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Earth Math Space Science Technology

Scientists: What We're Doing To The Earth Has No Parallel In 66 Million Years (washingtonpost.com) 504

mspohr writes from an article on The Washington Post: We haven't seen this much CO2 added to the atmosphere in 66 million years: "If you look over the entire Cenozoic, the last 66 million years, the only event that we know of at the moment, that has a massive carbon release, and happens over a relatively short period of time, is the Palaeocene-Eocene Thermal Maximum (PETM)," says Zeebe. "We actually have to go back to relatively old periods, because in the more recent past, we don't see anything comparable to what humans are currently doing." [New research suggests, even the drama of the PETM falls short of our current period, in at least one key respect: We're putting carbon into the atmosphere at an even faster rate than happened back then.] "The anthropogenic release outpaces carbon release during the most extreme global warming event of the past 66 million years, by at least an order of magnitude," writes Peter Stassen, an Earth and environmental scientist at KU Leuven, in Belgium, in an accompanying commentary on the new study. "Given that the current rate of carbon release is unprecedented throughout the Cenozoic, we have effectively entered an era of a no-analogue state, which represents a fundamental challenge to constraining future climate projections," the study concludes.
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Scientists: What We're Doing To The Earth Has No Parallel In 66 Million Years

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday March 21, 2016 @07:52PM (#51748647)
    Some will say "That's just, like, your opinion, man. You have no proof humans are causing this."

    Some will say "God gave us the Earth, and the end is near anyway so what does it matter?"

    Some will say "So it gets warmer, so what? I hate cold weather anyway."

    Some will just say "Gee, that's interesting" and get into their SUV and drive off, leaving all the lights and heater running in their house, and they DGAF.
    • by Anonymous Coward

      Science doesn't advance because people agree with the status quo. No, they point out where current theories are wrong. That's when science really advances. In most fields, dissenting views are welcome debate because it benefits science. But that doesn't happen with global warming. Dissenting views are silenced just like you see happening here. Not only can science be wrong, but it often is. Can you imagine if opponents to String Theory or General Relativity were silenced in this manner? Thankfully most bran

      • by MightyMartian ( 840721 ) on Monday March 21, 2016 @09:03PM (#51749069) Journal

        You have no fucking idea how science works. Science advances as data is gathered, theories are refined or new ones are proposed. It isn't some game of topplng windmills. If a theory is invalid, yes it will be rejected, but that is not the sole activity of science, nor, really is it the main activity of science.

        Do you seriously think there are scientists in any great numbers running around trying to disprove QM or tectonic plate theories? Is that what you think physicists and geologists are doing? If that is what you think, then you are an ignoramus.

      • Can you imagine if opponents to String Theory or General Relativity were silenced in this manner?

        Don't conflate the theory of relativity with the string idea.

        Remember, about five decades ago, scientists were concerned about global cooling.

        That's a myth.

        Before then, cigarettes were considered healthy.

        That's also a myth. The tobacco industry did find some shills, though.

        People twirled paintbrushes that were used with paint containing radium, blissfully unaware of the dangers.

        Right, but science didn't say it was safe. It hadn't said jack on the subject yet.

        We shouldn't censor dissenting views; it's bad for science.

        That's OK, nobody is censoring the view that AGW doesn't exist. Nobody credible is putting it forward, either.

      • by phantomfive ( 622387 ) on Monday March 21, 2016 @10:22PM (#51749503) Journal

        Notice how all dissenting views get modded to -1

        Frankly I think it's wrong even trying to divide the world into "dissenting" and "assenting." At least, it's not a very scientific way of looking at it. The author of the paper has a good discussion at the beginning of this paper [vimeo.com].

        You shouldn't mod people up based on whether you 'agree' or 'disagree' with them. Rather, mod them based on whether they've read the paper or not, and the quality of their analysis. Scientific thought should be respected.

      • ... People twirled paintbrushes that were used with paint containing radium, blissfully unaware of the dangers. . .

        They also licked their brushes' bristle-tips to keep them shaped into a fine point. That is, the watch-dial painters licked radium.

        We learned from that. . . the hard way.

      • by Howitzer86 ( 964585 ) on Monday March 21, 2016 @10:49PM (#51749669)
        Yes, let the people have their say in the vetting of science. This is a democracy! So long as brother John down the road is unconvinced, and so long as local channel 8 (sponsored in part by Exxon Mobile) gives him a mic to debate these important issues, it's unsettled and there's no cause for alarm. Keep doing what you're doing. No one has to adjust. Nothing is wrong. Everything is fine.
      • by Ol Olsoc ( 1175323 ) on Monday March 21, 2016 @11:25PM (#51749825)

        Science doesn't advance because people agree with the status quo. No, they point out where current theories are wrong. That's when science really advances. In most fields, dissenting views are welcome debate because it benefits science. But that doesn't happen with global warming. Dissenting views are silenced just like you see happening here.

        You must spend very little time around scientists. There is a tremendous amount of discussion and argument. Often the argument technique is used to work out the theory.

        The problem with your thesis is that while there isn't a tremendous amount of argument today about AGW, it is not because of your odd conflation with religion, but it's because Scientists do not argue much about evolution or the idea that the earth is ony 6 thousand years old either. Or gravity, or nuclear fission and fusion for that matter. There aren't any scientists arguing for the Phlogiston theory, and that's a fact. There comes a point where someone who wants to claim that man and the dinosaurs lived at the same time, or that the sun is a lump of burning coal, are going to have a hard time being listened to.

        As I've told many, put together a hypothesis, an experimental plan and look for funding. And if you are worried about the so called conspiracy of scientists, you could probably get the Koch brothers to fund the experiments at maybe Liberty University. Then after proving AGW wrong, the scientist who does will be in line for a Nobel prize.

        • by MightyMartian ( 840721 ) on Tuesday March 22, 2016 @12:44AM (#51750089) Journal

          The Kochs wouldn't fund the experiment because they know what the answer would be. Heartland Institute cash is much better spent funding Frank Spencer's WSJ articles and speaking tours, or the even more delightful Judith Curry, who denies both evolution and AGW. The one time they did fund an actual study, Richard Muller's study, the result was a confirmation that climatological research was going in the right direction. They won't make that mistake twice.

    • The end is near...is that like Fusion energy?
  • we are #1 (Score:5, Funny)

    by zlives ( 2009072 ) on Monday March 21, 2016 @08:10PM (#51748769)

    just goes to show those dinosaurs really weren't that great, all the wasted effort on museums and such not to mention the captain planets.

     

  • There haven't been humans for 66 million years either.

  • We are screwed, blued, and tattooed.
  • maybe (Score:5, Informative)

    by ooloorie ( 4394035 ) on Monday March 21, 2016 @09:08PM (#51749109)

    "The anthropogenic release outpaces carbon release during the most extreme global warming event of the past 66 million years, by at least an order of magnitude," writes Peter Stassen,

    Yes, during the PETM, temperatures rose rapidly by 5-8C. Mind you, this temperature increase was on top of temperatures that were already a lot higher than today. There were lots of changes during that period, but no generalized mass extinction. Corals suffered but didn't die out. Land animals didn't see any significant extinction. Mammals did very well.

    In addition, just to drive the point home, the carbon was then rapidly absorbed again and the temperature fell again, before slowly rising to the same level again during the Eocene optimum. So we have examples of both fast and slow, long duration and short duration increases in atmospheric carbon from the Eocene, and no massive global catastrophes.

    The PETM to me always suggested that the concerns about climate change were overblown. Even if there are some negative short term effects, much higher temperatures and melting ice caps don't spell doom for the world. In fact, if anything, the Eocene climate may have been nicer than what we have today.

    (Note also that when people claim that carbon release during the PETM "was" slower than today, that's based on various assumptions, not direct measurement. All we can say is that carbon release was very fast and took less than 20ka.)

  • by hsthompson69 ( 1674722 ) on Monday March 21, 2016 @09:50PM (#51749341)

    It is literally impossible to claim that our rate of CO2 change over the past 100 years is unprecedented in the historical record because we have no proxy with that kind of resolution. We see the world today in the equivalent of 4k UHDTV in full color, our records from the past are equivalent to cave paintings, and we're claiming that the color of deer is unprecedented.

    But don't let that get in the way of a good, scary, apocalyptic tale of warning!

    • We can only accept one apocalypse at a time, and the Christians got us first. Now if you'll excuse me, I'll be waiting on my lawn chair for Jesus.
    • by dbIII ( 701233 )
      There are people freezing their arses off in Antarctica giving you that "4k resolution" from the time of cave paintings. If they were faking it they could do it from home.
      • Have you looked at *any* of the science regarding proxy measurements of CO2?

        ftp://ftp.ncdc.noaa.gov/pub/da... [noaa.gov]

        That's not 4K resolution, that's a cave painting. Today, we can measure CO2 on an hourly basis. The ice core record has gaps of more than a hundred years at a time.

        This isn't whether or not anyone is faking data - this is whether or not the proxy has enough resolution to tell you anything about the rate of change on the order of 150 years.

    • It is literally impossible to claim that our rate of CO2 change over the past 100 years is unprecedented in the historical record because we have no proxy with that kind of resolution. We see the world today in the equivalent of 4k UHDTV in full color, our records from the past are equivalent to cave paintings, and we're claiming that the color of deer is unprecedented.

      But don't let that get in the way of a good, scary, apocalyptic tale of warning!

      You are aware that "HD" is a marketing word that has no actual meaning, right?

      And "UHD" TV? A superlative added onto a meaningless word in the first place.

      Make your arguments – fine. But at least use terms that have actual definitions. Otherwise, you come off as an angry couch-bound crackpot.

      Maybe I shouldn't advise the crackpots...

      • Fair point. I happened to be looking at costco TVs and used the marketing lingo, my apologies :)

        So instead of an analogy, let's just go straight to the meat of the matter:

        Today, we get CO2 measurements hourly.

        Here's what the ice cores give us:

        ftp://ftp.ncdc.noaa.gov/pub/da... [noaa.gov]

        Calculating the difference between hourly measurements, and measurements with gaps of up to hundreds of years between them is left as an exercise for the reader :)

  • I can't wait for essentially unlimited energy. It might be wind+solar but I'm betting on safe forms of nuclear power within a century of now.

    The gating factor will be the amount of investment into R&D and that depends on total wealth created, to enable the excess available foe investment. Right now that's roughly proportinal to total fossil fuel burned (productively, of course).

    The very best that could be done for the environment would be to get rid of all the punitive energy taxes, all the free trad

  • by Chas ( 5144 ) on Tuesday March 22, 2016 @12:58AM (#51750143) Homepage Journal

    Seriously.

    "The sky is falling! The sky is falling!"

    Okay. Stop fucking screaming about it already. We get it, atmospheric carbon is ridiculous now.

    But that simply isn't important.

    How do we address the problem in a way that doesn't destroy modern civilization, kill off a large percentage of the world population and send us back to the Stone Age?

    And how do we get universal buy-in from other governments?

    That's the important part.

    What we have now are a bunch of armchair "research scientists" competing for funding so they can continue to bleat on about how "bad" things are. Like nobody else in the world can read automatically collected data. It's like a bunch of bazaar vendors scrambling over a lucky "first customer of the day".

    • by Uberbah ( 647458 ) on Tuesday March 22, 2016 @03:54AM (#51750599)

      "The sky is falling! The sky is falling!" Okay. Stop fucking screaming about it already. We get it, atmospheric carbon is ridiculous now. But that simply isn't important.

      Translation: Stage 5 of climate change denialsim: okay, climate change was a hoax, and no it's not being caused by the sun, or volcanoes, or whatever stupid bullshit you guys drag up to deflect from your own responsibility. Now we're at, okay, AGW is happening, but it's toooo haaaard to do anything about it!

      Problem: the costs of mitigating climate change are insignificant next to the costs of ignoring it.

      We could have solved this problem decades ago, by moving to renewable energy sources. But nooooooo, we had to listen to the apologists for Philip Morris first. Sorry, that autocorrected from Exxon for some reason.

      Listening to climate change deniers now makes as much sense as listening to people who were chickenhawk warmongers on Iraq for what to do about ISIS or Syria.

    • by AmiMoJo ( 196126 )

      Okay.Stop fucking screaming about it already. We get it, this is a not a trivial problem.

      Spend money developing cleaner forms of energy, and eventually tech to remove CO2 from the atmosphere. Make it cheap, so cheap that other counties want it just to save money, even if they don't give a shit about climate change and pollution.

      Throw in some mandates that products release less CO2 during manufacture and operation. Other countries that don't care will get on board anyway because they want to sell stuff to th

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