Global Warming: From the Great Dying to humanity at risk

On this Halloween, who needs ghosts and goblins? The real spooky stuff is in the science.

First, from Science Daily:

The greatest mass extinction in Earth’s history also may have been one of the slowest, according to a study that casts further doubt on the extinction-by-meteor theory.

Creeping environmental stress fueled by volcanic eruptions and global warming was the likely cause of the Great Dying 250 million years ago, said USC doctoral student Catherine Powers.

Writing in the November issue of the journal Geology, Powers and her adviser David Bottjer, professor of earth sciences at USC, describe a slow decline in the diversity of some common marine organisms.

Obviously, this wasn’t a human-caused event, but it demonstrates just how catastrophic such a catastrophe can be. As this NASA article explains, in the Great Dying, up to 90% of marine species and up to 70% of land species were wiped out. All life on Earth almost ended, even as it was still beginning, and global warming seems to have been one of the reasons why.

There is such a steady stream of stories on the current era of global warming, but here are just two new examples…


As reported by Science Daily, last week:

The catastrophic fires that are sweeping Southern California are consistent with what climate change models have been predicting for years, experts say, and they may be just a prelude to many more such events in the future — as vegetation grows heavier than usual and then ignites during prolonged drought periods.

“This is exactly what we’ve been projecting to happen, both in short-term fire forecasts for this year and the longer term patterns that can be linked to global climate change,” said Ronald Neilson, a professor at Oregon State University and bioclimatologist with the USDA Forest Service.

Neilson points out the obvious: you can’t prove a direct causal link.

“But things just like this are consistent with what the latest modeling shows,” Neilson said, “and may be another piece of evidence that climate change is a reality, one with serious effects.”

And melting…

According to the European Space Agency:

The International Ice Charting Working Group predicts more marine transportation in the Arctic as sea ice continues to diminish and warns of “significant hazards to navigation,” according to a recent statement .

The statement was released during a five-day conference held at ESRIN, ESA’s Earth Observation Centre in Frascati, Italy, in which operational ice experts from Europe and North America gathered to discuss the state of the polar regions.

“In September 2007, the Arctic sea ice reached the minimum extent – the lowest amount of ice recorded in the area annually – in the history of ice charting based on satellite, aircraft and surface observations, continuing a recent trend of diminishing sea ice that began in the 1980s and has accelerated. While there will still be natural inter-annual variability, the decline is likely to continue,” the statement” reads.

According to satellite data, summer sea ice has been nearly halved since the early 1980s, from 8 million km² to less than 4.24 million km², this year. This is a huge drop even from the previous record of 5.5 million km², just two years ago. It’s already affecting walrus habitat, and the process is happening so much more rapidly than had been predicted that scientists are increasingly unnerved. They should be unnerved!

And it gets worse. As the BBC explained, also last week:

Global temperatures predicted for the coming centuries could trigger a mass extinction, UK scientists have warned.

The temperatures are within the range of greenhouse phases early in the Earth’s history when up to 95% of plants and animals died out, they say.

Experts examined the link between climate and diversity over 520 million years, almost the entire fossil record.

Which closes the circle on the first report: global warming was a chief cause of the Great Dying, and it could cause another one. According to scientists. If you believe scientists. Which, of course, the worst administration in American history doesn’t. But, according to scientists, as reported by MSNBC, it’s already happening:

The world’s biodiversity is declining at an unprecedented rate, the recognized global watchdog on endangered species said Wednesday in announcing its annual list of most vulnerable wildlife….

Current extinction rates are at least 100 to 1,000 times higher than natural rates found in the fossil record, the report stated. The data were released as 3,500 delegates gathered in Bangkok, Thailand, for a World Conservation Union conference focused on halting what’s deemed an extinction crisis.

The report concluded that humans are the main reason for most species’ declines. “Habitat destruction and degradation are the leading threats,” the union said in a statement, “but other significant pressures include over-exploitation (for food, pets, and medicine), introduced species, pollution, and disease. Climate change is increasingly recognized as a serious threat.”

And here’s the link to the IUCN Redlist of Threatened Species. Except that there may soon be another one. And it’s not only from global warming, as the Guardian reported, last week:

The future of humanity has been put at risk by a failure to address environmental problems including climate change, species extinction and a growing human population, according to a new UN report.

In a sweeping audit of the world’s environmental wellbeing, the study by the UN Environment Programme (UNEP) warns that governments are still failing to recognise the seriousness of major environmental issues.

We need repeat it, over and over, because no one in the corporate media will even dare say it: there is no more important political issue than the environment. Read the UNEP report. Find out what your candidates intend to do about it. Encourage them and your current representatives to give this issue the attention it deserves. Be Energy Smart. The UNEP report makes it clear that it is not too late; but it also makes clear that we don’t have much more time before it might be.


  1. Thanks so much for the Halloween message.

    For some darkness:


    Best,  Terry

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