The early Cenozoic experienced at least three short but major hyperthermals associated with disruptions of the global carbon cycle. The largest among those, the Paleocene-Eocene thermal maximum, was associated with a negative carbon isotopic excursion of ~ 2.5‰ that appears to be best explained by the thermal dissociation of methane hydrates due to an initial period of warming. The cause of the initial warming has been attributed to a massive injection of carbon (CO2 and/or CH4) into the atmosphere; however, the source of the carbon is as yet unknown. The emplacement of a large cluster of kimberlite pipes at ~56 Ma in the Lac de Gras region of northern Canada may have provided the carbon that triggered early warming in the form of exsolved magmatic CO2. Our calculations indicate that the estimated 900–1100 Pg of carbon required for the initial ~3°C of ocean water warming associated with the Paleocene-Eocene thermal maximum could have been released during the emplacement of a large kimberlite cluster. The coeval ages of two other kimberlite clusters in the Lac de Gras field and two other early Cenozoic hyperthermals indicate that CO2 degassing during kimberlite emplacement is a plausible source of the CO2 responsible for these sudden global warming events.