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.

The Potential Carbon Bubble of the Future — Possibly Immense Damage to the Global Economy If It Bursts

Another reason to switch to renewable energy as quickly as possible. Bubbles can drive economies forward and actually produce some positive results (which was seen with the investment boom from the stock bubble in the 1990s in the U.S.) due to the increase in the wealth effect generating more demand, but if that demand isn’t compensated for with the burst of large bubbles, recessions happen. There is today a tremendous amount of wealth directly because of fossil fuels, and if that wealth sharply drops in value and isn’t replaced, there might be a shock to the world economy.

Several major economies rely heavily on fossil-fuel production and exports. The price of fossil-fuel companies’ shares is calculated under the assumption that all fossil-fuel reserves will be consumed. But to do so would be inconsistent with the tight carbon budget set in the 2015 Paris Agreement, which limits the increase in global average temperature to ‘well below 2°C above pre-industrial levels’. So far, this prospect has not deterred continuing investment in fossil fuels because many believe that climate policies will not be adopted, or at least not in the near future.

However, and crucially, researchers now show that ongoing technological change, by itself and even without new climate policies, is already reducing global demand growth for fossil fuels, which could peak in the near future. New climate policies would only aggravate the impact. Continuing investment in fossil fuels is therefore creating a dangerous ‘carbon bubble’ that could burst, with massive economic and geopolitical consequences.

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The scientists conclude that further economic damage from a potential bubble burst could be avoided by decarbonising early. “Divestment is a prudential thing to do. We should be carefully looking at where we are investing our money.”

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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Link Between Local Temperature Increases and More Antibiotic Resistance Found

A significant note with the threat of climate change looming.

Seeking to better understand the distribution of antibiotic resistance across the U.S., a multidisciplinary team of epidemiologists from Boston Children’s Hospital and the University of Toronto have found that higher local temperatures and population densities correlate with a higher degree of antibiotic resistance in common bacterial strains. The findings were published today in Nature Climate Change.

“The effects of climate are increasingly being recognized in a variety of infectious diseases, but so far as we know this is the first time it has been implicated in the distribution of antibiotic resistance over geographies,” says the study’s lead author, Derek MacFadden, MD, an infectious disease specialist and research fellow at Boston Children’s Hospital. “We also found a signal that the associations between antibiotic resistance and temperature could be increasing over time.”

“Estimates outside of our study have already told us that there will already be a drastic and deadly rise in antibiotic resistance in coming years,” says the paper’s co-senior author John Brownstein, PhD, who is Chief Innovation Officer and director of the Computational Epidemiology Group at Boston Children’s and professor of pediatrics at Harvard Medical School (HMS). “But with our findings that climate change could be compounding and accelerating an increase in antibiotic resistance, the future prospects could be significantly worse than previously thought.”

During their study, the team assembled a large database of U.S. antibiotic resistance information related to E. coli, K. pneumoniae, and S. aureus, pulling from various streams of hospital, laboratory and disease surveillance data documented between 2013 and 2015. Altogether, their database comprised more than 1.6 million bacterial pathogens from 602 unique records across 223 facilities and 41 states.

Not surprisingly, when looking at antibiotic prescription rates across geographic areas, the team found that increased prescribing was associated with increased antibiotic resistance across all the pathogens that they investigated.

Then, comparing the database to latitude coordinates as well as mean and medium local temperatures, the team found that higher local average minimum temperatures correlated the strongest with antibiotic resistance. Local average minimum temperature increases of 10 degrees Celsius were found to be associated with 4.2, 2.2 and 3.6 percent increases in antibiotic resistant strains of E. coli, K. pneumoniae, and S. aureus, respectively.

More unsettling still, when looking at population density, the team found that an increase of 10,000 people per square mile was associated with three and six percent respective increases in antibiotic resistance in E. coli and K. pneumoniae, which are both Gram-negative species. In contrast, the antibiotic resistance of Gram-positive S. aureus did not appear to be significantly affected by population density.

“Population growth and increases in temperature and antibiotic resistance are three phenomena that we know are currently happening on our planet,” says the study’s co-senior author Mauricio Santillana, PhD, who is a faculty member in the Computational Health Informatics Program at Boston Children’s and an assistant professor at HMS. “But until now, hypotheses about how these phenomena relate to each other have been sparse. We need to continue bringing multidisciplinary teams together to study antibiotic resistance in comparison to the backdrop of population and environmental changes.”

MacFadden says the transmission factor is of particular interest for further scientific research.

“As transmission of antibiotic resistant organisms increases from one host to another, so does the opportunity for ongoing evolutionary selection of resistance due to antibiotic use,” MacFadden says. “We hypothesize that temperature and population density could act to facilitate transmission and thus increases in antibiotic resistance.”

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.

Yale University Research: Majorities in Every U.S. County Support Teaching Children About Climate Change

The massive corporate propaganda effort in the U.S. has lead to the country being off the international spectrum in illogical climate denialism. Still, it’s encouraging to see this sort of evidence as the threat of climate change hangs over humanity.

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The fact that climate change is happening and human-caused is not a matter of scientific debate: many studies have examined climate scientists’ conclusions about global warming and have found scientific agreement similar to the level of consensus that smoking causes cancer (i.e., above 95%).

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Many teachers, however, need training and support to implement climate change science standards in their classrooms. Recent research published in Science found that many teachers are themselves not certain about climate change. For example, only 30% of middle school and 45% of high school science teachers understand the extent of the scientific consensus. Furthermore, of the educators who do teach climate change, many suggest the cause is ambiguous or uncertain to their students, while 30% actually incorrectly teach that global warming is naturally caused. Correcting the misperception about the scientific consensus that global warming is happening and human-caused is a key educational challenge for both teachers and students.