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Why Would The Temperature Raise Higher Today If We Burned All Fossil Fuels Than It Did In The End-Permian/early-Triassic Period?

Climate science CO2 Permian Mass extinction

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#1 Moulin

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Posted 04 August 2019 - 04:23 PM

I've recently read Peter Brannen's book "The Ends of the World" in which he discusses the five big mass extinctions since the Cambrian explosion 541 million years ago. (I highly recommend it to anyone interested in previous mass extinctions by the way.) Often the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere is at least part of the answer to why a certain mass extinction took place. I'm a bit confused about two different sections about the book. I quote the relevant passages. The first one is from the chapter "The End-Permian Mass Extinction".

Today humans emit a staggering 40 gigatons of carbon dioxide a year, perhaps the fastest rate of any period in the last 300 million years of earth history—a period that, you’ll note, includes the End-Permian mass extinction. Burning every last oily drop and anthracite chunk of fossil fuel on earth would release roughly 5,000 gigatons of carbon to the atmosphere. If we do so, the planet will become unrecognizable, with huge swaths rendered uninhabitably hot for mammals like us (to say nothing of the more than 200 feet of sea level rise that would drown much of civilization).

But as exceptional as humans are, estimates of the carbon released in the End-Permian mass extinction range from an utterly catastrophic 10,000 gigatons of carbon—twice as much as we could ever burn—up to a mind-meltingly unfathomable 48,000 gigatons. As a result, temperature estimates for the End-Permian mass extinction and its aftermath strain belief. In the Karoo Desert, as rivers stopped winding, insects stopped buzzing, and mass death swept over the land, the temperature might have jumped as much as 16 degrees Celsius. On Pangaea, 140-degree-Fahrenheit heat waves wouldn’t have been unusual. In the tropics, ocean temperatures skyrocketed from 25 degrees Celsius—similar to today’s oceans—to perhaps upwards of 40 degrees Celsius (104 degrees Fahrenheit). This is the temperature of a hot tub, or as End-Permian expert Paul Wignall puts it, that of “very hot soup.” Multicellular life simply can’t exist in this sort of globe-spanning Jacuzzi. The complex proteins of life denature—that is, they cook. The language of academic papers is typically measured and sober, but even the peer-reviewed science literature describes the early Triassic period that followed this worst mass extinction ever as a “post-apocalyptic greenhouse.”

 

The second is from the chapter "The Near Future".

If humanity burns through all its fossil fuel reserves, there is the potential to warm the planet by as much as 18 degrees Celsius and raise sea levels by hundreds of feet. This is a warming spike of an even greater magnitude than that so far measured for the End-Permian mass extinction. If the worst-case scenarios come to pass, today’s modestly menacing ocean-climate system will seem quaint. Even warming to one-fourth of that amount would create a planet that would have nothing to do with the one on which humans evolved, or on which civilization has been built. The last time it was 4 degrees warmer there was no ice at either pole and sea level was 260 feet higher than it is today.

 

Why would the temperature in the near future raise higher if we burned through all fossil fuels and added 5000 gigatons of carbon dioxide to the atmosphere than it did in the end of Permian when 10000-48000 gigatons of carbon dioxide was added?

 



#2 exchemist

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Posted 05 August 2019 - 02:20 AM

I've recently read Peter Brannen's book "The Ends of the World" in which he discusses the five big mass extinctions since the Cambrian explosion 541 million years ago. (I highly recommend it to anyone interested in previous mass extinctions by the way.) Often the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere is at least part of the answer to why a certain mass extinction took place. I'm a bit confused about two different sections about the book. I quote the relevant passages. The first one is from the chapter "The End-Permian Mass Extinction".

Today humans emit a staggering 40 gigatons of carbon dioxide a year, perhaps the fastest rate of any period in the last 300 million years of earth history—a period that, you’ll note, includes the End-Permian mass extinction. Burning every last oily drop and anthracite chunk of fossil fuel on earth would release roughly 5,000 gigatons of carbon to the atmosphere. If we do so, the planet will become unrecognizable, with huge swaths rendered uninhabitably hot for mammals like us (to say nothing of the more than 200 feet of sea level rise that would drown much of civilization).
But as exceptional as humans are, estimates of the carbon released in the End-Permian mass extinction range from an utterly catastrophic 10,000 gigatons of carbon—twice as much as we could ever burn—up to a mind-meltingly unfathomable 48,000 gigatons. As a result, temperature estimates for the End-Permian mass extinction and its aftermath strain belief. In the Karoo Desert, as rivers stopped winding, insects stopped buzzing, and mass death swept over the land, the temperature might have jumped as much as 16 degrees Celsius. On Pangaea, 140-degree-Fahrenheit heat waves wouldn’t have been unusual. In the tropics, ocean temperatures skyrocketed from 25 degrees Celsius—similar to today’s oceans—to perhaps upwards of 40 degrees Celsius (104 degrees Fahrenheit). This is the temperature of a hot tub, or as End-Permian expert Paul Wignall puts it, that of “very hot soup.” Multicellular life simply can’t exist in this sort of globe-spanning Jacuzzi. The complex proteins of life denature—that is, they cook. The language of academic papers is typically measured and sober, but even the peer-reviewed science literature describes the early Triassic period that followed this worst mass extinction ever as a “post-apocalyptic greenhouse.”


The second is from the chapter "The Near Future".

If humanity burns through all its fossil fuel reserves, there is the potential to warm the planet by as much as 18 degrees Celsius and raise sea levels by hundreds of feet. This is a warming spike of an even greater magnitude than that so far measured for the End-Permian mass extinction. If the worst-case scenarios come to pass, today’s modestly menacing ocean-climate system will seem quaint. Even warming to one-fourth of that amount would create a planet that would have nothing to do with the one on which humans evolved, or on which civilization has been built. The last time it was 4 degrees warmer there was no ice at either pole and sea level was 260 feet higher than it is today.


Why would the temperature in the near future raise higher if we burned through all fossil fuels and added 5000 gigatons of carbon dioxide to the atmosphere than it did in the end of Permian when 10000-48000 gigatons of carbon dioxide was added?

It does not seem totally consistent, I agree. But then there are signs of either laziness or hype in the passages you quote. 40C is nowhere near the temperature of hot soup and proteins do not denature at this temperature. It is the temperature you typically experience in a fever. My guess is the writer has got his comparisons scrambled, in the search for yet more apocalyptic language.

But the basic point remains of course that continued burning of fossil fuel does get us into regimes of some of these extinction events. Which can only be very bad news.

Edited by exchemist, 05 August 2019 - 02:21 AM.


#3 Moulin

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Posted 08 August 2019 - 06:25 PM

It does not seem totally consistent, I agree. But then there are signs of either laziness or hype in the passages you quote. 40C is nowhere near the temperature of hot soup and proteins do not denature at this temperature. It is the temperature you typically experience in a fever. My guess is the writer has got his comparisons scrambled, in the search for yet more apocalyptic language.

 

Yeah, I agree it seems a bit like hype. But a quick glance on literature do seem to give some support to the claim multicellular life will have problems in water with a temperature of 40C. So there is something to what the author is saying, although he most likely have an eye out for the most spectacular claims.

For my original question I was thinking it might have something to do about the speed the greenhouse gases is emitted or maybe something about the average temperature in each setting before the release of CO2. Or something completely different.


Edited by Moulin, 08 August 2019 - 06:33 PM.


#4 Flummoxed

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Posted 09 August 2019 - 04:11 AM

Apart from greenhouse gases trapping heat, the problem often over looked is that as the sea tempurature rises, more evaporation takes place, pultting a lot more water vapour into the atmosphere, which traps a lot more heat.

 

The temperature in the middle of the Atlantic is up 4C on seasonal norms. 23C as opposed to 19C, the temperature around the canaries is up 2C on norms. This may have caused plagues of portuguese men of war (cavalhos) around the azores, and might be behind the reduced number of sitings of whales this year. Also there are very few dolphins around which is not normal. 

 

Portuguese men of war have a really bad sting, I wonder if this could also be behind the Whales and Dolphins going elsewhere.?

 

Further across the Atlantic sargasso sea weed now stretches to the Cape Verde and the Carribean, so a lot of those beutiffuil yellow beaches are now covered in sea weed, which helps breed flies and mosquitos(malaria, denghi, chichengunya etc).