Among the top results this afternoon for a Google News search of “climate change” is an article claiming ancient coal-burning caused a mega-extinction event 250 million years ago. In reality, massive volcanic eruptions that continued for 2 million years caused the extinction, not prehistoric power plants of human or natural creation.

The “science” website published an article today titled, “Coal-burning in Siberia led to climate change 250 million years ago.” The article references a study by researchers at Arizona State University examining geological features and residue in Siberia from 250 million years ago. The geological features and residue confirmed what scientists have long, known: that massive, persistent volcanic eruptions that lasted for 2 million years caused the extinction event long ago.

Even acknowledges the causal role of the volcanic eruptions. “The massive eruptive event that formed the traps [the Siberian Traps, a region of volcanic rock in Russia] is one of the largest known volcanic events in the last 500 million years. The eruptions continued for roughly two million years and spanned the Permian-Triassic boundary” that marks the extinction event.

That seems quite straightforward. Volcanic eruptions of nearly unimaginable intensity and duration caused the punishing assaults on the earth and dramatic changes that led to a large extinction event. Heck, volcanic eruptions of nearly unimaginable intensity and duration should cause dramatic assaults on the earth and changes that lead to a large extinction event.

However, the researchers who wrote up their study noted that when the volcanoes incinerated so many plants, animals, etc., the volcanoes burned some coal that was laying around, also.

“Our study shows that Siberian Traps magmas intruded into and incorporated coal and organic material,” said one of the study’s authors, according to “That gives us direct evidence that the magmas also combusted large quantities of coal and organic matter during eruption.”

The author claimed dramatic similarities between the 2 million years of intense volcanic eruptions and current fossil fuel use. “Seeing these similarities gives us extra impetus to take action now, and also to further understand how the Earth responds to changes like these in the longer term,” says the author. piled on. “And the changes at the end-Permian extinction bear remarkable parallels to what is happening on Earth today, including burning hydrocarbons and coal,” claimed

No, 2 million years of intense volcanic eruptions is not the same – or even remotely similar – to human utilizing fossil fuels today. It’s not in the same ballpark. It’s not even the same planet, unless we eradicate 250 million years of time and try to survive 2 million years of intense volcanic eruptions. The fact that coal was some of the material burned in the cataclysmic volcano events does not mean that coal caused the extinction event.

Headlines like “Coal-burning in Siberia led to climate change 250 million years ago” are absurdly misleading. Such ridiculous headlines and claims are also the reason – rather than fictitious money spent by evil people in a grand conspiracy theory – why so many Americans remain justifiably skeptical of the alarmists’ Climate Delusion.

James Taylor is the President of the Heartland Institute. Taylor is also director of Heartland's Arthur B. Robinson Center for Climate and Environmental Policy. Taylor is the former managing editor (2001-2014) of Environment & Climate News, a national monthly publication devoted to sound science and free-market environmentalism.



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