New Delhi: Earth’s sixth mass extinction may become a reality by year 2100 due to increasing carbon pressure on oceans, according to a study done the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT).
The study, Thresholds of catastrophe in the Earth system, was conducted by Daniel H. Rothman, professor of geophysics at MIT’s Department of Earth, Atmospheric and Planetary Sciences. It was published in the international scientific journal Science Advances.
Rothman used a mathematical formula based on the rate and magnitude of change in the carbon cycle. The study identified a total of 31 events in the last 542 million years in which a significant change occurred in Earth’s carbon cycle. It said that in the past 540 million years, the Earth has seen five mass extinction events.
Rothman identified “thresholds of catastrophe" in the carbon cycle that, if exceeded, would lead to an unstable environment, and ultimately, mass extinction. That amount, according to the study, is about 310 gigatons, which is roughly equivalent to the amount of carbon that human activities would have added to the world’s oceans by the year 2100.
Explaining the conclusion of the study, Rothman said this isn’t to say that a catastrophe will happen tomorrow. “It’s saying that, if left unchecked, the carbon cycle would move into a realm which would be no longer stable, and would behave in a way that would be difficult to predict. In the geologic past, this type of behaviour is associated with mass extinction."
In July, a study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, a US scientific journal, claimed that the sixth mass extinction of species is underway thanks to factors such as overpopulation and overconsumption, and there is little time left for effective action.
It had said that as much as 50% of the number of animals that once shared the Earth with humans are already gone, and that the next two decades would see more powerful assaults on biodiversity.
Rothman said that his study highlights the imperative of controlling carbon emissions.