Five times in earth’s history the majority of animal life has been wiped out in geologically brief catastrophes. With the discovery in 1980 that an asteroid played a role in one of these doomsdays–the death of the dinosaurs–scientists became confident that they had found a killer that might explain each of the mass extinctions. But in the past three decades, as geologists, paleontologists and geochemists have scoured the earth investigating these other Armageddons, they have found little evidence for devastating asteroid impacts in the rocks. Instead they have found the signatures of extreme climate and ocean changes, and–in the worst mass extinction of all time–a global warming worst-case-scenario, driven by huge injections of carbon dioxide spewing from apocalyptic volcanoes.
The Ends of the World explores these discoveries and surveys deep time through a combination of interviews with the world’s top paleontologists and geologists, as well as road trips to the most important crime scenes in the planet’s history. It also illustrates how these five major mass extinctions both gave rise to our modern world while providing a terrifying window into our possible future.