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Failing Oxygen: Global Warming Could Suffocate Life on Earth


December 7, 2015
Science Daily & Taylor Hill / Takepart & Climate Reality Project

A new study finds that unabated greenhouse gas emissions will cripple ocean phytoplankton's ability to produce oxygen. Falling oxygen levels could be a greater threat to the survival of life on planet Earth than flooding. An increase in the temperature of the world's oceans of around six degrees Celsius -- which some scientists predict could occur as soon as 2100 -- could stop oxygen production by phytoplankton by disrupting the process of photosynthesis.

http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2015/12/151201094120.htm

Failing Phytoplankton, Failing Oxygen:
Global Warming Disaster Could Suffocate Life on Planet Earth

Science Daily

(December 1, 2015) -- Falling oxygen levels caused by global warming could be a greater threat to the survival of life on planet Earth than flooding, according to researchers from the University of Leicester.

A study led by Sergei Petrovskii, Professor in Applied Mathematics from the University of Leicester's Department of Mathematics, has shown that an increase in the water temperature of the world's oceans of around six degrees Celsius -- which some scientists predict could occur as soon as 2100 -- could stop oxygen production by phytoplankton by disrupting the process of photosynthesis.

Professor Petrovskii explained: "Global warming has been a focus of attention of science and politics for about two decades now. A lot has been said about its expected disastrous consequences; perhaps the most notorious is the global flooding that may result from melting of Antarctic ice if the warming exceeds a few degrees compared to the pre-industrial level.

However, it now appears that this is probably not the biggest danger that the warming can cause to the humanity.

"About two-thirds of the planet's total atmospheric oxygen is produced by ocean phytoplankton -- and therefore cessation would result in the depletion of atmospheric oxygen on a global scale. This would likely result in the mass mortality of animals and humans."

The team developed a new model of oxygen production in the ocean that takes into account basic interactions in the plankton community, such as oxygen production in photosynthesis, oxygen consumption because of plankton breathing and zooplankton feeding on phytoplankton.

While mainstream research often focuses on the CO2 cycle, as carbon dioxide is the agent mainly responsible for global warming, few researchers have explored the effects of global warming on oxygen production.

The 2015 United Nations Climate Change Conference will be held in Le Bourget, Paris, from November 30 to December 11. It will be the 21st yearly session of the Conference of the Parties to the 1992 United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) and the 11th session of the Meeting of the Parties to the 1997 Kyoto Protocol. The conference objective is to achieve a legally binding and universal agreement on climate, from all the nations of the world.

Journal Reference:
Yadigar Sekerci, Sergei Petrovskii. Mathematical Modelling of Plankton–Oxygen Dynamics Under the Climate Change. Bulletin of Mathematical Biology, 2015; DOI: 10.1007/s11538-015-0126-0



Report: The World Will Run out of
Breathable Air Unless Carbon Is Cut

Taylor Hill / Takepart & Climate Reality Project

(December 3, 2015) -- As representatives from 195 nations gather in Paris to hammer out a global agreement to slash greenhouse gas emissions, a new study finds that the failure to do so could leave the world gasping for breath.

Marine plants such as phytoplankton are estimated to produce more than half the Earth's atmospheric oxygen, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

For the study, Sergei Petrovskii, an applied mathematics professor at the University of Leicester in the United Kingdom, calculated how unrestrained global warming could affect phytoplankton and thus the ocean's ability to generate breathable air. He ran computer models that looked at what would happen to phytoplankton's ability to photosynthesize at different temperatures.

If the world's oceans warmed by 6 degrees Celsius—a realistic possibility if global emissions continue unabated—the tiny plants would halt oxygen production, according to the study, which was published Tuesday in the Bulletin of Mathematical Biology.

By 2100, the earth at sea level could have atmospheric oxygen levels comparable to the top of Mount Everest today. "And as far as I know, people cannot normally stay on Everest without oxygen masks for more than a few minutes," Petrovskii said.

The threat has been "mostly overlooked" by climate scientists, Petrovskii said, noting that such a global disaster would come with little notice.

"A distinct feature of this catastrophe is that there will be few warning signs and little change before it is too late," he said. That's because phytoplankton can continue to produce oxygen and photosynthesize at levels below 6 degrees of temperature rise.

"Under a 2-degree increase, we will probably see no change; the 4-degree increase would already be dangerously close," Petrovskii said, adding that more research is needed to determine what increase in global temperatures would halt phytoplankton's ability to photosynthesize.

Taylor Hill is an associate editor at TakePart covering environment and wildlife.

RELATED: 6 Foods That Are Going Extinct Because of Climate Change
Fish.
Peanuts.
Maple Syrup.
Coffee.
Wine.
Chocolate.



ACTION ALERT: Demand That World Leaders
Sign a Strong Climate Agreement at the Paris

Climate Reality Project

The threat of climate change has never been more urgent. With 14 of the 15 hottest years on record occurring this century and impacts ranging from rising seas to extreme weather striking in every time zone, our challenge has never been clearer.

With proved and practical solutions such as wind and solar energy becoming more affordable by the day, neither has the way forward.

This is the year we come together as a planet to tackle climate change. This is the year our leaders can take a giant step forward at the United Nations' Framework Convention on Climate Change's 21st Conference of the Parties in Paris (COP21) with a global agreement limiting greenhouse gases. This is the year that people everywhere are standing up to ensure they do.

With citizens worldwide united in demanding action and clean energy solutions in our hands, a safe and sustainable future for the planet is in sight. The first step is a global agreement in Paris to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

Join others worldwide in demanding a strong agreement at the Paris climate talks that will help get us there. This would include meaningful reduction commitments based on national circumstances, a system of periodic review for these commitments, and a long-term goal of net zero carbon emissions.

It's time to say no to devastating climate change and yes to a healthy and prosperous future powered by renewables. Will you help?

Full Petition Text
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This November, you will meet in Paris for climate talks that will shape the future of our planet. You have a choice: take action to address climate change or let our precious home face increasing devastation.

As a citizen concerned for the future of my family, friends, and community, I'm joining countless others around the world to make one simple demand: Take climate action now.

We need a strong global agreement to cut greenhouse gases and stop climate change in Paris. We demand that you make it happen.

Sincerely,




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