“To portray this slow-motion ecological collapse as fundamentally a climate problem bothers me. Climate change is not the problem, climate change is a symptom of the problem.”
The “Great Dying” ... In the planet’s worst mass extinction 252 million years ago, up to 80 percent of all species died out, including up to 96 percent of ocean species.
For the first time, a new study in Science draws parallels between the cause of this horrific, planet-changing event and the global warming we’re experiencing today.
Penn and his University of Washington colleagues found that, should we continue unabated fossil fuel use, we could unavoidably kick off another crisis like the Great Dying by about 2300. Fast forward another thousand years, and we could be looking at all of the extinction, just much, much faster.
The researchers found that during the Great Dying, the oceans lost about 76 percent of their oxygen. So far, modern oceans have lost only about 2 percent of oxygen, but with continued rapid warming, that is going to quickly worsen, according to Penn’s findings.
Earlier this year, a different study projected how blowing past Paris Agreement goals would change our oceans.
That study found that ocean oxygen will keep declining until about the year 3000, even if fossil fuel emissions cease in the next few decades, because our current rapid phase of warming is causing ocean circulation to slow down.
“To portray this slow-motion ecological collapse as fundamentally a climate problem bothers me,” [Curtis] Deutsch says. “Climate change is not the problem, climate change is a symptom of the problem.” To truly solve the problem of mass extinction would take fixing other problems like overfishing, plastic pollution, and other stressors on the marine environment, Deutsch says.
New data on Wednesday showed that, as of 2018, humanity’s carbon emissions are still accelerating upwards — tracking more or less with the worst-case scenario envisioned nearly a decade ago by climate scientists. In addition to jeopardizing human civilization, the results from Penn and his colleagues show we are setting a course of ecosystem annihilation that will play out over thousands and millions of years.
“This is not just about temperature. It’s about changing the biological, chemical, and physical identity of the planet forever,” she [Sarah Myhre] says of the study. “It’s about changing the Earth in a way that has no precedent, and it’s permanent.” [emphasis mine]