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So sad to see you go
January 22, 2005 3:25 AM   Subscribe

The Great Dying. 250 million years ago, mass extinction was not brought about by a cataclysm of rock, but by global warming.
posted by orange clock (21 comments total)

 
This is inteesting. I hadn't known there were SUVs way back then.
posted by Postroad at 3:56 AM on January 22, 2005


Grgh, I could actually read it all but I'd sure love a webpage comparing the Kyoto agreement and this crazy plan-thing Bush is saying he is pushing.
posted by TwelveTwo at 4:08 AM on January 22, 2005


Very interesting. So the global warming episode at -250my wasn't the end of the world, it was just another event in the long slow march of life on Earth, diverting it from one possible path into another.
posted by jfuller at 4:47 AM on January 22, 2005


They found two patterns, one showing gradual extinction over about 10 million years leading up to the time of the extinction, and then a spike in extinction rates that lasted another 5 million years, Ward's team reported....

Ward also believes mass volcanic eruptions may have pumped greenhouse gases into the air, which would have trapped heat in the atmosphere and raised temperatures.

sorry twelvetwo, although arrogantly wasteful, the emissions of SUVs don't begin to compare to "mass volcanic eruptions" occurring over tens of millions of years. the earth has suicidal tendencies that make our efforts to kill it appear pathetic and weak.
posted by three blind mice at 5:06 AM on January 22, 2005


This couldn't be true as the Earth is no more than 6K years old. [cough]
posted by nofundy at 5:45 AM on January 22, 2005


So the global warming episode at -250my wasn't the end of the world, it was just another event in the long slow march of life on Earth, diverting it from one possible path into another.

Unfortunately, if this happens again, for us it will be a purely academic question.
posted by c13 at 6:50 AM on January 22, 2005


Do you think this could happen again? I'm scared.
posted by msacheson at 8:17 AM on January 22, 2005


Evidence of global warming causing past mass extinctions isn't likely to change the minds of the skeptics. First you'll have to convince them that evolution isn't a lie. Otherwise, the American public will just chop this up to another part of the vast government conspiracy to take away Jesus and SUVs.
posted by [expletive deleted] at 8:21 AM on January 22, 2005


Doesn't anyone remember that episode of TNG where Picard lives a lifetime in a few moments and learns to play the flute?
posted by scarabic at 8:24 AM on January 22, 2005


Fortunately, we have intelligence and if needed could easily preserve the species even if we couldn't preserve every member thereof.

We have an extraordinary ability to live anywhere in the world. We also have an extraordinary ability to live in varying climates - when we came to intelligence there were ice sheets over a good half of the world. Whee. And if there were super-low oxygen levels, well, we can derive oxygen from water -- something no other animal can do. It would be energy-costly (though the hydrogen recovery would help a little) but in the end, at least some people would make it even in the most cataclysmic circumstances.

And the sky still ain't fallin'.
posted by u.n. owen at 8:25 AM on January 22, 2005


Scarabic, not only is that an awesome episode ("The Inner Light"), that song is beauuuuutiful. I play it whenever I'm in a particularly stressed mood.
posted by u.n. owen at 8:26 AM on January 22, 2005


I'd sure love a webpage comparing the Kyoto agreement and this crazy plan-thing Bush is saying he is pushing.

from the last link:

"His plan offers incentives to businesses to voluntarily reduce U.S. greenhouse gas emissions by an estimated 4.5 percent over 10 years and to reduce power plant emissions.

Bush's plan is dramatically lower than the estimated 33 percent mandatory reduction sought by the Kyoto agreement for the United States, the world's largest producer of greenhouse gas emissions."

So it's drastically reduced in scope, and has all kinds of industry pork incentives attached. Great!

UN - your resistance to alarmism is admirable, but your definition of "surviving" is kinda bleak. It's not so much a question of whether we can sustain our species with only a few members, but whether the planet, stripped of 90% of the life on it, will still support life of our kind at all. That 10% that survives will likely be microscopic. If we have the technology to deal with that, we have the friggin' technology to reduce co2 emissions, perhaps even learn to regulate the climate overall.
posted by scarabic at 8:31 AM on January 22, 2005


And the sky still ain't fallin'.

Actually, u.n., it pretty much is, in the sense that everything we know about the science of climate change, the ecology of the planet, and the behaviour of large-scale human societies indicates that our current way of life is completely unsustainable and highly likely to lead to some sort of large-scale social and/or ecological and/or geopolitical catastrophe, possibly in our lifetimes.

For an excellent, erudite analysis of all of this, I highly recommend Ronald Wright's A Short History of Progress, a new book based on his 2004 Massey Lecture, which among other things compares our current predicament to the circumstances that sunk such ancient civilizations as Easter Island, Sumer, Mayan Central America and the Roman Empire.

Or, for the short version: the kind of thinking that makes the statement from George W. Bush in that CNN link seem reasonable to some people - "We'll be working with our allies to reduce greenhouse gases. But I will not accept a plan that will harm our economy and hurt American workers" - is the sort of myopic, self-centred, short-term thinking that led numerous other civilizations to their doom.

The difference between us and those ancient civilizations? We know what happened to them, and we know what's happening to us. "Now is our last chance to get the future right," Wright concludes. If we don't, the sky falls.
posted by gompa at 8:59 AM on January 22, 2005


What a load of bullshit.
If there's anyone who knows anything about dinosaurs & global warming, it's Michael Crichton.

Silly progressives, don't you read?
posted by joe lisboa at 9:25 AM on January 22, 2005


I think the issue here is, according to the story on NPR Thursday night, this is one person's reading of the evidence, but not may other experts agree.
posted by yerfatma at 9:50 AM on January 22, 2005


The prospect of global warming is a major concern of our friends living on the many low level islands around the world. The Marshall Islands, Vanuatu, and the Federated States of Micronesia, are some of the island nations that have serious worries about what the future holds for them. FSM polititians like to point out that they have 1% of their citizenry on active duty in the US military; a higher rate than the US itself has.
posted by X4ster at 9:54 AM on January 22, 2005


>Crichton
Fiction

Want real thrilling reading? try science.

http://www.agu.org/pubs/current/gl/


Warming of the world ocean, 1955–2003, Geophys. Res. Lett., 32, L02604

... ocean heat content ... During 1955–1998 world ocean heat content (0–3000 m) increased 14.5 × 1022 J corresponding to a mean temperature increase of 0.037°C at a rate of 0.20 Wm-2 (per unit area of Earth's total surface area).
... published 22 January 2005.
____________
Human influence on increasing Arctic river discharges, Geophys. Res. Lett., 32, L02703

Climate models predict an intensification of hydrological cycle ... high latitude precipitation and consequently river runoffs ... may have started already during the late half of the 20th century. Arctic river flow changes simulated in HadCM3 with all historical external factors agree with river monitoring data reported by Peterson et al. [2002] . Model simulated total river discharges into the Arctic Ocean have increased by an annual rate of 8.73 km3 since the 1960s. Increasing high latitude precipitation is contributing a substantial part to the upward trend, which is likely to be the early stage of intensifying global hydrological cycle caused by anthropogenic factors, as we do not see the trend in the same model forced with natural factors alone.
... published 21 January 2005

____________
GEOPHYSICAL RESEARCH LETTERS, VOL. 32, L01812, doi:10.1029/2004GL021478, 2005

Warm winter spells in the Swiss Alps: Strong heat waves in a cold season?
Martin Beniston

Investigations ... in particular the Saentis high mountain site at 2,500 m above sea level, show that positive temperature anomalies during the winter season currently exceed those of all other seasons. These “heat waves” exhibit daily maximum temperature anomalies sometimes in excess of 16°C, and are observed to have increased substantially since the late 1960s. ... A glimpse to the future is provided for the period 2071–2100, based on regional climate model simulations which suggest that warm winter spells may increase by 30%. ...

published 14 January 2005.
____________
Linear trends in salinity for the World Ocean, 1955–1998, Geophys. Res. Lett., 32, L01604

... salinity anomalies for running five year periods from 1955–1959 through 1994–1998 for the World Ocean and the Atlantic, Pacific, and Indian Ocean basins from the surface to 3000 meters depth. Each basin exhibits large-scale, coherent trends. Most of the Pacific is freshening with the exception of the subtropical South Pacific. The Atlantic exhibits a deep freshening in the subpolar gyre and a shallower, more intense increase in salinity in the tropics and subtropics. The Indian Ocean is becoming more saline at all latitudes in the upper 150 meter layer, with a subsurface freshening between 40°S and the equator in the 250–1000 meter layer. There is freshening in both the Weddell and Ross Seas.
posted by hank at 1:42 PM on January 22, 2005


Want real accurate reading? Try sarcasm.
posted by joe lisboa at 2:08 PM on January 22, 2005


> indicates that our current way of life is completely unsustainable and
> highly likely to lead to some sort of large-scale social and/or ecological and/or
> geopolitical catastrophe, possibly in our lifetimes.

And that's bad because...? This too shall pass.
posted by jfuller at 6:04 PM on January 22, 2005


u.n.owen: "we can do this, we can do that".

Mmm. Yes, people are technically capable. However, if such efforts can be organised on a meaningful scale at all, and I rather doubt that, many many people will be dead first. Not to mention most of the other organisms we depend on. Some people might make it, but the odds that you and I or our children will are pretty low, methinks. The preservation of the species will be cold comfort then.
posted by i_am_joe's_spleen at 7:13 PM on January 22, 2005


All the more reason to get off this fucking rock. Planets suck as long-term habitable environments.
posted by darukaru at 9:37 AM on January 23, 2005


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