Monday, January 23, 2012

Can you live without oxygen? - Atmospheric Oxygen Depletion

If global warming due to rising atmospheric carbon dioxide (CO2) concentrations does not make you ponder our children's future, lowering atmospheric oxygen (O2) concentration should.

When the Earth was formed 4.6 billion years ago, there was no oxygen in the atmosphere. The oxygen in the atmosphere today was emitted by plants - phytoplankton and sea weeds in the ocean, and trees, shrubs and grass on land, through the eons. Plants, through photosynthesis, absorb CO2 and emit O2, so the animals can live. Eliminate the plants in the ocean or on land, and the animals, both marine and terrestrial, will suffocate.

Next, any kind of burning consumes oxygen (O2) and emits CO2 into the atmosphere. In fact, every 1 unit of CO2 increase is accompanied by 2-4 units of O2 decline.

We don't need an Einstein to figure out that if we keep on burning fossil fuels, and cut/burn down forests, and acidify the ocean impacting on the phytoplankton, not only do we cause global warming, we remove oxygen from the atmosphere.

The pre-industrial oxygen concentration in the atmosphere was about 21%. Today, some places measured register as low as 16%. Reportedly, some enclaves of high human population and concentration, especially in large and technologized cities have scored as low as 7% (?), e.g. parts of Tokyo and some cities in India. Symptoms of sea-level oxygen deprivation is similar to altitude sickness - include shortness of breath, headache and nausea.

As late as 2007, we expected a 2.0 degree C (3.2 degrees F) global temperature rise by century's end. Now, we have revised it to 6-7 degrees C (9.6-10.4 degrees F) by 2100, and 4.0C/6.4F rise by 2060. 4.0C/6.4F is the die-off threshold of oceanic phytoplankton which currently regenerates 50% of the planet's oxygen, and the shut-down threshold of most land plants.

Of course the current generations have no chance of being suffocated, but continue with our present trajectory, and our children's children and the animals will have a hard time breathing.

Don't we even care?

Anthony Marr, Founder and President
Heal Our Planet Earth (HOPE)
Global Anti-Hunting Coalition (GAHC)

1 comment:

Twinkle Toes said...

trees which lived, without trying from 5 to 7 hundred years are now lucky to survive for a 100 ere passing from disease. . . it does notompoubds bode well for us since they and the plants change oxygen to the breath of life. simply put, each adds the very essence of their medicinal propertyes and compounds to the air to wind up the springs of well being about the face of earth. In other words, we'll as healthy or sick as the air we breathe and distance we live from nature's greenbelts and the gardens we grow our vegies in