Back To The Jurassic In A Hurry: 500 Part Per Million Of Greenhouse Gases

Greenhouse gases (GHG) used to be 280 parts per million. Now they are around 500 ppm (including CH4, Nitrogen oxides, chlorofluorocarbons, etc.). This is more GHG than in at least thirty  million years, when the Earth was much warmer, and it is similar to CO2 densities during the Jurassic.

So we are presently transiting to a Jurassic climate. The transition to the Jurassic climate is happening at a rate many orders of magnitude faster than changes in the past. This implies that most forests of the Earth , desiccating and incapable to adapt fast enough, are going to burn… worldwide. This generalized combustion has a drastic potential consequence: generalized hypoxia.

So we should talk about climate catastrophe rather than climate change, and global heating rather than global warming: recent fires got helped by temperatures dozen of degrees higher than normal, in part from compression of the air due to record breaking winds. This is why parts of the Pacific Northwest which never burn are now burning. This will extend to Canada, Alaska, Siberia and already did in recent years. The catastrophic massive release of frozen methane hydrates could happen any time (it already does, but not as bad as it is going to get). It has up to one hundred times more warming power than CO2 (fires release it by billions of tons).

What is the way out? Well, hydrogen is the solution, in two ways, but has not been deployed as it could be. A decade ago, thermonuclear fusion, on the verge of becoming a solution, was starved for funding, and so was green hydrogen (the then energy secretary, Obama’s Steven Chu, prefered investing in batteries, it was more lucrative for his little greedy self).

Green hydrogen enables to store energy for renewables, avoiding blackouts which cut electricity to pumps to fight fires

We, Spaceship Earth, went from 275 ppm of GreenHouse Gases (GHG) in 1750 CE to 500 ppm in 2020. That doesn’t mean we double the Greenhouse, because the main GHG gas is… water vapor (H2O). What we can guess the best at this point is the EXCESS radiative forcing since 1750 CE, and that’s already nearly 3 Watts per square meter… Equivalent to a million and a half nuclear reactors at full power…

Climate forcing is a fascinating subject, with vast areas without a high level of scientific understanding (LOSU). However we know enough to realize forceful mitigation has to be engaged in immediately.

Joan Katsareas from Philadelphia, PA wrote back: “Thank you @Patrice Ayme for sharing your knowledge of the causes and extent of the climate crisis. I will be seeking out more information on hydrogen as a solution.”

@Joan Katsareas Thank you for thanking me, that is much appreciated. Hydrogen is indeed the overall solution we need at this point. Actually Australia, in collaboration with Japan, is building a gigantic, 15 Gigawatts, project in north west Australia, AREH, the Asian Renewable Energy Hub, to convert renewables from sun and wind into hydrogen products which will then be shipped to Japan. The same needs to be done all over, it would collapse the price of “green hydrogen” (99% of the US hydrogen is from fossil fuels).

In the case of thermonuclear fusion, the  international thermonuclear experimental reactor (ITER) being built in France was slowed down by ten years, from reduced funding, and uses obsolete magnets (superconducting, but not High Temperature Superconductors, which can now be engineered with more compact and powerful fields). A massive effort would bring a positive energy thermonuclear reactor within 10 years… But that effort has not been made… except in China, the usual suspect, where a project, the China Fusion Engineering Test Reactor (CFETR), aims at an energy gain of 12 and a total power equivalent to a fission nuclear reactor. Its detailed engineering has been launched for a while (it’s supposedly symbiotic with the European DEMO project, which will produced as much as a large power station and will be connected to the grid. That too has been delayed, to the 2050s, although it’s feasible now).  The USA needs to launch a similar project, right away.

We face ecological constraints incomparably more severe than those of the Roman state. Rome did not solve its paltry problems, and let them fester: they had to do mostly with a dearth of metals, and the Franks solved them readily. This hindered the Roman economy. The situation we are facing, the threat of a runaway greenhouse is a terminal existential threat.

Look at Venus, we can look at our sparkling neighbor when the forests have finished burning, and the smoke dissipates (we were told it could be months). Once Venus probably had a vast ocean, and probably, life. But it died from a brutal greenhouse generated by Large Igneous Provinces (LIP). The same happened on Earth, on a smaller scale, more than once, in particular with the Permian Triassic mass extinction, which destroyed 95% of known species..

Now the rumor has it that indeed some life may have survived in the atmosphere.  This is not a joke. Consider: Life on Venus? Astronomers See a Signal in Its Clouds. The detection of a gas in the planet’s atmosphere could turn scientists’ gaze to a planet long overlooked in the search for extraterrestrial life.

Life on Venus? Ah, science, all those possibilities… We never imagined we would ever think possible.

Patrice Ayme



P/S: I argued in the past, before anybody else, that the dinosaur-pterosaurs-plesiosaurs extinction, and extinction of anything bigger than 20 kilograms was due to volcanism (I was at UC Berkeley when the two Alvarez were, and they seemed too full of themselves with the iridium layer, and I like to contradict certainties…)

How would LIP volcanism set forests on fire? Well, by the same exact mechanism as now: through a massive CO2 driven greenhouse, what may have terminated the Venusians…

In this perspective climate cooling, for millions of years, visible in the graph above, would have disrupted those species which were not equipped to generate enough heat, and then the LIP accelerated into a vast holocaust…

The end with general burning and acidic oceans is hard to duplicate with a bolide, so the impactophiles have argued that the bolide magically impacted the most CO2 generating rock imaginable… Maybe. But an enormous LIP does all that CO2 production/destruction of the oceans, effortlessly… A friend of mine who is the biggest of the big in this academic domain, he decides who publishes, replied to me that the 66 million year old Dekkan LIP is too small… To which I replied that we don’t know what lays below the ocean… 

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11 Responses to “Back To The Jurassic In A Hurry: 500 Part Per Million Of Greenhouse Gases”

  1. Paul Handover Says:

    I am going to share this on Learning from Dogs. Coincidentally, I was talking to a good friend on Sunday about the risk of the frozen methane hydrates becoming unfrozen. It’s a very real risk and then we are into unknown territory. It’s potentially very scary indeed.


    • Patrice Ayme Says:

      That’s wonderful news that you will share it, Paul!
      The methane is already bubbling up (there are pictures of the bubbles going up in Siberian ocean)… This may be why CH4 density is perking up…
      Tell me when you post it, I am very busy, and not paying attention to everything worthy… Listened too long to Joe Biden, probably…. 😉


  2. Gmax Says:

    Yes, it’s a total catastrophe out there. And yes we need more tech. China still has to build enormous coal plants. And even in US, utilities had to burn more coal recently from shortfalls in Obama’s fracking plan and renewables.

    And yes, you know I have seen the untended forests you and I run in. That’s why they burn so bad! Remember the time we met on Mount Tam in the redwood forest?


    • Patrice Ayme Says:

      Yes, I remember… that was eerie. That particular forest still exists. Redwood are very fire resistant…

      China is making a honest to goodness energy effort… But it has huge needs…


  3. ianmillerblog Says:

    It seems to me the tipping point for the Greenland Ice Sheet has already been passed, which means stopping emissions is not enough. According to the University of Ohio, if ALL emissions stopped today, there is enough in the atmosphere to remove the ice sheet, and presumably some of Antarctica. And since we would have to move all the port cities, think of all the steel and concrete required, which means, yes, more emissions. I am afraid we have to do something that gets us to the other side of the hysteresis curve.


    • Patrice Ayme Says:

      Yes, well, thanks for reminding me of this: at 500 ppm, Antarctica is not stable. This being said, it’s stable for a short while… A few centuries (there are papers claiming they found that to be true in the past, these are not models…) Now of course we have broken through the 500 ppm… And there are aggravating circumstances such as the ozone holes… Lack of O3 enables more powerful radiation to reach the ground… So I expect breakdown of Antarctica….

      To escape, ultimately we will need to apply the brakes with something like terraforming thermonuclear CO2 extractors… We will probably be in the Jurassic before that…


  4. MargfromTassie Says:

    Patrice, You obviously believe in human induced climate change. Why then do you support Trump over Biden, since the former denies that it even exists?
    This, along with energy depletion and ecocide, is, IMO, the greatest problem facing our world today.
    Apart from the Trump Administration’s denial of climate change, there is also its record on the wind back of so many protective environmental regulations. ( Wikipedia has a list but they are a matter of public record on the National Register.)
    The above – together with de-regulation of many labor and consumer protections for ordinary Americans. Plus the often mooted intention to privatise Social Security, Medicare and the Post Office. Plus the appointment of right wing, pro corporate and pro religion federal judges. Plus his many cutbacks to federal programs ( even food stamps) whilst giving huge tax breaks to the nation’s wealthy and to the corporations. Plus ……the list goes on …


    • Patrice Ayme Says:

      Hi Marg!
      Your next comment should appear immediately, only the first one is delayed.

      I have explained at extreme length that what politicians do is often the opposite of what they say. I have campaigned (and massaged the neck) of my friend Obama, and he talked well, just like I had been writing prior… But in the end, he acted the opposite, developing FRACKING massively. Yes, Trump is taking credit for fracking… He may as well. As I have also pointed out, Trump used to sign strident petitions alerting to the climate crisis… He is no climate denier, he just plays one on TV. He needs all the votes he can get… But watch the coal production collapse…

      The California forests which I love and have run through hundreds of times burned NOT from climate change, but from mismanagement. That, too, I explained for years… And years, and years.. Brush was ten meters high in places, and it is the PC fascists in Marin County who prevented to burn it in controlled fashion, although the Park Service wanted to, yes, for a very long time. Nothing to do with Trump.

      Obama did FRACKING and DESTROYED HYDROGEN. Without hydrogen, as i have explained many times, renewables can’t work. Hence the rolling blackouts in California (Dem managed, I am a Dem, BTW). So bad, people couldn’t defend their houses from fire, as the pumps didn’t work, power having been cut.

      I was played for a full fool, campaigning 24/7 for Obama in 2006-2008, just to get calls after the election from wealthy campaign donors and plutocrats that I was not going to be allowed to come close to Obama ever again…

      Look, have to rush now, family reason and another rushed essay…. More explanations coming. I have more than 2,000 essays and two million words out there, and was once BOMBED by right wing racist fascists… So I learned my lessons the hard way…

      Anyway, thanks for commenting… I am rushing to write a short book on all of this…


    • Patrice Ayme Says:

      Earth Out Of Oxygen: GLOBAL HYPOXIA
      Move over, “Global Warming” and “Climate Change”! You meek, obsolete euphemisms have been paid by your fossil fuel masters to occupy the front stage, in a masquerade of objectivity.
      Let me instead introduce the radical notion of “GLOBAL HYPOXIA“. Yes, no less. That, is the real danger in the enfolding man-made CO2 crisis.


    • Patrice Ayme Says:


  5. Patrice Ayme Says:

    To WSJ:
    Hydrogen and derivatives (for example easily stored and high energy density ammonia) are the key to make renewable energy work, because they enable to store it.

    And then there is fusion, which could be deployed fairly quickly with enough financing (ITER in France uses obsolete magnets, because switching to modern magnets has not been financed)


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