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The decline at the heart of the story. Values given are only relative to an arbitrary calibration standard
A new threat to all life on the planet?

Atmospheric oxygen levels are declining fast. Accompanied by scary graphs and even more frightening scenarios, the new environmental disaster of oxygen depletion seems poised to overtake the crumbling CO2 fright as the next great challenge to mankind's survival.

The story is already making converts in the media, which includes Peter Tatchell of the U.K. Guardian, who recently ran a breathless story on possible consequences, including "genetic mutations, hormonal changes...cancer, degenerative diseases" and even death. 

Tatchell says the rate of decline has dramatically increased in the past 30 years.  He calls for immediate "scientific research" to examine the problem, blissfully unaware that several dozen researchers have been doing just that for decades.  

The decline is predictably pinned on deforestation and mankind's "burning of fossil fuels". Once again, man is trashing the planet.  

The only problem? It's pure bunkum. Unlike the trace gas CO2, oxygen comprises over 20% of the atmosphere. Oxygen is the most abundant element in the earth's crust; it accounts for nearly 90% of the mass of the ocean. While we can't breathe water, atmospheric oxygen levels have been measured since the 1890s and haven't varied to within three significant digits (a tenth of a percentage point).

The fearsome decline seen in the sidebar graph is the result of misinterpretation. The values given are relative, not absolute, and correspond to changes of a few parts per million. With O2 levels currently at 210,000 ppm, the changes we measure won't be significant for tens of thousands of years, if then.

Dr. Andrew Manning of the Scripps Atmospheric Oxygen Research Group tells Daily Tech the miniscule rate of O2 decline is of "no concern whatsoever to human health or any ecosystem". According to Manning, while fossil fuels do consume oxygen, an ever-increasing amount of plant life in the biosphere offsets the loss.

So what is the source of this crackpot idea? It stems from the writings of interdisciplinary ex-professor Ervin Lazlo. Lazlo calls himself "the recognized founder of systems philosophy", a New Age holistic pseudo-science that has unfortunately accomplished nothing useful since he created it 35 years ago.

Lazlo is the founder of the Club of Budapest, an environmental group which specializes in "planetary consciousness". The group shares members and ideas with the Club of Rome best known for the "Limits to Growth" scare of the early 1970s. That led to a book of the same name, which became the best-selling environmental title of all time. The book was roundly called tripe by dozens of esteemed economists, and even later admitted to be nothing more than a caper to gain media attention -- none of which seemed to hurt sales. Even today one can still find environmentalists still quoting the book's conclusions as fact.  

The environmental movement has a long history of promoting scare stories without a shred of scientific backing. From "Silent Spring" which predicted the global death of all bird life, to forest-demolishing acid rain, to more modern scares such as Alar and GM foods, the poor track record of success seems to only stimulate a never-ending stream of new drivel.

At least this time around, you've been forewarned.



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What the....
By Etsp on 8/18/2008 6:23:40 PM , Rating: 4
quote:
an environmental group which specializes in "planetary consciousness". The group shares members and ideas with the Club of Rome best known for the "Limits to Growth" scare of the early 1970s. That led to a book of the same name, which became the best-selling environmental title of all time. The book was roundly called tripe by dozens of esteemed economists
masher, I do seem to remember quite well you stating the fact that a large number of so called "experts" that comment on global warming have in fact, little expertise with the climate itself. On this note, I must ask, why would we care about an economists opinion about the truthiness of an environmentalist book? </sarcasm>




RE: What the....
By masher2 (blog) on 8/18/2008 6:36:02 PM , Rating: 3
quote:
"why would we care about an economists opinion about the truthiness of an environmentalist book?"


Because 'Limits to Growth' was at its heart a set of economic predictions about the effect of dwindling resources on the economy over the next 30 years.

In any case, one doesn't need to appeal to authority to discredit the book. Its predictions all failed to come to pass. Prices of foods, metals, and other resources named in the book didn't skyrocket as supplies ran out -- we have more of them today than we did in 1972.


RE: What the....
By kbehrens on 8/18/2008 7:51:48 PM , Rating: 2
Aren't the Club of Rome guys the ones who lost a famous bet about the price of metals?


RE: What the....
By masher2 (blog) on 8/18/2008 10:24:01 PM , Rating: 1
I believe you're talking about Simons bet against Paul Ehrlich:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ehrlich-Simon_bet

Ehrlich wasn't a Club of Rome member, but many of their ideas originated from his kooky predictions.


RE: What the....
By Ringold on 8/18/2008 9:33:46 PM , Rating: 3
quote:
Because 'Limits to Growth' was at its heart a set of economic predictions about the effect of dwindling resources on the economy over the next 30 years.


Exactly; if environmentalists are talking about the effects of some compound on birds, that's for others to respond to. Attacking growth, resource utilization, etc., however is an attack on their very home turf. Growth and resource allocation/utilization/etc is what its all about, and what it's been all about since Xenophon, Plato, and other ancient world philosophers created the field. Therefore it's entirely rational for economists to comment on economic issues. One instead has to wonder what credibility environmentalists have on economics issues..


RE: What the....
By bpurkapi on 8/18/2008 9:58:02 PM , Rating: 2
We should all know that experts don't necessarily excel in anything. The main point I'm trying to make is that there is always an "expert" of similar thoughts to help prove your point. Since economists and scientists come from all sorts of political and religious backgrounds, it is always important to understand that "experts" have bias. So when we see titles such as: "League of Atmospheric Scientists resoundingly condemn minimizing of Global Warming" we should take a moment and realize that this is 500 experts of similar views who all make the media circuit to seem like 5,000 experts. At best this is a partial explanation and they only make up a fraction of the dialogue on the issue. The best way for society to make decisions is to weigh facts from all parties equally, rather than ignoring opinions that differ from our original bias(This can go either way!). The problem with journalism is that it has to pick and choose its sources to fit into a concise story that basically is akin to an abstract of a scientific paper.


Silent Spring?
By JasonMick (blog) on 8/18/2008 5:29:26 PM , Rating: 1
quote:
From "Silent Spring" which predicted the global death of all bird life... the poor track record of success seems to only stimulate a never-ending stream of new drivel


Which could certainly have occurred in many areas had the widespread use of DDT not been banned. You seem to be the one to be spreading FUD with such statements.

Do you have evidence that DDT is indeed not harmful to bird life?

If you're going to make such controversial remarks, which most members of the scientific community would take issue with, at least care to back them up with facts.

I would have been fine with this article, if it did not devolve into a rant near the end...




RE: Silent Spring?
By masher2 (blog) on 8/18/2008 5:43:42 PM , Rating: 5
> "Which could certainly have occurred in many areas had the widespread use of DDT not been banned."

Then explain why the nations which never banned DDT (there are several) saw no such drop in bird life.

The evidence that DDT was harmful to birds was always shaky at best. Birds directly fed DDT at levels hundreds of times higher than environmental doses exhibited no eggshell thinning or other detrimental symptoms.

The only evidence was a statistical correlation between birds of prey exposed to DDT and thinner shells. The only problem is that the very birds likely to be exposed were those closest the human habitation and other stressors....and stress is a well-recognized factor in eggshell thinning.

Malaria -- which had been nearly eliminated -- made a quick comeback after the ban, and soon became the world's deadliest infectious disease again. Many millions of people died as a direct result of the ban, which was only approved over the outcry of many scientists.

This explains why th UN WHO has recently reversed its stance on DDT, and now approves it for many uses, despite the widespread outcry from many enviromentalists.

Ex-Governor of Washington State Dixie Lee Ray has written extensively on the DDT ban, and the political manuevering that led to its ban despite the dearth of scientific evidence. I heartily recommend you read one of her books, which includes numerous references to the relevant scientific studies.


RE: Silent Spring?
By AssBall on 8/19/2008 2:24:36 PM , Rating: 5
.....Because everyone knows Jason's blogs are NEVER sensationalist or biased.....


what exactly does that graph measure?
By kattanna on 8/18/2008 5:04:53 PM , Rating: 2
care to explain what that graph is measuring & why?

thanks




By jaj22 on 8/18/2008 5:23:39 PM , Rating: 4
The graph measures the relative concentration of N2 and O2. You can convert this with the equation 1 ppm O2 = 4.77 meg, so the graph indicates a fall in O2 levels of around 3ppm per year.

This page explains it quite well:

http://www.rsbs.anu.edu.au/O2/O2_2_Atmosphere.htm


Here's my crackpot idea
By amanojaku on 8/18/2008 7:46:51 PM , Rating: 2
Factoring in smokers, car exhaust, and sewer emissions... is anyone gonna notice before it's too late? :-)




By elpresidente2075 on 8/19/2008 1:57:46 PM , Rating: 4
Here's an idea: move out of the city. Then you'll see that such a huge majority of the country/world does not have those problems that you'll understand why this bunk is just that: bunk.


No way!?!?!
By FITCamaro on 8/18/2008 11:28:21 PM , Rating: 2
quote:
The story is already making converts in the media, which includes Peter Tatchell of the U.K. Guardian, who recently ran a breathless story on possible consequences, including "genetic mutations, hormonal changes...cancer, degenerative diseases" and even death.


Lack of oxygen can cause death?!?!?! Give this man a Nobel Prize! Then beat him to death with it for wasting the effort of people's brains forming the memory of his broadcast.




RE: No way!?!?!
By truk007 on 8/19/2008 7:41:50 AM , Rating: 2
FITCamaro, you almost made me shoot coffee out my nose!


RE: No way!?!?!
By FITCamaro on 8/20/2008 1:28:28 PM , Rating: 2
My job here is done.


Should have seen this coming...
By mdogs444 on 8/18/2008 5:20:42 PM , Rating: 1
First the global cooling scare of the 70's, and now the global warming scare of the 00's. Now, that people are starting to dismiss global warming, and see it for what it really is - a political money making hoax by socialists and environmentalists.

This is only an attempt to add fuel to the fire make the recent nay-sayers believe again.




By FITCamaro on 8/18/2008 11:26:18 PM , Rating: 2
Gotta scare people into stop using gas somehow.

I wonder how long it'll be before Obama and McCain jump on board. As well as the rest of the idiots.


By EricMartello on 8/19/2008 11:43:25 PM , Rating: 3
Actually, this is NOT a problem...in fact, our current problem is the solution to this next problem. First, we just need to ramp up CO2 production by driving V8s, chopping down forests and farting more. Next we harvest CO2 and refine the 2 Os for oxygen to breathe (since there are 2 Os, we get twice as much oxygen from CO2 than we do from regular air) and make pencils out of the Cs so we can keep track of the results.

Problem solved - WITH SCIENCE.

NEXT!




Did you know ...
By AlexWade on 8/18/2008 8:05:46 PM , Rating: 2
Most of our oxygen is generated by algae in the ocean and not trees? The BBC/Discovery Channel show Planet Earth taught me that. It was the series on oceans. I know it is in the BBC version. I don't remember the exact percentage, but it was a clear majority. I think I'll watch again, because that was an excellent show.




By onelittleindian on 8/18/2008 11:00:39 PM , Rating: 2
quote:
Lazlo calls himself "the recognized founder of systems philosophy", a New Age holistic pseudo-science that has unfortunately accomplished nothing useful since he created it 35 years ago.
That's harsh, man, harsh.




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