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Olduvai III: Catacylsm
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Not enough fossil fuels left to trigger another mass extinction

Not enough fossil fuels left to trigger another mass extinction

Preface. Since both conventional and unconventional oil peaked in 2018, we clearly won’t be burning fossils at exponentially increasing rates until 2400 as the IPCC expected. Quite the opposite, currently the decline rate of oil is 8% a year, which can be reduced to 4% by enhanced oil recovery techniques. The other 4% could be remedied by finding more oil, but discoveries have been at their lowest point for decades the past 7 years, and with oil prices so low, exploration and new projects are on hold.

Many books, starting with Ward’s “Under a Green Sky” warned that we would bring on another major extinction event burning fossil fuels. News reports continue to assume that this will be the eventual outcome as well. So you may not be aware of what it took to bring on the mother of all extinctions: The Permian. Although it’s commonly said that we are emitting far more CO2 faster than ever in history, this isn’t true.

Amazingly, researchers don’t blame the 300,000 to 1 million years of volcanic traps. Rather, it appears there were two pulses of lava from deep beneath the earth that rose to the surface, burning through underground deposits of coal, oil, and natural gas. That released an enormous amount of CO2 into the atmosphere; 100,000 billion tonnes (= 1 × 1014 tonnes). That is an almost incomprehensible amount of carbon injected into the atmosphere in a short (geologically speaking) period of time. This is more than 40 times the amount of all carbon available in modern fossil fuel reserves including carbon already burned since the industrial revolution.”

Researchers also don’t find methane hydrates a suspect, because it was “highly unlikely based on our data” according to Dr. Marcus Gutjahr from GEOMAR, co-author of the study (SD 2020).

Related articles:

Clarkson, M. O., et al. 2015. Ocean acidification and the Permo-Triassic mass extinction. Science 348:229.

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Olduvai IV: Courage
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