Around 250 million years ago, a series of global warming events resulted in 70% of life on land and 95% of marine life being extinguished. University of Calgary scientists in Canada are the first to have found evidence in the Arctic that a huge volcanic event led to the burning of vast amounts of coal. At that time, the Earth's land was contained on one large continent called Pangaea, where volcanoes covering an area the size of Europe began to erupt through underground coal beds, igniting the carbon-dense material and causing it to produce immense ash clouds.
This in turn released sufficient amounts of greenhouse gases to initiate runaway global warming. Speaking about the findings from their expedition, researcher Dr. Benoit Beauchamp stated, “We saw layers with abundant organic matter, and … immediately determined that they were layers of coal-ash, exactly like that produced by modern coal burning power plants.”
In addition, earlier research has shown evidence of hydrogen sulfide poisoning. Scientists believe that during the Paleozoic era, the planet was already warming due to elevated carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere. The enormous amounts of ash released by the coal-burning volcanic eruptions caused an even further reduction in oxygen supplies to both land and water. This in turn caused a proliferation of the bacteria that produce poisonous hydrogen sulfide, setting off changes that resulted in what is now regarded as the worst extinction event in the Earth's history.
We appreciate these fascinating findings, Dr. Beauchamp and colleagues, and the insights they provide into our planet's ancient past. May such cases aid as warnings regarding our own climate change predicament today, so that through wise actions, devastating planetary impacts can be averted.
During a September 2009 videoconference in Peru, Supreme Master Ching Hai spoke of the often unforeseen dangers accompanying climate change, along with the ways we could avoid them entirely.