Study: the formation of coal in the Paleozoic era nearly ruined the Earth

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The formation of coal during the Paleozoic era nearly led to a global glaciation of the planet. To such conclusion the expert of the Potsdam Institute of climate change (Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research) Georg Fellner (Georg Feulner). His study, published in the scientific journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS), according to a press release from the Institute.

The researcher assessed the sensitivity of climate of the past Earth with the help of computer simulations, he analyzed ancient soils and fossil leaves and found that the temperature change, in addition to the tilt of the earth’s axis was strongly influenced by the content of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. Fellner found that in the Paleozoic era the concentration of CO2 fluctuated and at some point fell to 100 ppm (ppm, parts per million) . According to the study, this occurred during coal formation in the Carboniferous and Permian periods (penultimate and final geological periods of the Paleozoic era), when many forests died and were buried under the earth together with its accumulated carbon dioxide. Computer simulation also showed that global glaciation starts when the CO2 concentration in the atmosphere is reduced to 40 ppm.

Currently the CO2 concentration is 400 ppm. The researcher notes that this high value is mainly due to coal combustion. Carbon dioxide, being a greenhouse gas, retains the heat from heating the Earth’s surface by the Sun and contributes to the warming of the planet.

“The irony of nature that the formation of coal, one of the main factors that contribute to current global warming, once almost led to the glaciation of the planet, warns Georg Fellner. – This illustrates the scale on which the coal has a problem. The amount of CO2, which is contained in world coal reserves, once was enough to bring the climate out of balance. Released by burning coal CO2 again destabilizie system of the Earth.”

As the scientist believes that the climate has been relatively stable levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere should not exceed 450 ppm. “If you look at the past of the Earth, periods of rapid warming often lead to massive disappearance of species. Stable climate – that we need to appreciate and protect”, – concluded Fellner.

In 2015 climate conference in Paris, 197 countries have agreed to reduce carbon dioxide emissions to prevent a rise in temperature on Earth by more than two degrees by the end of the century. One of the measures which will enable countries to achieve the goal, – the refusal of conventional energy based on fossil fuels (coal, oil) in favor of renewable sources such as solar, wind and others. The Paris agreement was ratified by 168 countries.

Material provided by the project of “1”.

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