What Global Warming of the Past Tells Us About the Future
A large asteroid hit us in the Yucatan Peninsula causing the mass extinction. Was the impact just the coup de grace coming on an already affected world?
Our Antarctic work is to look at the nature of global temperatures at the end of the Crustaceous Period. Crustaceous ended 65 million years ago when a large asteroid hit us in the Yucatan Peninsula causing the mass extinction. But we’re trying to see what happened in the 10 million years prior to that because we know at that time there was a gigantic volcanic event in India. These are a big flood basalts they’re called. It’s not a single point source volcano, but imagine enormous areas of the Earth, creeping lava coming out of the cracks and flowing slowly all around scaring dinosaurs to death, probably running in front of this stuff. It probably also killed a few dinosaurs, but what it did do was vent an enormous quantity of volcanic carbon dioxide and other gasses into the atmosphere.
We wanted to know if there was any precursor to the impact. Was the impact just the coup de grace coming on an already affected world? That does seem to be the case. The best place to understand anything about global warming isn’t at the tropics. That’s where temperatures change the least. It’s at the poles where you have the greatest absolute change. So, we found a ten degrees centigrade change from colder to warmer in the last two to three million years prior to the impact itself. The place really did warm up, and fast, from a lot of Co2 in the atmosphere. Now, there’s obviously parallels to what’s going on in the world today.
In Their Own Words is recorded in Big Think's studio.
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The 21st century is experiencing an Asianization of politics, business, and culture.
- Our theories about the world, even about history or the geopolitics of the present, tend to be shaped by Anglo perspectives of the Western industrial democracies, particularly those in the United States and the United Kingdom.
- The West, however, is not united. Canada, for instance, acts in many ways that are not in line with American or British policies, particularly in regard to populism. Even if it were united, though, it would not represent most of the world's population.
- European ideas, such as parliamentary democracy and civil service, spread across the world in the 19th century. In the 20th century, American values such as entrepreneurialism went global. In the 21st century, however, what we're seeing now is an Asianization — an Asian confidence that they can determine their own political systems, their own models, and adapt to their own circumstances.
Research has shown that men today have less testosterone than they used to. What's happening?
- Several studies have confirmed that testosterone counts in men are lower than what they used to be just a few decades ago.
- While most men still have perfectly healthy testosterone levels, its reduction puts men at risk for many negative health outcomes.
- The cause of this drop in testosterone isn't entirely clear, but evidence suggests that it is a multifaceted result of modern, industrialized life.
Can sensitive coral reefs survive another human generation?
- Coral reefs may not be able to survive another human decade because of the environmental stress we have placed on them, says author David Wallace-Wells. He posits that without meaningful changes to policies, the trend of them dying out, even in light of recent advances, will continue.
- The World Wildlife Fund says that 60 percent of all vertebrate mammals have died since just 1970. On top of this, recent studies suggest that insect populations may have fallen by as much as 75 percent over the last few decades.
- If it were not for our oceans, the planet would probably be already several degrees warmer than it is today due to the emissions we've expelled into the atmosphere.
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