It seems the Earth is constantly full of surprises. She is tougher and more fragile than we all thought. Would you prefer the good or the bad news first?
It’s a Monday, so I’m going to start with the good news. A new study just found that the Earth can recover from high carbon dioxide emissions up to four times faster than we originally thought. Scientists got a sneak peak at Earth’s past coping mechanisms by looking at a time, 93 million years ago, when the CO2 emitted by volcanic eruptions was similar to the CO2 emitted by humans today. They found that chemical weathering speeds up, as temperatures on the planet rise. This allows the planet to cool down and CO2 in the atmosphere to decline, by storing some of the CO2 in rocks and the ocean. Thanks to this process, the planet can recover exceedingly faster than previously thought possible.
Sounds like incredible news right? WRONG! Apparently this process takes 300,000 years! That still sounds like a hell of a long time to me! Not only that, but this process only begins to work when carbon emissions cease. I don’t see that happening anytime soon. To add to the bad news, chemical weathering, while helping the atmosphere recover, can cause mass extinctions in the ocean! So, while I’m happy it won’t take over 1 million years for the Earth to recover, I would like to avoid making her wait 300,000 years. A scientist involved in the research said, “If we stopped all emissions today this recovery would still take hundreds of thousands of years. We have to start doing something soon to remove CO2 from the atmosphere if we don’t want to see a repeat of the kind of mass extinctions that global warming has triggered in the past.”