the threshold has turned out to be — how the threshold was reached doesn’t matter; from then on the state of the biosphere is largely independent of human activity (or of volcanic, as in the past). Changing the inputs won’t make any difference. The only remedy would be to attenuate the feedback loops.

      1. rd

        The press release writer probably prefaced the internal memos about the press release “I am not a scientist, but…..”

    2. Anon

      Exactly what “worsening [of] the warming effects of the originally added carbon” does this model predict?

      Well, at the beginning of the “global warming” debate there were folks, like the current President, saying the climate can’t be warming because it’s snowing in Baltimore. Then others said the climate models were wrong because global air temperatures didn’t rise in concert with global CO2 additions; followed by the oceanographers pointing out that ocean waters are a massive heat sink for a warming globe and that sea temps are indeed rising (and account for those CO2 additions).

      This latest report seems to suggest that, not only is warmer ocean temps affecting marine ecosystems, but that greater atmospheric CO2 is being absorbed into the sea and being transformed into carbonic acid, potentially changing the pH level to a point where there is a “point of no return”. Temperature and pH are critical elements in the rate of chemical reactions.

      So, not only is the planet getting warmer, its oceans are becoming more acid, and likely unlivable for current species (fish that we eat); and that ignores the melting Antarctic glaciers and subsequent sea level rise. Prediction? Splat!

    3. polecat

      Is it just me, or is no one considering the vast differences in how the continents formed, as the various plates and terranes either subsumed, or were themselves accreted and absorbed over the eons .. as part of the science of climate change, and how that has any bearing on our current climate models. In other words, are climate researchers modeling in a kind of ‘static’ state, without considering the ‘plasticty’ and extreme variability of geophysics in time and space, extrapolating from ‘snap-shots’ as it were.
      I would consider this question as an add-on to the above comment of mr. Grimm’s.

      1. Grebo

        Search for “plate tectonics and climate” to find plenty of work in this area. It has a big effect… on a timescale of tens of millions of years.

  14. Math is Your Friend

    “How we let ourselves get in this mess in the first place is the tragedy.”

    Not really a tragedy… ‘tragedy’ would imply an avoidable mistake.

    Thinking of this as an easily avoidable mistake would be an example of the ‘blindness of hind-sight’.

    The fact that we now put certain interpretations on data from 50 years ago or 100 years ago does not indicate that there was a reason for that interpretation when the data was collected.

    Fifty years ago, the expressed climate concern was related to the fact that we were 11,700 years into an inter-glacial period, when such respites from pervasive glaciation normally last about 10,000 years… followed by 100,000 years of ice and snow.

    It was known that temperatures could become unstable near the end of an inter-glacial period, and the rise in temperatures a possible sign of imminent reversion to glacial norms, possible effected by effects on density of ocean waters caused by melting of Greenland glaciers, cutting off the warm surface ocean currents, and thereby disrupting transfer of energy to polar latitudes, thus triggering rapid glaciation which would then reduce heat absorption due to changes in the earth’s overall albedo, leading to a runaway cooling feedback cycle.

    Current opinions on climate are largely predicated on large scale computer models running in extremely capable computers. Twenty five years ago the larger computers struggled to predict weather more than a few to several days in advance, let alone modelling centuries of climate.

    Fifty years ago, the most powerful commonly available mainframes had the same instruction rate as a 286, and up to 4MB of RAM. Chances you are carrying a cell phone with 10,000 times the computing power of that mainframe.

    There was no way to create or run the sort of models that are now in use. Blaming the scientists of 50 years ago for not anticipating global warming would be like blaming the Roman army for failing to develop tactics for mitigating nuclear attacks.

    Given that economies, infrastructure, and technologies evolve over decades and centuries, there hasn’t really been time to respond to this in the normal course of things. It can easily take 50, or 100, or 200 years to fully develop and deploy a technology, even when the advantages are enormous and accrue directly to the users, and when they can be generated in a mass parallel and distributed fashion.

    Look at how long it took to develop sail powered commercial shipping, as an example of a majorly beneficial change bringing immediate advantages to offset costs.

    The first successful steamships were in service in the early 1800s, but I have dived on the wreck of the City of Sheboygan, a sail powered freighter that went down with her cargo, 500 tons of feldspar, in 1925… over a hundred years later, and still in service!


    Technology, infrastructure, production, economies – these have the equivalent of inertia and cannot be stopped or turned on a dime.

    Try to do so in a decade or two, and I expect you will find it impossible in the real world… and the attempt might result in the equivalent of an uncontrolled skid, with unknown results.

    1. Grebo

      A tragedy, in the Shakespearean sense at least, is an inevitable disaster that everyone except the protagonist—who brings it on—can see coming a mile off.

      Arrhenius predicted climate change due to fossil fuel burning in 1896.

      Edward Teller warned the oil industry about it in 1959. We know that they, quietly, took it seriously.

      The New Ice Age scare of the 1970s? Seven papers were published, compared to 42 on warming. The media much preferred the cooling story though.

      Current opinions are predicated on basic physics. The computer models are merely attempts to predict the details. No-one blames the scientists of 50 years ago for not anticipating it, because they did.

  15. drumlin woodchuckles

    Ocean-life extinction would suit the Global OverClass just fine, thank you very much. They have very likely been storing up huge ultra-preserved stockpiles of edible seafood to feed themselves and their trusted minions and treasured pets through the Great Jackpot and over to the Other Side.

    If so, then their goal for mass human extermination is served by exterminating all edible life in the sea. Since they will have their seafood pre-preserved and pre-stored, they feel confident that they are preserved from extinction-for-the-rest-of-us when our seafood goes extinct.

    Can we frustrate and reverse these plans ( plans to exterminate all edible life in the sea) without first physically rounding up and exterminating every member of the OverClass and every one of their trusted minions and treasured pets? I hope so, because to attempt it would be unpleasant and have bad psycho-effects of the people who could successfully achieve it, and also the OverClass themselves are very prepared for a desperate humanity to make the attempt. That’s what all the private armies, nerve gas, super-plagues, teeny-tiny itty-bitty neutron bombs, etc. are for.

  16. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

    A massive extinction event could take place at the end of the century?

    I wonder if there are studies that show perhaps we are beyond help.

    If so, would it be like ‘yelling fire in a crowded theater,’ to scream, ‘there is no way out?’

    Originally, the phrase was ‘yelling fire falsely in a crowded theater.’ The paraphrasing usually neglects the word ‘falsely.’

    So, if there is truly no way out, people of the planet should be allowed to hear it. It will not be ‘falsely.’

    I wonder if there are studies or models for predicting how us humans willl react to that.

  17. David in Santa Cruz

    The Edward Abbey quote above about the hive-mind is very insightful. We aren’t even able to comprehend the forces which are changing the planet, let alone control them. Extinction will be a long, painful, and drawn-out process, full of human suffering.

    I attended a talk by Dr Ram Ramanathan, Victor C. Alderson Professor of Applied Ocean Sciences, Professor of Atmospheric Sciences, and Director, Center for Atmospheric Sciences at the UC Scripps Institute of Oceanography. Dr Ramanathan makes clear that a 2C rise by 2050 is a near certainty, and that:

    1.5 Billion people will be exposed to deadly heat in previously habitable regions, 650 Million people will be exposed to expanded range of deadly disease vectors, and vast areas will suffer widespread drought, water shortage, and crop failures. This will lead to mass displacement and migration, resulting in millions of deaths from conflict. https://www.pnas.org/content/114/39/10315

    However, the driver of the carbon climate crisis is not class warfare. It is population growth. World population is expected to grow from 6.14 Billion in 2000 to 9.77 Billion in 2050 — a 60% increase. This is assuming that fertility rates remain stable or continue to drop (they are half of what they were in 1955). How can we put the brakes on that?

    It’s real. It’s us. It’s here. It’s bad.

  18. Denise

    I have read (I don’t remember where, sorry) that the fall of the Roman Empire and the plagues that struck Europe might have caused the mini ice age: a rapid reduction in population and de-forestation levels giving the earth a break. The best thing that might happen for the survival of the current global ecosystem might be a modern-day plague with similar effect. Or a massive world war. There is the trolley problem on steroids, and no, I don’t want to touch it.

    1. Jeffersonian

      I lean towards Maunder Minimum but there is still nowhere near a consensus on the LIA.

      1. drumlin woodchuckles

        A Maunder Minimum 2.0 would be a final test of the predictive power or not of man made Global Warming theory. If GGHs do NOT warm the global, then the earth surface should cool just as fast under the next Maunder Minimum as under the last one. If the earth fails to cool right down in the event of a Maunder Minimum 2.0, then the airborned GGHs are indeed retaining heat.

  19. Jeffersonian

    I hope it’s the usual “journalists are bad at relating technical information” because I don’t see how the narrative is really supported by Rothman’s model and the P-T extinction article link at Earthsky. The P-T article is what is used to show connection of acidification and extinction, but in that article it says the extinction had another trigger, they don’t know what but volcanoes are suspected. Thousands of years after the extinction was in progress this “CO2 feedback loop” may have contributed, but if it didn’t trigger it, so what? I’m sure lots of scary feedback loops happen when an extinction is already underway.

    Second, if indeed volcanoes are suspected, it wouldn’t be the CO2 causing acidification that jumps to my mind as scary, it would be the sulfur compounds by a large margin. It doesn’t appear Rothman has teased out the effects of these two variables from each other. There could be other compounds from volcanoes that must be considered too? So how do you know the CO2 is the variable causing the change in the P-T extinction? This may be nothing more than correlation, like saying inflation is about 2% during economic expansions, so if we just push inflation to 2% we’ll get Good Times.

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