At least five mass extinctions have occurred in the past, caused by cosmic and natural phenomena. Scientists estimate that up to 99.9% of all life, plant and animal, has been wiped out. The most recent extinction, the so-called Cretaceous-Tertiary Extinction, occurred around 66 million years ago when a killer asteroid struck the planet just off the coast of today’s Mexico. hui.
Not only did the Cretaceous extinction abruptly end the reign of the dinosaurs, it wiped out up to 75% of all life on Earth at this point.
Many scientists fear that a similar fate awaits us in the future and, more worryingly, humans could have a part in the disappearance of the planet.
According to MIT geophysicist Daniel Rothman, human activity has the potential to disrupt the global carbon cycle and trigger a 10,000-year ecological catastrophe.
The scientist has already spoken of his dire predictions, which he says could come true by the end of the century.
In a study published in the journal Science Advances, he analyzed changes in the carbon cycle over the past 540 million years, including the last five mass extinctions.
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He used it to determine a “capacity threshold” in the carbon cycle, beyond which he believes conditions on Earth become too unstable to sustain life.
Based on his research, Professor Rothman claimed that Earth could enter “unknown territory” by 2100, leading to a planetary catastrophe that could last for up to 10,000 years.
He reiterated his concerns in a new interview with The Times of Israel.
He said: âWhenever there has been a major event in the history of life, there has also been a major disturbance of the environment.
“These things tend to come together.”
And he believes humans are pumping too much carbon into the atmosphere, faster than in past geological events and on much shorter time scales.
Professor Rothman estimates that the carbon threshold in the ocean is around 300 gigatons per century.
Unfortunately, some estimates suggest that Earth is on track to add up to 500 gigatons by 2100.
The scientist said: âMass extinctions represent a kind of cascade of positive feedbacks which causes an overall crash of the ecosystem.
âWhat we are seeing today is very serious; however, I don’t know how much it takes to move us towards the tipping point that would create a global catastrophe for the global ecosystem.
“I can’t say no, I don’t know how to say when we would.”
The key issue right now, according to the expert, is to limit the ways in which we pollute the environment and to find ways to reduce the levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere.
He added: âOf course we already knew that, but that provides another kind of reason to do it.
“There are things that could happen that are essentially beyond our ability to understand them.”