Carbon Emissions Haven’t Been This High Since The Dinosaurs
The last time carbon emissions were this high, dinosaurs roamed the Earth.
And if that isn’t daunting enough, the human-driven release today is happening about 10 times faster than any event since that era, a new study has found.
Researchers analyzed the biological signatures of deep-sea sediment samples collected off the coast of New Jersey and found the current release of carbon into the atmosphere is “unprecedented during the past 66 million years.”
Candace Major, program director of the National Science Foundation‘s Division of Ocean Sciences, which funded the research, said in a statement that the study of “one of the most dramatic episodes of global change since the dinosaurs” shows the world has entered “uncharted territory”
The study’s research team looked at sediments dating back to a climate event 56 million years ago called the Paleocene-Eocene Thermal Maximum, or PETM. It was believed to be the largest carbon release since the dinosaurs went extinct 66 million years ago.
Over roughly 4,000 years, the PETM caused sea surface and continental air temperatures to rise more than 9 degrees Fahrenheit and brought drought, flooding and insect plagues. Some species became extinct because of it.
But carbon emissions during the PETM were less than 4 billion tons annually, according to the study, published on Saturday in Nature Geoscience. Current carbon emissions from human sources reached a record high of around 37 billion metric tons in 2014.
University of Hawaii professor Richard Zeebe, who led the research, said because today’s carbon emission rate is unprecedented over such a long period in the Earth’s history, the world has effectively entered a “no-analogue” state.