Killing Off The Planet

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Without the bright, fluffy rolling decks there to bounce the sun's energy back into space, it will instead be absorbed. If those stratocumulus decks disappear, which the researchers say could happen within a century under the worst-case scenario, the result may be what happened during that period millions of years ago, known as the Paleocene-Eocene Thermal Maximum PETM.

For some time, there wasn't exactly consensus on what unknown factor created such a dramatic spike, but that's beginning to change. Matt Huber , a scientist at Purdue University, told Quanta.

Book Excerpt: 'The Uninhabitable Earth'

He thinks the new research led by Tapio Schneider of CalTech and NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory could be a key piece of the climate puzzle that links where the planet has been in the past with where we're now steering it. In other words, we may get back to the prehistoric climate where equatorial regions were essentially too hot to be habitable and Arctic waters are almost pleasant without pumping crazy amounts of CO2 into the atmosphere.

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If we reach around 1, parts per million of CO2 in the atmosphere, as some models show occurring in the 22nd century, it could trigger the break-up of the stratocumulus cloud decks. So perhaps it's not surprising that clouds have already been seen as a potential key to preventing the climate apocalypse for some time.

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In the past, soot and other air pollution particulates were pumped into the atmosphere almost in equal amounts as CO2. Fish and Wildlife Service researchers combined data from dozens of previous studies to estimate, as rigorously as possible, how many birds are killed by cats each year in the contiguous United States. Their results were startling. After carefully quantifying cat populations and predation rates and the uncertainty of both , the scientists calculated that domestic cats pounce on one billion to four billion birds a year in the lower 48 states, as well as 6.

About two-thirds of the bird deaths were attributed to feral cats, living wild. Researchers compiled data from multiple studies to estimate the number of birds in the U. Whoa, did that study ruffle fur and feathers!

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Media reports pitched cat people against bird people, animal rights advocates against ecologists, and pet owners against academics. One of the researchers cowrote a book, Cat Wars —which did not exactly smooth things over—and described receiving death threats. Follow-up studies have confirmed the scale of the threat.

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For example, the most comprehensive inquiry in Canada , which has fewer total cats than the United States, estimated that million to million birds are taken by cats each year. The situation is acute yet oddly unfathomable.

8 Things that are killing our planet

Everyone knows cats are predators, but until recently the impact of cats on wildlife was barely recognized. Even when presented with raw kill data, many people, including the overwhelming majority of cat owners, still doubt that cats adversely affect wild bird populations.

Maybe this reflects our inherent difficulty in reckoning with broad, incremental effects like, say, climate change. Or maybe we should all lighten up.

10 Ways the Earth Is Trying to Kill You

No study has definitively linked cat predation to mainland bird population trends though islands are another story. In terms of trashing the planet, humans are plainly the worst offenders. And blaming cats only deflects our responsibility onto an animal with no concept of saving the world. The heat and cosmic radiation would make Earth inhospitable even to tardigrades, among the hardiest organisms ever discovered.

Climate Change Could Kill Off Clouds And Return Us To A 'Hothouse Earth'

Other options: exploding stars known as supernovae or gamma ray bursts, highly energetic explosions in outer space. But none of these is very likely. Tardigrades, also known as water bears, can live for days in the vacuum of outer space.

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They can also withstand pressure up to six times that at the bottom of the ocean and levels of radiation thousands of times the lethal human dose, thanks to a yet-unknown mechanism that allows them to repair their DNA. The findings have implications for more than just earthlings. They could inform our search for creatures on alien worlds, says study author David Sloan, a cosmologist at the University of Oxford in the United Kingdom.

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It has been updated to the correct calculation.