The next mass extinction of animals may begin as early as 2100, when the concentration of carbon dioxide in the waters of the oceans of the earth will exceed the critical mark and temperatures on the planet will start to rise sharply, the geophysicist who published an article in the journal Science Advances says.
“I’m not saying that a catastrophe will happen just tomorrow, we just showed that the carbon cycle in nature will become unstable in the near future and its behavior will be impossible to predict if we continue to saturate the atmosphere and water with carbon dioxide.” In the past, such periods of instability led to mass extinction, “- said Daniel Rothman (Daniel Rothman) of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (USA).
Scientists distinguish the five largest mass extinctions of species in the history of life on Earth. The most significant is the “great” Permian extinction, when more than 95% of all living creatures that inhabited the planet disappeared, including bizarre animals, close relatives of the ancestors of mammals, and a number of marine animals.
Two years ago, environmentalists announced that a new, sixth mass extinction of animals is now taking place on Earth. According to their calculations, in the epoch that preceded the anthropocene – the century of man, about two hundred species of mammals disappeared every hundred years for every ten thousand animals that existed at that time. In the XX and XXI centuries, this figure grew 114 times.
Rothmann believes that the next major extinction of animals, similar in strength to the five previous events of this kind, may begin very soon, at the beginning of the next century. He came to this conclusion by analyzing how the conditions on Earth changed shortly before the beginning of the Perm extinction and his four “younger brothers”.
The main common feature of all these events, as the geophysicist observed, was that the beginning of each mass extinction was accompanied by abrupt changes in the concentration of CO2 in the atmosphere and in the way carbon was exchanged between the biosphere and inanimate nature. The traces of these changes, as the scientist notes, can easily be seen in the way the ratio of carbon isotopes in the rocks of those times changed.
This consideration led Rothman to analyze the remaining 30 cases of abrupt changes in carbon isotope shares, well known to all geologists, and compare them with how the appearance of the flora and fauna of the Earth changed in these episodes of time.
It turned out that all such fluctuations in the fractions of carbon-12 and carbon-13 were accompanied by extinctions and sharp rearrangements of ecosystems, if these fluctuations in the concentration of carbon isotopes were sufficiently large and followed the simple mathematical formula that Rothman derived by analyzing the data collected by him .
Using this formula, the scientist checked to see if mass extinction threatens the Earth today. It turned out that such a crisis could begin very soon, already in 2100, when the concentration of carbon dioxide in the ocean reaches a critical level, and this will happen even in the implementation of the Paris and Kyoto climate agreements. At its achievement, the Earth’s ecosystems will no longer be able to “digest” all carbon dioxide and “store” its surpluses on the ocean floor, as a result of which the amount of CO2 in the atmosphere will begin to increase dramatically.
As the geologist emphasizes, this does not mean that many animals will immediately disappear from the face of the Earth – the process of extinction can drag on for tens or hundreds of thousands of years, during which the rate of extinction of species will grow by several orders of magnitude. Therefore, humanity still has time to stop its offensive or at least reduce its scale.