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Global Warming Zaps Oxygen

Photo by Todd Huffman | CC BY 2.0

Take a deep breath. A recent scientific study reveals disturbing loss of ocean oxygen. Unnerving climatic events like this justify ringing and clanging of the bells on the Public Square, all hands on deck. In particular, and as expected, the culprit is too much anthropogenic-induced global warming or idiomatically speaking, human activities such as planes, trains, and automobiles… burning tons of coal. Somebody must do something to fix it… ah-ah-ah!

According to Denise Breitburg, lead author marine ecologist with the Smithsonian Environmental Research Center: “The decline in ocean oxygen ranks among the most serious effects of human activities on the Earth’s environment.” (Source: The Ocean Is Losing Its Breath, University of Californian-San Diego, Science Daily, January 4, 2018)

A team of scientists with GO2NE (Global Ocean Oxygen Network) created by the UN Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission conducted a sweeping all-encompassing study of the state of ocean oxygen: “In the past 50 years, the amount of water in the open ocean with zero oxygen has gone up more than fourfold. In coastal water bodies, including estuaries and seas, low-oxygen sites have increased more than 10-fold since 1950. Scientists expect oxygen to continue dropping even outside these zones as Earth warms,” Ibid.

According to Vladimir Ryabinin, executive secretary of the International Oceanographic Commission that formed GO2NE: “Approximately half of the oxygen on Earth comes from the ocean.”

Today, there are actual dead zones where oxygen has plummeted so low that life suffocates. Not only, low oxygen that doesn’t suffocate life still stunts growth, hinders reproduction, and promotes disease. In short, low oxygen stresses the entire ecosystem. According to the “legendary ocean researcher” Dr. Sylvia Earle, as recognized by the Library of Congress, and referred to as “Her Deepness” by The New Yorker and former Chief Scientist for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) but resigned and started Mission Blue “to save the ocean”: “The ocean is dying… All of us are the beneficiaries of having burned through fossil fuels, but at what costs? If we continue business as usual, we’re in real trouble.”

If only, a wish list, key federal positions that impact the planet, like the presidency (Trump) and heads of departments, like the EPA (Pruitt), had a smidgen of Dr. Earle’s mindset, knowledge, and consciousness, the great biosphere Earth would have a fighting chance, but no. Regrettably, they are at war with the planet. Their timing in office could not be worse! Indeed, the U.S. economy is the world’s largest at 25% of world GDP. Its impact on the climate system exceeds all others.

Metaphorically, comparing biosphere Earth to a passenger plane traveling from NY to Paris, nobody notices when half a dozen rivets pop off the fuselage. And, nobody knows when another 10 or 20 pop off. The plane still flies, but as rivets continue to pop off and the fuselage loosens and opens up the plane starts losing altitude. Passengers notice.

Similarly, biosphere Earth has lost many, many rivets but in contrast to the passenger plane scenario, scientists like Dr. Sylvia Earle and Dr. James Hansen, former top climate scientist of NASA, have already noticed, and they forewarned society before the fuselage rips apart, before passengers notice. Consequently, according to Paris ’15, the world takes warnings by scientists seriously and acts to repair the damage, but will it be soon enough? Some scientists don’t think so.

Examples of earthly rivets popping off: (1) “Ocean seasons are changing as a result of too much heat and CO2… The scale of ocean warming is truly staggering with numbers so large that it is difficult for most people to comprehend.” (Dan Laffoley, IUCN Global Marine and Polar Programme), (2) In 2017, the Gulf of Mexico’s Dead Zone, where oxygen is so weak that fish die, is the largest ever at 8,800 square miles. (NOAA), (3) The deadly trio, or fingerprints, of mass extinctions, including global warming, ocean acidification, and anoxia or lack of ocean oxygen at current rate of change are unprecedented in Earth’s known history. (Alex Rogers, Oxford, scientific director State of the Ocean), (4) Oceans have lost 40% of plankton production over past 50 years, threatening loss of one of the major sources of oxygen for the planet. (Boris Worm, Killam Research Professor, Dalhousie University/Halifax) Many more examples of earthly rivets popping off are extant but time and space limit.

What if the aforementioned airline pilot announced: “This is an urgent message from your pilot: Rivets are popping off the fuselage. Fasten your seatbelts!”

In reality, that’s happening now, earthly rivets are popping off all over the place, and even though scientists are warning of rivets popping off or “tipping points” in the climate system, America’s president Trump relies upon sources like Fox News and the Heritage Foundation for science knowledge. Therefore, it’s guaranteed he’ll never even hear the compulsory final announcement: “Fasten your seatbelts.” Well, come to think of it, it’s way too late then anyways.

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Robert Hunziker lives in Los Angeles and can be reached at rlhunziker@gmail.com.

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