In the original Godzilla, the only weapon capable of bringing down the monster is Daisuke Serizawa’s terrifying Oxygen Destroyer, which somehow destroys oxygen in water, and reduces all life in its area of effect to mere bones. While we are not at risk of anything quite like that happening, there IS a tangentially related danger, and it is what inspired the title of this blog.
One of the likely effects of a warming planet is the eventual shutdown of the “ocean conveyor” currents that help oxygen and nutrients cycle between the surface and the deep ocean. If the poles warm enough to keep the water on the surface from sinking, the bottom of the ocean will eventually lose all of its dissolved oxygen as it is breathed in and not replaced by the photosynthetic organisms on the surface (which are also declining). This means that the only organisms capable of surviving down there will be ones that don’t breathe oxygen – anaerobic bacteria. On the surface, this isn’t a problem, but as things get warmer, and those bacteria multiply, the seas will fill with toxic chemicals created through anaerobic respiration.
The best example of this is Green Lake in Fayetteville, NY – a lake with an anoxic bottom layer that has become filled with hydrogen sulfide. This has happened in the oceans in the past, and may have been a significant factor in massive extinctions. One hypothesis as to the cause of the Permian-Triassic Extinction Event, when something like 95% of all life on the planet died, is that this deadly gas buildup leaked out of the ocean, and covered much of the Earth’s land masses in poisonous gas.
I am writing this blog for several reasons. One is to provide a place for me to think aloud about what is going on in the world; another is for me to, ideally, provide a view on science and climate change that others might not have encountered before (as well as links to others who may write about particular topics better than I). The last reason is that I think there is a fundamental problem with the way climate change has been framed, both by scientists and by the general populace.
When scientists first voiced their recommendations about global warming, their warnings were based on what they thought the most likely outcomes were. They went middle of the road, they went for predictions that had the highest accuracy, and for that they were labeled alarmists and their careful, conservative predictions were called extreme, and so no real action was taken.
It’s well past time to re-adjust the frame of this “debate” – to outline where the extremes REALLY are. It’s fine to act on advice of the likely outcomes, but for those who do not make science a priority, who do not have the time or inclination to dig for details, we need to have the REAL worst-case scenarios out there for comparison.