|global climate change
Thanks to Our Fossil Fuel Addiction, We May Be Setting Ourselves Up for a Catastrophic Natural Event
Too much CO2 in the air and not enough oxygen in the oceans may release a toxic dose of hydrogen sulfide -- an unheralded executioner.
"What is hydrogen sulfide? It smells like farts and rotten eggs. You can find it in swamps, sewers, landfills, volcanic and natural gases, and pretty much everywhere there is a petroleum refinery. Unfortunately, you can also usually find it whenever and wherever you've got mass extinctions.
"In fact, it is hydrogen sulfide, rather than killer asteroids or some other interstellar death-bringer, that has possibly become the go-to kill-shot of most mass extinctions in Earth's history.
" "It doesn't take much hydrogen sulfide to kill off anything," Gerry Dickens, professor of earth science and paleoceanography at Rice University, explained to AlterNet by phone.
"He should know: It was Dickens' work with methane hydrates that completed the puzzle of the Permian-Triassic extinction event, more aptly known as the Great Dying, in the 2002 BBC Horizon documentary The Day the Earth Nearly Died.
"During the Great Dying, over 250 million years ago, flood basalts in the Siberian and Emeishan traps unleashed hell on Earth, spewing titanic walls of lava, ash, debris and greenhouse gases into the sky, blotting out the sun and surrounding hundreds of thousands of miles in a biblical inferno for which there is no contemporary analogue, at least in reality.
"But even that wasn't enough to wipe out the 96 percent of Earth's marine, terrestrial and plant species claimed by the Great Dying. A growing scientific consensus explains that the death stroke was probably delivered from Earth's anoxic oceans, whose resultant out-of-whack pH balance, once literally defined as the "power of hydrogen," released catastrophic stores of either methane hydrate or hydrogen sulfide into the atmosphere.
"Whichever one it was, hydrogen had the power to bring Earth to its knees. And it could happen again."