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Über dieses Buch

Unique among all creatures, further to the increase in its cranial volume from Australopithecus to Homo sapiens, the use of tools and cultural and scientific creativity, the genus Homo is distinguished by the mastery of fire, which since about two million years ago has become its blueprint. Through the Holocene and culminating in the Anthropocene, the burning of much of the terrestrial vegetation, excavation and combustion of fossil carbon from up to 420 million years-old biospheres, are leading to a global oxidation event on a geological scale, a rise in entropy in nature and the sixth mass extinction of species.

Inhaltsverzeichnis

Frontmatter

Early Atmospheres

Frontmatter

Chapter 1. Early Atmosphere-Ocean-Biosphere Systems

Abstract
The application of isotopic tracers to paleo-climate investigations—including oxygen (δ18O), sulphur (δ33S) and carbon (δ13C), integrated with Sedimentological and proxies studies, allows vital insights into the composition of early atmosphere–ocean-biosphere system, suggesting low atmospheric oxygen, high levels of greenhouse gases (CO2 + CH4 and likely H2S), oceanic anoxia and high acidity, limiting habitats to single-cell methanogenic and photosynthesizing autotrophs. Increases in atmospheric oxygen have been related to proliferation of phytoplankton in the oceans, likely about ~2.4 Ga (billion years-ago) and 0.7–0.6 Ga.
Andrew Y. Glikson

Chapter 2. Palaeozoic and Mesozoic Atmospheres

Abstract
Detailed investigations of the carbon, oxygen and sulphur cycles using a range of proxies, including leaf pore stomata, δ13C, δ34S, and 87/86Sr isotopes, as well as geochemical mass balance modeling, provide detailed evidence of major trends as well as distinct events in the atmosphere-ocean-land system during the Paleozoic and Mesozoic eras (542–65 Ma), including greenhouse Earth periods (CO2 ~2,000–5,000 ppm) and glacial phases (CO2 < 500 ppm), with implications for biological evolution.
Andrew Y. Glikson

Chapter 3. Cenozoic Atmospheres and Early Hominins

Abstract
The Cenozoic era includes four components (A) post K-T impact warming culminating with the Paleocene-Eocene hyperthermal at ~55 Ma; (B) long term cooling ending with a sharp temperature plunge toward formation of the Antarctic ice sheet from 32 Ma; (C) a post-32 Ma era dominated by the Antarctic ice sheet, including limited thermal rises in the end-Oligocene, mid-Miocene and end-Pliocene, and (D) Pleistocene glacial-interglacial cycles. Hominin evolution in Africa occurred during a transition from tropical to dry climates punctuated by alternating periods of extreme orbital forcing-induced glacial-interglacial cycles, suggesting variability selection of Hominids.
Andrew Y. Glikson

The Great Mass Extinctions of Species

Frontmatter

Chapter 4. Mass Extinction of Species

Abstract
Early conflicts between uniformitarian and gradual theories of evolution (James Hutton: 1726–1797; Charles Lyell: 1797–1875) and catastrophic theory (Cuvier: 1769–1832) have been progressively resolved by advanced paleontological, sedimentary, volcanic and asteroid impact studies and by paleo-climate studies coupled with precise isotopic age determinations, indicating periods of gradual evolution were interrupted by abrupt events which have transformed the habitat of plants and organisms and resulted in mass extinction of species.
Andrew Y. Glikson

Homo's Fire Blueprint

Frontmatter

Chapter 5. A Flammable Biosphere

Abstract
The advent of plants on land surfaces since about 420 million years-ago created an interface between carbon-rich organic layers and an oxygen-rich atmosphere, leading to recurrent fires triggered by lightning, volcanic eruptions, high-temperature combustion of peat and, finally, ignition by humans, constituting the blueprint for the Anthropocene. For a species to be able to control ignition and energy output, leading to increase in entropy in nature higher by orders of magnitude than its own physical energy outputs, the species would need to be perfectly wise and responsible. No species can achieve such levels.
Andrew Y. Glikson

Chapter 6. A Fire Species

Abstract
Evolved in relatively sheltered sub-tropical rift valleys, unique among all genera the genus Homo learnt how to ignite and transfer fire and through this to modify extensive land surfaces of Earth, with consequences for the composition of the atmosphere, a process culminating in the Anthropocene and in the Sixth mass extinction of species.
Andrew Y. Glikson

Chapter 7. Climate and Holocene Civilizations

Abstract
Since the Neolithic and throughout history cultivation and agriculture-based civilizations concentrated along rivers, or above groundwater reservoirs, depended critically on availability of water, which in turn depended on the climate, including annual river rhythms, the effects of forests on microclimate, soil erosion, and in some parts of the world such as southeast Asia on volcanic regimes.
Andrew Y. Glikson

The Anthropocene Event Horizon

Frontmatter

Chapter 8. Homo sapiens’ War Against Nature

Abstract
Nature includes species whose activities are capable of devastating habitats, examples include toxic viruses, methane (CH4) and hydrogen sulphide (H2S)-emitting bacteria, fire ant armies, locust swarms and rabbit populations. Parasitic host-destroying organisms include species of fungi, worms, arthropods, annelids and vertebrates, cf. oxpeckers and vampire bats. The mastery of fire has enabled the genus Homo to magnify its potential to harness and release energy by orders of magnitude, increasing entropy in nature on a scale unprecedented in the Cenozoic (since 65 Ma). From the mid-20th century, the splitting of the atom allowed humans to trigger a chain reaction potentially devastating much of the biosphere. Once a species has developed sources of energy of this magnitude the species would need to be perfectly wise and responsible if it is to prevent its inventions to get out of control.
Andrew Y. Glikson

Chapter 9. An Uncharted Climate Territory

Abstract
Since the onset of the industrial age in the 18th century and accelerating since the mid 1980s, the release of more than 560 billion ton of carbon (GtC) through industrial emission and land clearing has triggered unprecedented developments in the terrestrial climate at a rate faster by an order of magnitude than natural geological warming events. Whereas comparisons can be made with the Paleocene-Eocene Thermal Maximum of ~55 Ma, the scale and rate of modern global warming may compare more closely with those triggered by major volcanic and asteroid impact events. The non-linear nature of current climate change, multiple feedbacks and their synergy are driving the climate to uncharted territory and possible tipping points.
Andrew Y. Glikson

Chapter 10. Homo Prometheus

Abstract
A species able to magnify its entropy effect in nature by orders of magnitude, as the genus Homo has done through mastery of fire and the splitting of the atom, needs to be a perfectly wise and controlled species, lest its invention gets out of hand.
Andrew Y. Glikson

Backmatter

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