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Earth’s oxygen levels could drop, suffocating us all, study claims

Published Nov 18th, 2023 9:11AM EST
View of Earth from space
Image: studio023 / Adobe

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Oxygen is one of the many components that make life on Earth possible. However, a new study says that an extreme drop in oxygen could one day suffocate most of the life on our planet. Luckily, that isn’t expected to happen for at least another billion years.

The new study, which was published in Nature Geoscience in March 2021, says that the extreme drop in oxygen levels could take Earth back to the same state it was in before an event called the Great Oxidation Event (GOE), which is theorized to have happened around 2.4 billion years ago.

Earth in spaceImage source: Tryfonov / Adobe

If this theory proves correct, the oxygen levels on Earth would drop drastically, allowing more methane to fill the atmosphere. This would, of course, make life on Earth much less probable and lead to the planet’s excess of life dying off due to suffocation. Of course, this isn’t the first time that we’ve heard about some bleak future for Earth.

In fact, we know that eventually, the Sun will die, causing it to explode outward, devastating many of the planets around it. When that happens several billion years from now, it will destroy whatever atmosphere Earth has left, leaving it a husk of what it once was. The fact that all of Earth’s oxygen might one day drop extremely is just another hurdle we’ll have to face – if humanity is even around when that happens.

Of course, it’s also very likely that by the time this happens, we’ll be living on other planets, as NASA and others are already looking for ways to build colonies on the Moon and send humans to Mars for long periods of time. Even without oxygen, though, some life forms might persist, such as microbial life. 

Thankfully, the ramifications of this theory are still a few billion years off. So, while it isn’t something we’ll have to worry about in our lifetime, it’s terrifying that it might happen at all.

Josh Hawkins has been writing for over a decade, covering science, gaming, and tech culture. He also is a top-rated product reviewer with experience in extensively researched product comparisons, headphones, and gaming devices.

Whenever he isn’t busy writing about tech or gadgets, he can usually be found enjoying a new world in a video game, or tinkering with something on his computer.