The Inertia for Good Editor
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The Inertia

Dig around the internet for anything related to science and research of climate change and you are guaranteed to come across some colorful ways scientists are articulating what’s happening on our planet. On a report-by-report basis, Earth is typically warming by something measured in “atomic bomb explosions” or any other expression that should grab the public’s attention. There’s value in putting their findings into terms the rest of us can wrap our minds around though.

A report from Princeton University researchers found that “business-as-usual global temperature increases” are setting up marine life for extinction events that would rival those that took dinosaurs off the planet millions of years ago. Then they made it feel a tad more urgent by pointing out this has the potential to happen by the end of the century. Because each species has its own physiological limits related to available oxygen levels, temperature, and other variables, ocean warming due to climate change is on a trajectory to overtake overfishing, transportation, development, and pollution as the greatest threat to marine life.

The study focused on fossil records to model past extinction events and found that the Earth’s changes now are replicating similar patterns of about 250 million years ago. In that period, known as the “Great Dying,” apparently greenhouse gasses heated Earth’s temperatures with a pattern of massive volcanic eruptions. And it’s estimated as much as 90 percent of the planet’s marine life was wiped out in that period

“The extinction magnitude that we found depends strongly on how much carbon dioxide [CO2] we emit moving forward,” Justin Penn, one of the researchers explained. “There’s still enough time to change the trajectory of CO2 emissions and prevent the magnitude of warming that would cause this mass extinction.”

Their solution isn’t any different from every other doomsday climate change report of the recent past: reduce carbon emissions around the globe. That, they concluded, can offer “substantial protection” against watching most of our known marine life get wiped out within the next few generations.

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