A few weeks ago I had the idea that, contrary to my original thinking, the (relatively) slow burning of fossil fuels might be a good thing. The following is what got me thinking about that.
What if one of the massive oil fields around the planet were to catch fire? Now, what if that happened to several at once? This got me thinking about mass extinction. Burning oil fields with no way to put them out would certainly begin to threaten life on the planet. I wondered if that had been considered for any of the previous mass extensions.
Of course, as the internet has shown me over and over I'm almost certainly never the first to have any idea, and so I found that some newer studies suggest just that:
Now this particular study suggests coal rather than oil which could also be the case since they burn similarly. Burning oil produces less carbon dioxide than coal but burning enough of either (or both) for hundreds or thousands of years would certainly explain the decrease in life and how it was kept at such low levels.
Volcanic activity was the catalyst behind the Permian Extinction. There is plenty of evidence of massive eruptions. But would that on it's own be enough to take life down to the nearly completely obliterated levels of "The Great Dying"? I think fossil fuels burning in mass over that time explains nearly every "symptom" of what that world looked like according to the geological record.
With those thoughts in mind, are we inadvertently lowering the planet's risk for another such event by burning those fuels off more slowly than a volcanic eruption would?
This isn't an anti-environmental post. I just want to make that clear. It's just a thought.
Hmmm ... and I thought I posted this under Earth Sciences. Would a moderator mind moving it?