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The Permian mass extinction


spamandham

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I was watching a show on the science channel about the search for what caused the mass extinctions of the permian era. Apparently, the extinctions happened in waves. First, a lot of land animals died. Then most ocean life died at the same time a massive region of c-12 is found, followed by another wave of land based death.

 

The thinking is that volcanoes caused global warming of a few degrees, which heated the oceans and caused the release of massive quantities of methane that killed of the oceans and caused further temperature increases, resulting in the death of most land animals.

 

This raises an interesting question (which may not be answerable). Do trapped fossil fuels pose a potential extinction level threat? If so, by extracting them and consuming them, are we actually decreasing the threath of mass extinction rather than increasing it?

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That would depend on what fossil fuel you utilize, and how.

 

Take that methane hydrate at the ocean floors. If the ocean gets too warm, it will gas out... and methane is one Niflhel of a greenhouse gas. If you burn it in whatever way does not produce just another greenhouse gas, things would look different.

I admit that I have no idea whether this is possible (I'm not an expert in chemistry)... but I wouldn't rule out the possibility. :)

 

(That said, there were times in the earth's history when it was a lot warmer than today indeed. If memory serves, in some bygone epoch the average ocean temperature was around 40 ° C... so I guess life itself may well survive. Which specific species would have to bite the dust is another question... :Hmm: )

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Interesting indeed.

 

That, of course, raises the question of whether staving off such an event is necessarily a good thing. After all, conventional wisdom once held that wildfires were nothing but reckless destruction, until further study revealed the long-term benefits involved.

 

Leaving the philosophy out of it, though, that's definitely an eye-opener.

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Unfortunately, combustion pretty much requires that a greenhouse gas be produced as the products of hydrocarbon based combustion always include water vapor and CO2, both of which are known to contribute to the whole greenhouse thing.

 

As for the mass extinction thing it may be due, well, if it weren't for the fact that it would probably include us, in which case it is probably worth staving off.

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