Scientists Discover How a Giant Release of Carbon Dioxide Triggered a Mass Extinction of Ancient Marine Organisms

It’s a parallel comparison to what’s happening to this world, what with the record levels of carbon dioxide being amassed today and all. I’ve understood for years that climate change was a significant threat, but as more is discovered, it’s turning out to be a far more significant problem than I ever imagined.

Global climate change, fueled by skyrocketing levels of atmospheric carbon dioxide, is siphoning oxygen from today’s oceans at an alarming pace — so fast that scientists aren’t entirely sure how the planet will respond.

Their only hint? Look to the past.

In a study to be published this week in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, researchers from Florida State University did just that — and what they found brings into stark relief the disastrous effects a deoxygenated ocean could have on marine life.

Millions of years ago, scientists discovered, powerful volcanoes pumped Earth’s atmosphere full of carbon dioxide, draining the oceans of oxygen and driving a mass extinction of marine organisms.

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“We wanted to reconstruct Early Jurassic ocean oxygen levels to better understand the mass extinction and the T-OAE,” said Theodore Them, a postdoctoral researcher at FSU who led the study. “We used to think of ocean temperature and acidification as a one-two punch, but more recently we’ve learned this third variable, oxygen change, is equally important.”

By analyzing the thallium isotope composition of ancient rocks from North America and Europe, the team found that ocean oxygen began to deplete well before the defined time interval traditionally ascribed to the T-OAE.

That initial deoxygenation, researchers say, was precipitated by massive episodes of volcanic activity — a process not altogether unlike the industrial emission of carbon dioxide we’re familiar with today.

“Over the past 50 years, we’ve seen that a significant amount of oxygen has been lost from our modern oceans,” Them said. “While the timescales are different, past volcanism and carbon dioxide increases could very well be an analog for present events.”

When the atmosphere is suffused with carbon dioxide, global temperatures climb, triggering a cascade of hydrological, biological and chemical events that conspire to sap the oceans of oxygen.

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“It’s extremely important to study these past events,” Them said. “It seems that no matter what event we observe in Earth’s history, when we see carbon dioxide concentrations increasing rapidly, the result tends to be very similar: a major or mass extinction event. This is another situation where we can unequivocally link widespread oceanic deoxygenation to a mass extinction.”

Steps can still be taken to curb oxygen loss in the modern oceans. For example, conserving important wetlands and estuaries — along with other environments that absorb and store large amounts of carbon dioxide — could help to blunt the effects of harmful industrial emissions.

Economic Models Are Underestimating Climate Change Risks

The difference between even a half degrees Celsius of temperature increase can be massive, and there’s new research out regularly that affirms the multitude of problems climate change can cause. “The world is burning” used to be just an expression, but it could become a reality this century with the wildfires and chaos that climate change can cause.

The paper’s authors, Thomas Stoerk of the Environmental Defense Fund, Gernot Wagner of the Harvard University Center for the Environment and Bob Ward of the ESRC Centre for Climate Change Economics and Policy at the London School of Economics and Political Science, draw attention to “mounting evidence that current economic models of the aggregate global impacts of climate change are inadequate in their treatment of uncertainty and grossly underestimate potential future risks.”

They warn that the “integrated assessment models” used by economists “largely ignore the potential for ‘tipping points’ beyond which impacts accelerate, become unstoppable, or become irreversible.” As a result “they inadequately account for the potential damages from climate change, especially at moderate to high levels of warming,” due to rises in global mean temperature of more than 2 Celsius degrees.

The authors draw attention to “a major discrepancy between scientific and economic estimates of the impacts of unmanaged future climate change.” They state: “These discrepancies between the physical and the economic impact estimates are large, and they matter. However, physical impacts are often not translated into monetary terms and they have largely been ignored by climate economists.”

By Biomass, Humans Have Eliminated Half of the World’s Plants and Over 80% of the World’s Wild Mammals

Staggering statistics, being a warning that humans can eliminate their own species at scale (through nuclear weapons or climate change, for instance) if they fail to be careful enough.

While scientists and conservationists grow increasingly worried about the world’s biodiversity, a new study that sought to estimate the biomass of all living creatures on Earth has shed some light on humanity’s impact.

The planet is largely dominated by plants, which make up 82 percent of all life on Earth, followed by bacteria at 13 percent, and the remaining five percent is everything else, including 7.6 billion human beings.

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According to the study, published Monday by the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America (PNAS), people only make up 0.01 percent of the Earth’s biomass—however, their impact has been massive.

The researchers estimate that, in terms of biomass, the so-called rise of human civilization has destroyed 83 percent of wild mammals, 80 percent of marine animals, 50 percent of plants, and 15 percent of fish.

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Prolonged Exposure to Air Pollution Linked to Negative Genetic Changes in Mice

Air pollution — consistently being shown to be a pretty significant issue to public health.

Prolonged exposure to particulate matter in air pollution in the Los Angeles Basin triggered inflammation and the appearance of cancer-related genes in the brains of rats, a Cedars-Sinai study has found.

While previous research has documented the association between air pollution and a variety of diseases, including cancer, the study found markers indicating certain materials in coarse air pollution — nickel, in particular — may play a role in genetic changes related to disease development, said Julia Ljubimova, MD, PhD.

Ljubimova, director of the Nanomedicine Research Center at Cedars-Sinai, is the lead author of the paper, published April 9 in Scientific Reports.

“This study, which looked at novel data gathered in the Los Angeles area, has significant implications for the assessment of air quality in the region, particularly as people are exposed to air pollution here for decades,” Ljubimova said.

Scientist Claims to Have Found the Solution Alternative to Plastic Water Bottles

The material needs to be tested by a trustworthy source for safety, but this invention could represent an advance that would drastically reduce the harms (such as the contaminants in the plastic) caused by the water bottles.

A British scientist claims to have invented a plastic-free, single-use water bottle that can decompose within three weeks.

The Choose Water bottle, developed by James Longcroft, aims to replace plastic bottles and help save the world’s oceans from plastic waste.

The outer lining of the bottle is made out of recycled paper donated by businesses, while the waterproof inner lining is made with a composite material Longcroft has developed himself.

All the constituents of the bottle can fully decompose within three weeks when left in water or landfill, and can be eaten by sea creatures, the company told Business Insider in a statement.

The steel cap on the bottle will also rust and fully decompose in about a year, Longcroft told the Evening Standard.

Plastic usually takes hundreds of years to break down.

Longcroft, who lives in Scotland, is still waiting for patents and started crowdfunding for the bottle on Monday. He has set a goal of £25,000 ($US34,000), of which he has raised about £8,000 ($US11,000) so far.

He hopes to see the bottles available in stores by the end of the year, and that they will be sold for about 85p and 90p (about $US1.2) so that they become a viable alternative to plastic, according to The Times.

UK Firm Managing $1.2 Trillion in Assets to No Longer Invest in Companies With “Bad Record” on Climate Change

It’s a needed step similar to having the banks stopping their funding of oil pipelines. The rationale of the fund manager saying “money talks” is interesting.

Legal and General, which oversees more than $1.2 trillion in assets, said it would punish companies with a bad record on climate change and strip them of their funding.

Helena Morrissey, head of personal investing, said the firm will be “naming and shaming” companies that have failed to act on climate change next week, and pull investments from those companies.

“There comes a time when talk is over, and it’s time to vote with our feet. Money talks as they say,” Morrissey said at a conference in London on Monday.

She emphasised the need for the financial sector to work together, driving change through sustainable investments, and said that these investments can produce both “profit and purpose.”

Many individuals don’t invest in the market because of fear their money will be used for purposes they disagree with, Morrissey said. She suggested sustainable investing as a solution.

“Super Sponge” Polymer to Mop Up Oil Spills Created

Something for certain communities to think about using when they inevitably suffer effects of an oil spill, as there are still way too many oil pipelines around the world. It really is stupid for them to still exist at such scale — in the U.S., Keystone XL unfortunately was approved, and in Canada Trudeau keeps campaigning for the oil pipelines, disillusioning a lot of Canadians in the process.

Oil spills could be soaked up by a new floating substance that combines waste from the petroleum industry and cooking oil, according to new research led by South Australia’s Flinders University.

The new polymer, made from sulphur and canola cooking oil, acted like a sponge to remove crude oil and diesel from seawater, according to a new study published in the Advanced Sustainable Systems journal. The polymer can be squeezed to remove the oil and then reused.

The lead researcher, Dr Justin Chalker, said it had the potential to be a cheap and sustainable recovery tool in areas affected by oil spills.

“We anticipate that when we get to economies of scale we will be able to compete in price with other materials that are used to soak up oil,” said Chalker, senior lecturer in synthetic chemistry at Flinders University.

“Our goal is for this to be used globally. It is inexpensive, and we have an eye for it to be used in parts of the world such as the Amazon Basin in Ecuador and the Niger Delta that don’t have access to solutions to oil spills.”

The International Tanker Owners Pollution Federation says about 7,000 tonnes of crude oil were spilt into oceans last year.

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The Flinders University research is just six months ago but Chalker said the new polymer had the potential to be less expensive and more sustainable than current clean-up tools such as polypropylene fibres and polyurethane foam.