A sixth mass extinction event could reach the tipping point by 2100

Mathematician predicts global mass extinction will begin by 2100

In the study, an MIT mathematician has concluded that our planet could be on the path toward another mass extinction event, at least in the oceans, by 2100. Significant changes in the carbon cycle over the last 540 million years, including the five mass extinction events, were noticed by the scientists. "The data does not say that a disaster will happen the next day". "It's saying that, if left unchecked, the carbon cycle would move into a realm which would be no longer stable".

Rothman derived a simple mathematical formula which helped him come to the conclusion that mass extinctions is on its way.

Rothman also studied the end-Permian extinction, an ecological disaster in the history of Earth which wiped out 95 per cent of the marine species due to an increase in the carbon emission.

The mathematician adds that his model only points to a risky trend in the history of the Earth over the last 540 million years. In the modern era, carbon dioxide emissions have risen steadily since the 19th century, but deciphering whether this recent spike in carbon could lead to mass extinction has been challenging.

Many scientists have concluded that the planet has already entered a sixth mass extinction.

By analysing 31 established carbon isotopic events recognised by geochemists, Rothman identified the ebb and flow of carbon-12 and carbon-13 - two isotopes of carbon whose abundance has varied considerably in Earth's history.

Now geophysicist Professor Daniel Rothman says we are seeing a disturbing parallel today - this time because of man-made global warming.

From this, he constructed a database to assess how much carbon mass was pumped into the world's oceans in each historical event.

It showed the critical extra amount required is about 310 gigatons - which is the best case scenario projected by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).

"Exceeding the critical rate at slow time scales - much greater than about 10,000 years - or exceeding the critical size at fast time scales - much less than about 10,000 years - is associated with mass extinction", he explained. Now, an MIT professor has analyzed the changes that took place in the carbon cycle leading up to these five main events - as well as dozens of smaller ones - and found that the end of this century could mark the tipping point for a sixth mass extinction event.

"It became evident that there was a characteristic rate of change that the system basically didn't like to go past", as Rothman puts it.

Most of the other half has dissolved into the ocean, causing acidification. It is expected that by 2100 around 310 gigatons of carbon will have been added to the oceans. Today, this timescale is about 10,000 years.

"There should be ways of pulling back [emissions of carbon dioxide]", Rothman says.

'But this work points out reasons why we need to be careful, and it gives more reasons for studying the past to inform the present'.

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