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Carbon dioxide is rising at its fastest rate in 66 million years

Carbon dioxide is rising at its fastest rate in 66 million years Mashable We're using cookies to improve your experience. Click Here to find out more. Mashable Mashable Mashable Australia Mashable France Mashable India Mashable UK Sign in Like Follow Follow Mashable see more  > Search Videos Social Media Tech Business Entertainment World Lifestyle Watercooler Shop More Channels Videos Social Media Tech Business Entertainment World Lifestyle Watercooler Shop Company About Us Licensing & Reprints Archive Mashable Careers Contact Contact Us Submit News Advertise Advertise Legal Privacy Policy Terms of Use Cookie Policy Apps iPhone / iPad Android Resources Subscriptions Sites Mashable Shop Job Board Social Good Summit World Like Follow Follow Carbon dioxide is rising at its fastest rate in 66 million years 3.5k Shares Share Tweet Share What's This? Boxberg Power Station is reflected in the lake 'Baerwalder See' in Klitten on February 14, 2016. This lignite-fired power station is the fourth largest in Germany.Image: Photothek via Getty Images By Andrew Freedman 2016-03-21 16:16:20 UTC Humans are releasing planet-warming carbon dioxide at about 10 times faster than the most rapid event of anytime in at least the past 66 million years. This leaves us without a historical analogue to guide predictions for how climate change will affect the world in coming years, a new study has found. The study , published Monday in the journal Nature Geoscience, comes about a week after news broke that the level of carbon dioxide in the Earth’s atmosphere spiked by the largest amount on record in 2015, and on the heels of the hottest year and mildest first two months of 2016 on record. SEE ALSO: February obliterated global heat records, NASA confirms February, for example, had the highest temperature departure from average of any month on record since at least 1880, NASA and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration found. To reach their conclusions, the researchers examined ancient sediments off the coast of Millville, New Jersey, looking at the chemical composition of sediment layers that were laid down millions of years ago, containing clues about the planet’s climate history. Specifically, they researched trends in carbon and oxygen isotopes.  The carbon isotopes represent new carbon coming into the climate system, and the oxygen isotopes represent the climate's response to this pulse of excess carbon.  The study focuses on what the isotope ratios reveal about what occurred during a time period in Earth’s geological history known as the Paleocene-Eocene Thermal Boundary, or PETM. The PETM took place about 56 million years ago. Bucket-wheel coal excavators remove top soil at the massive Nochten open-pit lignite coal mine on August 4, 2008 near Weisswasser, Germany. Image: Getty Images The isotopes changed in virtual lockstep with each other, indicating that the carbon release during the PETM was more likely to have taken place over a long period of time, due to what is known about the lag effects in the climate system and how the climate responds to sudden, massive injections of carbon dioxide.  There has been a long-running debate in the scientific community about just what caused the massive climate change and sizable species extinctions at the PETM boundary, and how quickly carbon was released into the atmosphere, thereby warming the air and seas while also acidifying the oceans.  While mass extinctions of marine creatures occurred during the PETM, there was not widespread species loss on land, according to study co-author Richard Zeebe of the University of Hawaii at Manoa. During the PETM, the total amount of carbon released was about equal to all the fossil fuels thought to be currently left on Earth. This period likely saw the largest carbon release in at least the past 66 million years, according to the study.  “I think to me it’s completely clear we have entered a completely new era in terms of what humans can do on this planet†The study also used computer model simulations of Earth’s climate and carbon cycle in order to estimate rates of change from the record without needing precise knowledge of the precise ages of each sediment layer in the record. The global temperature increase during the PETM is thought to be between 4 and 8 degrees Celsius, or 7.2 to 14.4 degrees Fahrenheit, according to Scott Wing, a paleobiologist and curator at the Smithsonian Museum of Natural History in Washington, who did not contribute to the new study. “As far as we know the PETM, the Paleocene-Eocene boundary is the event in the last 66 million years with the largest carbon release and most likely also the fastest, and that’s why we have studied this event,†Zeebe told Mashable. Zeebe and his colleagues found that the maximum emissions rate during the beginning of the PETM was likely on the order of about 1.1 billion tons per year. Overall, the PETM onset is thought to have lasted more than 4,000 years