A new study suggests that the carbon problem may be a lot worse than we think it is.
In a startling discovery, scientists have found that carbon emissions today are higher than at any other time in fossil records reaching back 66 million years when the dinosaurs were wiped out.
Worryingly, the emissions are even worse than they were 56 million years ago, when scientists believe the release of greenhouse gases beneath the seabed cause the largest-known natural surge in fossil records, according to University of Hawaii at Manoa statement.
That event caused temperatures to rise by about 5 degrees Celsius, making the oceans acidic and more hostile to life. It’s similar to what we could see as carbon builds up in the atmosphere due to extensive burning of fossil fuels.
We are emitting about 10 billion tonnes of carbon each year, compared to 1.1 billion per year over 4,000 years in that event 56 million years ago, an alarming comparison by any standard.
As a result of our actions, the U.N. projects that temperatures will rise 4.8 degrees Celsius this century, which will result in floods, droughts, and violent storms, and the buildup could also make the ocean more acidic and threaten species like lobsters and oysters.
“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,” Richard Zeebe, professor at the University of Hawai’i – Mānoa School of Ocean and Earth Science and Technology (SOEST), said in the statement. “This represents a big challenge for projecting future climate changes because we have no good comparison from the past.”
He added: “If you kick a system very fast, it usually responds differently than if you nudge it slowly but steadily. Also, it is rather likely that future disruptions of ecosystems will exceed the relatively limited extinctions observed at the PETM [Paleocene-Eocene Thermal Maximum].”