The Atlantic

Our Cataclysmic Planet

How mass extinctions inform our understanding of human-caused climate change
Source: Rony Muharrman /Antara Foto / Reuters

If you could have been there, somewhere in Siberia at the end of the Paleozoic Era nearly 252 million years ago, you would have witnessed an apocalyptic horror that rarely visits our planet.

Also, I mean, you would have been doomed. Almost certainly. It was a bad scene. Mass extinction is a real shitshow.

But let’s say, somehow, you could have watched this madness unfold—without succumbing to the monstrous cloud of carbon dioxide belched up from the volcanoes of the Siberian Traps, without being incinerated by an ocean of lava, without starving in the ruins of the global acid rain that destroyed the ecosystems on land, and without being burned alive in the wildfires that scorched the earth.

If you could have lived through all of this, which, by the way, you

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