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Dr Sivaram Hariharan

Professor of Pharmaceutical Chemistry, PSG College of Pharmacy

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Air Air Everywhere but O2 Nowhere . (Is it possible for oxygen levels on Earth to irreversibly plummet?)

Just like water has become undrinkable in many parts of the developing world and where bottled water has become the norm, I was wondering that is it possible that the planet loses its ability to maintain the oxygen content in the air due to nonstop pollution, burning of fossil fuels, as well as denudation of forests. Is it possible that somewhere the dynamics of the atmosphere will hit the tipping point and oxygen levels to plummet irreversibly. Who knows? This was the theme of my recent short story on siliconindia.com titled "Air Air Nowhere", where I had envisioned a world where the oxygen levels have plummeted to that found on the top of Mt Everest, forcing the use of oxygen cylinders for survival of humanity even at mean sea level. What do climate and atmosphere modelers have got to say in this regard? I had interesting debates with my friends in Bhaarath (India) in this regard. Would certainly love to get feedback and viewpoints on this. Dr Sivaram Hariharan Bhaarath (India)

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  • Mar 3 2013: I think you might want to research photo-plankton a bit more. They out produce trees when it comes to filtering carbon dioxide from the air and producing oxygen. The Amazon forrest keeps all its input & output right there 24/7 & does not share with rest of world. So the air you breath right now is thanks, in large part, to Photo-plankton. Wat we are doing to the oceans and other bodies of water is causing a huge kill off in these creatures. So goes them -we too will go.
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      Mar 3 2013: The thread here is more concerned with the dynamics of maintenance of O2 levels rather than how O2 is generated. My POV here is how we humans have taken this life-sustaining thin blanket of air for granted. When I say thin, I mean it in comparison with the radius of the earth sphere. The thickness of the atmosphere from MSL to the stratosphere pales in comparison with the radius of our planet. Hypothetically, if we could shrink our earth to the size of a standard sized basketball. the air would be no greater than few microns thick (someone help me with the exact mathematical proportions here). In this context, I believe that we humans are dangerously playing around the margins by our increasing carbon footprint as well as irreversible destruction of natural habitats. Forget about the scenario where O2 levels become zero, the scenario of O2 levels falling to say even 75% of what it is now, will mean catastrophic consequences for our ecosystem. This is what I wanted to say at the origin of this thread Gale. Thanks for ur response. Dr Sivaram Hariharan, Bhaarath (India).

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