A long time ago the carbon was rock, buried in the earth as securely as a secret. Then an environmental catastrophe of unprecedented scale began. The rocks burned, and the atoms inside them disassembled into carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases.
“By studying the Great Dying, we find that it affected everything, as you might imagine,” said David Bottjer, a paleoecologist at USC who worked on the sea floor study. “Of course, we do get to see how it recovers. But this recovery is over a long time, like a million years or more.”
The human-caused warming Earth faces in the foreseeable future isn’t yet as extreme as the temperature swings of the Permian period. But these anthropogenic-fueled changes happen faster than those brought about by nature alone.
“Nature ran the experiment already,” Bottjer said. “It’s not a pretty sight.”
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