Whether or not the world will run out of breathable air depends on a few factors.
In this guide, we summarise those factors.
Summary – Will The World Run Out Of Breathable Air?
It depends on:
- How much oxygen different plant life like phytoplankton are able to produce in the future (dependent on factors such as warming of the ocean)
- The level of air quality we have in the future in different cities and locations i.e. how contaminated the air is with different air pollutants/contaminants
Level Of Oxygen Production In The Future
Most of the earth’s oxygen (or at least around half) comes from phytoplankton which live in the ocean. The rest comes from seaweed, and onshore plants.
As reported by takepart.com, continued warming of the ocean in the future could impact phytoplankton’s ability to produce oxygen via photosynthesis. We could reach a level by the year 2100 where oxygen supplies are a problem in this regard.
Some point to the major cause of earth and the ocean’s warming as the increase in greenhouse gases and climate change.
Regardless, warming in general is something to watch out for as it has the ability to affect oxygen production.
Linked to this, continued deforestation and clearing of the Earth’s vegetation and plant life will also impact our ability to sequester carbon and output oxygen in the future.
Level Of Air Quality & Air Pollution In The Future
Separate to oxygen production, air pollution and air quality are important considerations for breathable air.
Air quality is important because air contaminants and pollutants are responsible for many diseases and deaths every year in places where air quality is poor or hazardous.
Air pollutants include ozone, particulate matter (PM2.5 and PM10), carbon monoxide, and sulfur dioxide.
They are primarily emitted from activities such as fossil fuel power plant energy generation, and also vehicles like passenger vehicles and trucks.
Air quality is region or city specific, and can be tracked with an air quality index which gives an indication of how clean the air is, as well as the concentration of different air contaminants.
Regions in India, Pakistan, China, and parts of Africa already have what is considered poor air quality indexes that can impact human health.
You can read more about air pollution and air quality in these guides:
- What Level Of Air Quality & Air Pollution Is Safe For Us To Breathe & Live In?
- Countries & Cities With The Worst Air Pollution
There are ways that cities can improve their air quality when it comes to air pollutants though.
Read this guide about examples of cities who have already improved their air quality.