The Next Environmental Scare?

It’s been a parlor game for a while to decide what apocalyptic scare environmental doom mongers would come up with once climate change settles down into a normal problem. I’ve been nominating the weakening of the polar magnetic fields, which would be a Really Bad Thing for life on the planet. Sooner or later some environmentalist will blame mankind’s electrical grid for this potential calamity. (Think of the cell phone radiation and high voltage power line scams, persisting despite ample debunkings.) It’s an even better excuse than global warming to demand that we all return to cave dwelling lifestyles. So far no takers, though.

But I think I’ve spotted another potential apocalypse this week. From Science Alert:

Earth’s atmosphere is slowly leaking oxygen, and scientists aren’t sure why

Don’t panic, but researchers have discovered that oxygen is (very) slowly draining out of Earth’s atmosphere, and right now, they’re not sure why.

By analysing air bubbles trapped inside ice cores from Greenland and Antarctica, a team from Princeton University has found oxygen levels have dropped by 0.7 percent in the last 800,000 years, and figuring out why could be crucial to predicting our planet’s future. . .

Getting the answer isn’t going to be easy though – oxygen on our planet is constantly being recycled by humans, animals, plants, and even silicate rock. Right now, ice cores are among the best ways we have of getting fixed readings of how much oxygen is present.

Now just wait for it. . . wait for it. . . Yes!

Another possible cause is long-term climate change – over the last few million years, we’ve seen a slight overall drop in global temperatures, even though Earth has been rapidly heating up over the past half a century. . .

While the rate of oxygen decline is nothing to worry about just yet, Stolper does have a warning about the last 200 years since the industrial revolution started, data which isn’t included in the new report.

“We are consuming O2 at a rate a factor of a thousand times faster than before,” he told Gizmodo. “Humankind has completely short-circuited the cycle by burning tonnes of carbon… it’s yet another indication of our collective ability to do what happens [naturally] on the Earth, yet so much faster.”

Oh, I imagine Al Gore will figure out a way to panic over this. Stay tuned.