...And how it is something we should worry about now.
There is something to be said for those that can live in a state of blissful ignorance. That type of mindset sure makes existence in a world where change that is barely distinguishable from chaos a lot simpler. It is actually a monumental effort to wake every morning and believe the world is a static place and that your position in it is ordained by God himself. Excuse me if I sound more than a little flippant, it’s just that such an attitude courses through the veins of all true American patriots these days and they generally call such a mindset “American Exceptionalism.” While there are several different facets to American Exceptionalism, the one I want to bring attention to is the idea that our hyper-consumerist lifestyle based of the widespread use of fossil fuels could actually cause the extinction of all life on Earth.
That is an extreme claim to be sure. But hold on and hear me out if you can set aside your arthritic state of mind for a few minutes. Yes, I’m going to mention that we have been spewing carbon into the atmosphere since the start of the Industrial Revolution due to the burning of various type of fossil fuels but my story actually begins 250 million years ago during the onset of the Permian Mass Extinction.
The “Great Dying”, as some in the scientific community call the Permian Mass Extinction resulted in the death of ninety-five percent of all life on the planet at that time, both terrestrial species and those living in the ocean. For years the natural assumption was that the Great Dying was caused by an asteroid or comet impacting the Earth, however given the size and speed of the resulting global extinction event no crater of sufficient size was ever found to corroborate what was known. There is still a possibility that an extraterrestrial impactor was part of the overall global disaster but another, even greater source was the trigger event.
The Siberian Traps is a large region of volcanic rock that was the site of one of the most massive eruptions in the history of the world and it just happens to span the Permian-Triassic boundary. The event, attributed to a plume of lava rising up from the mantle eventually covered seven million square kilometers, over twice the size of Western Europe, and released untold trillions of tons of carbon dioxide into that prehistoric atmosphere. Yes, the initial result was a global cooling but that came from the dust released from the eruptions. Once the dust settled back on land and the oceans all that carbon dioxide was still in the atmosphere, along with the sheer heat from the still raging volcanic events in the Siberian Traps brought on a massive increase in global temperatures due to the greenhouse effect.
With the death of most plant life, due to the preliminary global cooling from the volcanic dust there was nothing to absorb all that excess carbon dioxide. That was bad, but the worst had not even begun to happen and that was the melting of frozen methane that had been trapped in tundra and at the bottom of the ocean.
Current models suggest all it took was a six-degree increase in global temperature to initiate the massive release of frozen methane. It wasn’t long before a feedback loop was created where the release of methane increased temperatures even more, which in turn thawed out even more of the stuff and that raised temperatures again.
The increased carbon dioxide levels during the onset of the Permian Mass Extinction caused the oceans to acidify, which was bad enough. But things went from bad to worse when the frozen methane at the bottom of the ocean was released further altering the natural chemical makeup of the marine environment. This nightmare was not yet over, methane is a super-greenhouse gas and its release into the atmosphere more than doubled the average global temperature at that time.
Now the usual question from the misguided masses that have their heads stuck up their butts is how does all this really ancient history affect me? I’m glad you asked good sir ore madam.
Globally the burning of fossil fuels has already increased CO2 levels to over 400 parts per million. That is an increase that dwarfs all previous natural events, even that of the Siberian Traps. Many simply do not want to comprehend these facts but there is simply no precedent for what we are doing to the atmosphere. The World Bank itself, in no way a fuzzy, bleeding heart tree hugger group has warned that unless the burning of fossil fuels is curtailed the world will see a five-degree increase in global temperatures. The best data we have strongly suggested that the massive thawing and release of frozen methane can start with a six degree increase. This is where your average American, awash in the belief of his or her own magnificence should take note that there is now evidence that methane thawing and release might have already started.
Scientists were baffled last July when they discovered three giant holes in the ground in the Yamal Peninsula in northern Siberia.
Now, with the help of satellite imagery, researchers have located four additional craters--and they believe there may be dozens more in the region. That has them calling for an urgent investigation to protect residents living in the area.
"I am sure that there are more craters on Yamal, we just need to search for them... I suppose there could be 20 to 30 craters more," Prof. Vasily Bogoyavlensky, a corresponding member of the Russian Academy of Sciences and deputy director of the Moscow-based Oil and Gas Research Institute, told The Siberian Times. "It is important not to scare people, but to understand that it is a very serious problem and we must research this."
Researchers ventured deep inside one of the holes last November, collecting data in an effort to learn why the holes formed. The leading theory is that the holes were created by gas explosions triggered by underground heat or by rising air temperatures associated with climate change, the Siberian Times reported last December.
How global warming could turn Siberia into a giant crater Time Bomb
Global warming could leave parts of Siberia exposed to a wave of underground explosions like those behind the recent unexplained giant craters phenomenon.
Scientists studying one of the massive holes on the Yamal Peninsula say there is growing evidence that rising temperatures is the main catalyst triggering the blasts.
They believe warming air is melting the thick permafrost, leading to the accumulation and release of volatile 'fire ice' gases which then explodes to create the giant funnels.
Overall temperatures in Yamal, in northwest Siberia, in the past 14 years alone have risen by at least two degrees Celsius.