Misquamicut, the longest Rhode Island beach, was in a festive holiday mode. Joe Rush, a marine biologist, was standing with his fellow scientists looking at the deep blue sea. A gust of stale air spewed towards the scientists while they walked towards the empty southern end. “The place is stinking!” exclaimed one of the Earth scientists of the group, stumping away with his legs. “Yes, it is hard on my nose too,” Joe said. The air was heavy with a strong unpleasant smell of rotting surface algae, invertebrates, and fishes.
“If this continues, marine life may be wiped out,” Joe grumbled. “Unfortunately, yes!” The Earth scientist rolled his eyes. “This is not Earth’s first brush with global warming, you know. The last time it happened 252 million years ago,” he reflected, “global warming robbed the oceans of oxygen, they say, putting many species under so much stress that they died out,” Joe said. “We are well aware of the volcanoes that erupted on a tremendous scale, Joe,” said the geologist. “The magma and lava that they belched forth produced huge amounts of carbon dioxide. As volcanoes filled the atmosphere with carbon dioxide, the atmosphere warmed. The ocean warmed, it began losing oxygen.”
“We’re repeating the process,” Joe reflected. The geologist was livid. He said, “If so, then climate change is in the category of a catastrophic extinction event.” “Yeah,” Joe reflected. He stood thinking with the eyes wide open. “The way the Earth system is responding now to the build up of carbon dioxide is the exact same way that it has responded in the past,” the Earth scientist said. “It will take a tremendous international effort to keep the increase below the stipulated level,” Joe reflected. “If ancient history is any guide, the consequences for life – especially marine life in the cooler parts of the ocean – will be disastrous,” said the Earth scientist. “Left unchecked, climate warming is putting our future on the same scale as some of the worst events in geological history.” The two scientists stood gazing at the blurred distance as time passed.