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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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Silent Spring?
By JasonMick on 8/18/2008 5:29:26 PM , Rating: 1
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 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.....

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