The gradual warming of our world could set off a series a cataclysmic events that would lead to “apocalyptic” outcomes, a new study warns.
In the latest issue of Palaeoworld, the authors of a study titled “Methane Hydrate: Killer cause of Earth’s greatest mass extinction” explain how the process of global temperature rises possibly led to an even more destructive killer millions of years ago: the release of methane hydrate, a gas that accelerates the warming process even faster.
“Global warming triggered by the massive release of carbon dioxide may be catastrophic,” the study warns, “but the release of methane from hydrate may be apocalyptic.”
It works like this: as carbon levels in the atmosphere make the world a warmer place, permafrost in the world’s Arctic regions begins to thaw, gradually releasing higher levels of methane, which speeds up the process of global warming more.
The study describes how this series of events was likely what led to the Permian mass extinction event, “the greatest challenge life on Earth faced in its geologic history,” as the study calls it, which happened nearly 250 million years ago. As a result of the vast change in climate, nearly 9 in 10 marine organisms perished, as did 7 in 10 land species.
Though the release of carbon then was the result of massive volcanic eruptions, the amount of carbon emissions we dispense today is causing some to consider what modern outcomes could come as a result of our continued reliance on fossil fuels. Permafrost is already melting in many areas of the Arctic, and some are speculating that the process is already speeding up climate change across the globe.
Chris Walker been writing about political issues for the past decade, including for sites such as Elite Daily, AMERICAblog, and Mic. You can follow him on Twitter @thatchriswalker.