As a species, we’ve been talking about global warming for a couple of decades now, and many of us have been taking it seriously. We’ve been warned of a number of potential side effects of climate change, such as global flooding, droughts, longer and more widespread forest fires, ocean acidification, and rising ocean temperatures. All of these will lead to the destruction of habitats and loss of species. But now, according to researchers at the University of Leicester, there’s another threat to add to the list: too little oxygen.
Most climate science is focused on carbon dioxide (CO2) which is generally seen as the main culprit in global warming. Burning fossil fuels releases CO2 into the air, which is taken in by plants or absorbed by the ocean, but when there’s too much, it starts to build up and lead to global warming.
But researchers in the United Kingdom have been looking at the effect that build up has on oxygen, and it’s not good. The reason is that the oceans are getting warmer, which is bad, because if the ocean temperatures increase by an average of six degrees Celsius by 2100, something many scientists see as possible, if not inevitable, than most phytoplankton aren’t going to be able to perform photosynthesis, and therefore won’t be making oxygen. The bulk of oxygen in our atmosphere is actually created by phytoplankton, not trees or other terrestrial plants, and so losing them couple mean a significant depletion in oxygen at a global level.
It should be pretty obvious why that would be a bad thing: animals, humans included, obviously need oxygen to live, and if there’s less of it to go around, considerably less in this case, there’s going to be a lot of creatures dying off. With the 2015 UN Climate Chance Conference underway, hopefully this research will be presented, and we can put some thought into how to keep the ocean temperatures from rising dangerously high.