DATE: September 20, 2017
SNIP: A new paper in Science Advances finds that a mass extinction period mirroring ones from our planet’s ancient past could be triggered when humanity adds a certain amount of carbon to the oceans, which are home to the majority of all plants and animals on our planet. The paper pegs that amount at 310 gigatons. According to lead author Daniel Rothman of MIT, based on projections from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, we’re on course to hit that number by 2100. After that, we enter “unknown territory.”
Passing over this carbon threshold moves us “to the other side of the stability boundary,” Rothman [Daniel Rothman of MIT] told me. It’s not that on Jan. 2, 2100, all species on our planet begin to apocalyptically die off. “The next day, everybody wakes up and goes to work as normal,” he said. It might take 10,000 years for a true disaster to play out.
We’re rapidly moving towards a tipping point echoed in Earth’s ancient past. If we continue at this pace, we’ll reach it within our lifetimes, with implications that aren’t yet clear.