Earth Hasn’t Heated Up This Fast Since the Dinosaurs’ End
People are sending carbon into the atmosphere ten times faster than during the hottest period in the past 66 million years.
Carbon is pouring into the atmosphere faster than at any time in the past 66 million years—since the dinosaurs went extinct—according to a new analysis of the geologic record. The study underscores just how profoundly humans are changing Earth’s history.
The carbon emissions rate is ten times greater today than during the prehistoric hot period that is the closest precedent for today's greenhouse warming.
That period, known as the Paleocene-Eocene Thermal Maximum (PETM), was marked by a massive release of the Earth's natural carbon stores into the atmosphere. (It’s not clear what caused the PETM, but volcanic eruptions and methane gas release are suspects.) The excess carbon triggered a 5°C (9°F) temperature increase, along with drought, floods, insect plagues, and extinctions.