As we all know, carbon is an essential constituent of life. There is a movement of carbon in nature named the carbon cycle. The carbon cycle is the biochemical circuit in which carbon is switched between the biosphere, pedosphere, geosphere, hydrosphere, and atmosphere of Earth. In addition to the nitrogen and water circuit, the carbon circuit encompasses a series of circumstances that are essential to make Earth able to sustain life. However, atmospheric carbon dioxide levels are increasing, and it might lead to new mass extinction.
Carbon dioxide levels are on the rise
There is a study conducted by professor Daniel Rothman from MIT’s Department of Earth, Atmospheric and Planetary Sciences that reveals what happens when too much carbon dioxide infiltrates into the ocean and passes a certain level – Earth fights back by releasing an abundance of chemicals. The result of the release of chemicals generates an increase in the ocean’s acidification which intensifies the effect of carbon dioxide.
The consequence of these carbon dioxide changes in the ocean can be observed in the layers of sediments which formed since the birth of Earth.
Rothman studied them and noticed that for the last 540 million years the accumulation of carbon in the ocean had risen and then fallen to normal values many times, especially around when four of the five great mass extinctions took place on Earth. Carbon rose to the same high levels irrespective of the fact that the event which caused the increase was that disruptive or not.
Atmospheric carbon dioxide would lead to new mass extinction
Even though human beings started releasing atmospheric carbon dioxide quite recently, for a few hundreds of years compared with the tens of thousands of years needed to naturally accumulate high levels of carbon dioxide, the quantity released until now brings Earth on the brink of new mass extinction.
Rothman predicts that Earth’s level of carbon will, in all likelihood, become critical, which in return will have repercussions on Earth’s life. He even dares to say that Earth is facing the sixth mass extinction. The professor worked on a simple mathematical model to see how Earth and the ocean behave when the level of carbon dioxide becomes high.
He observed that, after pumping CO2 into the ocean, irrespective of the rate, the ocean responded with acidification for some time before stabilizing itself over a period of thousands of years. In the end, the study wanted to show that if humans continue in the same manner, Earth will take over and will try to save itself and people will no longer be able to do anything, as a new mass extinction would eventually commence.
Lena Pierce is a reporter for Great Lakes Ledger. After graduating from Ryerson In Toronto, Lena got an internship at CBC radio in Calgary. Lena was also a beat reporter for the Calgary Flames. Lena mostly cover sports and community events. Contact Lena here.