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Scientists Study Permian Mass Extinction Event As Lesson For 21st Century 235

Hugh Pickens DOT Com writes "About 252 million years ago, cracks in the Earth's crust in Siberia caused vast amounts of lava to spill out and blanket the region with about 6,000,000 cubic kilometers of molten material—enough to cover the continental U.S. at a one mile depth. It triggered a huge change in climate, causing a mass extinction event that killed roughly 90 percent of life on earth. Now Helen Thompson writes in the Smithsonian that a team at MIT has focused its efforts on this major extinction event, which marks the end of the Permian period and the beginning of the Triassic period. Their results suggest that the die-out happened a lot faster than previously thought — perhaps over a span of only 60,000 years. The shorter time scale means that organisms would have had less time to react and adapt to changes in climate, atmospheric CO2 and ocean acidity. Without the ability to adapt, they died. Other mass extinction events have also been narrowed down to short timeframes. The asteroid impact that killed the dinosaurs at the end of the Cretaceous period only took about 32,000 years. A similar study of another mass extinction triggered by volcanic eruptions at the end of the Triassic period suggests it lasted less than 5,000 years. Even though all of these extinction events were caused by different things, the ecosystem collapse happened very quickly. 'Whatever the causes of the extinctions may be, and it looks like there are very different causes for some of them, the biosphere may collapse in very similar ways once it gets beyond a tipping point,' says Doug Erwin. Some scientists see the end of the Permian as a lesson for the 21st century (PDF) and say that understanding the conditions leading up to, within, and after a mass extinction event may help us to avoid human-induced ecosystem collapses in the future. As Erwin puts it, 'you don't want to start a mass extinction, because once a mass extinction begins, the prognosis is pretty grim.'"
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Scientists Study Permian Mass Extinction Event As Lesson For 21st Century

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  • by gurps_npc ( 621217 ) on Wednesday February 19, 2014 @05:24PM (#46289993) Homepage

    1) Super Volcano

    2) Asteroid

    3) Intelligent life evolves.

  • Natural outcome (Score:3, Insightful)

    by jovius ( 974690 ) on Wednesday February 19, 2014 @05:35PM (#46290103)

    Self-inflicted extinction event from anthropogenic activities could be seen as natural negative feedback mechanism. The equilibrium is restored.

    I understand the future for the humanity and multitude of ecosystems may be grim but the nature will thrive nevertheless.

    There are certain boundaries and one is that there's only one Earth. We can affect our future, and it's impossible to escape the consequences.

  • I should be? (Score:0, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday February 19, 2014 @05:41PM (#46290169)

    If you aren't concerned about this subject, you should be. It is possible that a 4C increase would lead to a 10C increase, wiping out nearly everyone and everything.

    Dude. I have no idea what you just said there and I'm not about to sit through a 49 minute video to hear you out.

    Catch my attention, man. What are you trying to say and THEN post the video as your evidence.

    Really. I'm the type of guy who'll check cites and read what I can to prove you wrong. - because I have a pathetic little ego - long story.

    Yeah, prove you wrong. And IF in my quest I find that you are right, I WILL change my views. The leftists did it. I used to be a Libertarian with a capital 'L' and now, well, ....

    State your case. Make me WANT to watch a 49 minute BBC video.

  • by MightyMartian ( 840721 ) on Wednesday February 19, 2014 @05:47PM (#46290215) Journal

    I don't think a lot of scientists say the end of the world is nigh. You seem to be confusing scientists with activists. I ignore the latter, but pay a great deal of attention to the former.

    What these researchers are trying to say is that there are consequences to large amounts of CO2 entering the atmosphere. Now I can't say that human activity will produce as radical an increase as massive volcanism on the scale described in this article, but still, it ought to make you pause to think that maybe, just maybe, puling out millions of years of sequestered carbon into the atmosphere in the space of three centuries is probably not a great idea, and while the consequences likely won't be that 90% of life dies out, it will have some serious consequences for us and many of those critters we happen to inhabit this planet with.

    But hey, I guess it's probably more comforting to make nasty accusations against scientists. That way, you don't have to do a thing and you can feel all clever and righteous. Those stupid scientists, how dare they remind us that we don't live in a vacuum. They must be crooked grant seekers.

  • by MightyMartian ( 840721 ) on Wednesday February 19, 2014 @05:57PM (#46290307) Journal

    Perhaps that's because you don't have the faintest idea what the scientists are talking about. Have you even read the IPCC reports or any of the primary literature?

    How are you any different than a Creationist at this point? Simply declaring "Those scientists are just spouting a religion" any different than what the kooks at Answers in Genesis say about biology?

    Grow the fuck up. The universe doesn't give one single fuck about your ideology or pseudo-skepticism. Be a fucking adult and accept the reality that barfing massive amounts of CO2 into the atmosphere is not some neutral practice.

    Fucking hell, people like you piss me off. So fucking lazy that you just latch on to the kooky green activists and make believe in your pathetic fact free minds that Al Gore somehow represents the climatology community.

  • Not even close (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday February 19, 2014 @05:59PM (#46290313)

    The most destructive event was the evolution of blue-green algae, which killed off almost everything living on the planet at that time because of their poisonous waste product (oxygen).

  • by MightyMartian ( 840721 ) on Wednesday February 19, 2014 @06:06PM (#46290379) Journal

    Al Gore has little or nothing to do with actual research, and if grant money is your accusation, well then pretty much all publicly-funded science can be thrown out the door; everything from archaeology to high energy physics research. Are you that determined to reject climatology that most of the science that goes on in the world is disposable?

  • by scamper_22 ( 1073470 ) on Wednesday February 19, 2014 @06:07PM (#46290381)

    How do you come to the conclusion that a 4-10C rise will wipe out nearly everyone and everything?

    I just never understood this mentality that rising temperatures will have an existential threat to humanity.

    I'm not down playing it by any stretch. I'm sure mass areas will need to be evacuated. Farmland will be lost. Extreme weather will become more common. Flooding will take over entire cities. Some areas will become totally uninhabitable...

    But I just don't see that being an existential threat to humanity. We're not blindly ruled by nature. We have irrigation systems. We can build better shelters. We can relocate to cooler parts of the planet that would become more habitable. We can control the climate we live in via AC and heating...

    It will simply take a lot to truly wipe us out... and I'm just not convinced a 4-10C will be death of humanity.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday February 19, 2014 @06:11PM (#46290423)

    And, also like a religion, global warming also has its fanatics--who label any non-believer an infidel and attack him with incredible personal vitriol.

  • by L. J. Beauregard ( 111334 ) on Wednesday February 19, 2014 @06:19PM (#46290481)

    Grant money

    Because the NSF has so much more money to spend than ExxonMobil.

    Al Gore


  • by ColdWetDog ( 752185 ) on Wednesday February 19, 2014 @06:39PM (#46290651) Homepage

    Here is the issue: At present, with only mild resource constraints on the major economies, those political entities are within a couple of hair's breadths away from going after each others throats. Fast forward to a time when climate changes disrupt most of those economies. Arable lands may change (not necessarily increase or decrease). If that happens, the losing country may get mighty upset. Fisheries may change provoking resource pressures on countries. Millions of people will be under pressure to leave areas that are negatively effected. Millions of other people just might not welcome those refuges with open arms and open wallets.

    Couple with the fact that the human population is scheduled to double in the next generation or two and you have the perfect storm for some serious resource competition.

    All wars are resource wars.

  • by MightyMartian ( 840721 ) on Wednesday February 19, 2014 @06:49PM (#46290731) Journal

    It's funny how you can spend all your time worried about environmentalists, when it's the scientists you ought to be paying attention to. But I guess it's easier just to create strawmen and red herrings.

  • Re:Comparable? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by MightyMartian ( 840721 ) on Wednesday February 19, 2014 @06:54PM (#46290763) Journal

    So you reject out of hand the Permian report, you know, an actual geological example, because of some vague notion that higher-than-now CO2 was great for dragonflies?

  • by stoploss ( 2842505 ) on Wednesday February 19, 2014 @07:30PM (#46291035)

    I considered it, but not all stars go supernova.

    In the end, I decided that star death is not part of a 'planet's history', rather it is part of the star's history.

    I also ignored Gamma Ray bursts, blackholes, etc.

    No, Sol will never supernova, but the risk being referenced is that of a Near-Earth supernova [wikipedia.org]. If a star like IK Pegasi B touched off, 150 light years away, it would have significant effects on us here.

    If you want to throw out consideration of nearby supernovas as "not part of the planet's history" then I contend you need to throw out consideration of asteroid impacts as well. Both are proven significant, exogenous, cosmological influences on our planet.

  • ".. And it seems to be based on an unfalsifiable hypothesis, .."
    What. The. Fuck?
    You really have no clue, do you? I mean .. none. You have no idea what the science is, do you?
    That would be fine, but then you base your argument on your willful ignorance. Sickening.

    Let me break it down.
    1) Visible light hits the Earth. Testable and falsifiable. Check
    2) CO2 is transparent to visible light. Testable and falsifiable. Check
    3) When visible light strikes something, IR is generated. Testable and falsifiable. Check
    4) CO2 absorbs IR energy. Testable and falsifiable. Check
    5) More CO2 is put into then atmosphere that can be absorbed. Testable and falsifiable. Check

    SO genius, explain to me where the energy is going if it isn't warming the atmosphere? Why are the scientific prediction actually happening?

    If shit hits the fan, People like you should be the first against the wall.

  • by Kjella ( 173770 ) on Wednesday February 19, 2014 @08:28PM (#46291437) Homepage

    It's something about the sheer scale of it, at +10C India is the new Sahara. Is anyone going to build AC and irrigation for a billion people there? No, about 99% of them have to move - meaning, they have to invade someone - and they're hardly the only ones. You can have massive crop failures and if there's food for six billion people on a seven billion people planet, I think a lot more than one billion is going to die. Very quickly we could have a cascading failure because the war stops the tractors, destroys farmlands and crops. Maybe they even start employing scorched earth tactics to avoid it falling into enemy hands.

    Going back to living off the land might be hopeless because the fish is dying, the game is dying, the plants are dying because they can't adapt quick enough. We probably don't stand a chance to feed the current population without modern agriculture anyway, the wildlife would soon be spent.You're right, I don't think humans as a race will go extinct, the climate changes alone aren't that bad. The climate changes and WWIII though? That could get rather nasty....

  • by dargaud ( 518470 ) <slashdot2@NosPaM.gdargaud.net> on Thursday February 20, 2014 @04:18AM (#46293079) Homepage

    Over the course of centuries let us recall

    No, because it's going to happen in bursts, Katrina style. Nobody will do anything preventively, then you'll have one or two ruined city with 10M people to move overnight. Then 5 years later rinse and repeat somewhere else. If all those people planned to move on their own free will, it would already be problematic to absorb in a healthy country with healthy economics. But when the shit hit the fans there's gonna be slums all over for a very long time.

Perfection is acheived only on the point of collapse. - C. N. Parkinson