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The Penultimate Generation

This is a depressing post, but I just wanna get it out of my head.

I recently watched a Nova episode on Ocean Acidification and it was a sobering moment

The TL;DR of it, is that extra CO2 is causing the oceans to become slightly acidic, which people were hoping was a *good* thing "Yay, the ocean is slowing down global warming!"

The problem, with the oceans, getting say, 1% more acidic, is a chemical one.

Most reefs and crustaceans form their shells out of Calcium Carbonate. Calcium is plentiful, the Carbonate, on the other hand, is not. The reason Carbonate is rare, is that it bonds with hydrogen atoms associated with acid. As a mathmatical example: if the ocean was 1.5% carbonate by volume, and you add 1% acid, you end up with 0.5% carbonate, a third of the amount that there used to be.

Animal species are remarkably adaptable, but they cannot "survival of the fittest" their way into replacing the entire chemistry of their exoskeletons. Similarly, the things that eat those things can't easily replace those calories or habitats.

Al Gore has been making dire predictions about the world for about 15 years now, and most reasonable people have come to believe them.

The problem with those predictions, are that the timelines involved and the resulting disasters lack a truly apocalyptic feel. "we can expect the oceans to rise between 2.5 and 6.5 feet (0.8 and 2 meters) by 2100". Nobody listens to stuff that will happen in 2100. It is just too far off, and the difference between 2.5 and 6 is too fiddly. 2.5 will be bad, but not world ending.

Also, as a guy with a lot of faith in science and the creativity of man, vanilla Global Warming seemed to have some side-channel solutions. Deploying a solar shield to cool the Earth would be risky and dicey hail mary, but seems more likely than everyone on Earth abandoning a cheap, portable form of liquid work.

But the acidification of the oceans and what seems like the inevitable annihilation of an entire aquatic phylum from the food chain? That shit isn't fixable by anybody. Motherfucking Superman can't stop that. Ten Justice Leagues couldn't solve it. An entire nation of X-men couldn't do anything.

I have a very clear memory when I was about 10, wandering out of my room late at night to complain about my inability to sleep. Nightline was on, and I watched them talk about a research mission to Antarctica to study the ozone layer and the damage humans were doing to it. They included some pretty depressing statistics about the future of skin cancer in the world I was to inherit. I started crying immediately.

I mention this, because we came together and solved that problem with The Montreal Protocol, mainly because, there were some affordable alternatives.

I am no longer ten. I am now old enough to understand that the use of Fossil Fuels is an entrenched economic issue. Even if half the industrialized countries stopped using Fossil Fuels, that would just make oil and coal twice as cheap for the countries who didn't stop using it.

It is a trope that parents nag their children about when they are going to have grandchildren.

I am very seriously considering having a talk with my children about maybe not having any grandchildren. About how they will probably be fine, but the odds of their children having to end up living in an declining Earth suffering through the changes wrought by large scale fauna dieoff are becoming unacceptably likely.

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