Here’s a happy little meme-worm that’s grown fat enough in my own head, so I thought I’d let it burrow in your brain for a change. By nature I’m not fond of doomsday predictions, but the fossil record and history has taught me that just because life survives doesn’t mean you or yours will.
You may consider what follows radical, but I assure you this is the result of assiduous scholarship and not any particular axe I have to grind; I would really much rather have come to different conclusions about the times ahead.
The corpses of past extinctions are being used to buid a pyre for the present. Unchecked global warming from volcanism resulted in two massive oceanic extinctions that led to the loss of between 30 and 70% of all life on earth. These extinctions let a lot of corpses behind, and those are what we burn today as fossil fuels. Over a billion humans consuming fossil fuels is like a vast, diffuse volcano, and the early warning signs are already in.
On the way to mass extinction, increased weather instability will be pulling a Katrina scale event out of its hat routinely. The surviving pissed off males from a generation of US slaughter in the middle east will stage increasingly ingenious terrorist attacks. The power-mad scare tactics that follow will parlay the spactacular abuses of power recently codified into law into the basis for an extremely effective police state, using vast data-sifting powers, strike teams and secret prisons to neutralize domestic threats to the state, aka terrorists.
Already the largest single consumer of fossil fuels, keeping Fortress America safe demands that the military-industrial complex stage a series of wars against other states; Venesualia seems a likely target though really it could be anybody; these wars keep US demand growing even faster than it otherwise would, and the bulk of humanity continues to industrialize.
The utter lack of leadership and weakened global institutions leads to no significant progress being made towards addressing emissions. By 2050 we’ve cleared 500ppm CO2 and the oceans are growing increasingly anoxic. Normally currents keep things mixed up, but increasing temperatures creates inversion layers – regions where water is segregated like a multi-layerd cake- so the oxygenated water doesn’t permeate the anoxic environment. This is one of those tipping points everybody is trying to put into their elevator pitch; the anoxic conditions favor the growth of anaerobic organisms. The anaerobic organisms excrete jucies toxic to aerobic organisms, extending the anoxic conditions further.
So increased surface temperatures transiently create these conditions throughout the ocean, especially on coasts, depending on things like topology and weather and whatnot, but once enough of them get seeded they just grow, until they’re growing regardless of the weather.
Our ocean ecosystems are already extremely fragile due to our systematic extermination of organisms like cod that participate in many different food webs during their lifetime; these organisms serve to buffer ecosystems from shock at any particular level.
The entire terrestrial ecosystem is a fraction of the biomass of the seas. As the bottom of the food chain withers up, a whole host of other ecosystems, unhooked from each other by our hand, start to suffer calamities.
Coastal ecosystems – the kind that 90% of the current human population live within – will be the first to notice the knock-on effects. Aside from the death of fishing (anyone been to bustling Newfoundland lately?) and other sea industries, the massive cycling of organic washoff will be done more and more by anaerobes, until the coast smells like a week-old corpse.
The various scarcities that will ensue will be exploited by the same sort of assholes with guns that brought you every other misery, and used to justify further wars, purges, and the like.