Here’s a free dystopian setting for you to use in your next near-future sci-fi! If you want to have a pleasant day, or not think about climate change, then you may wish to skip this post.
Rampant climate change has increased global temperatures to the point where phytoplankton—responsible for two thirds of the Earth’s oxygen production—are experiencing mass die-offs¹. Combined with a collapsed food chain² causing mass extinctions and additional oxygen load from decomposition, both food and oxygen security have become critical, worldwide issues.
Among the global rich, oxygen masks and re-breathers are not only ubiquitous, but have become fashion items, with integration into your phone and other parts of your personal area network. With atmospheric oxygen at 15% and falling, the poor are able to survive, but have experience massive cognitive and physical diseases from long-term oxygen starvation. Poor people are no longer able to reproduce, because low blood-oxygen is unable to support a growing fetus; not that that the poor have the energy to have sex in the first place. Sex and exercise are now luxuries.
For those lucky enough to have work, an oxygenated office is the new equivalent of a health-care plan in the United States. Coffee shops and other retail outlets post “atmospheric oxygen is for customers only” signs. Those who are worst affected by the changes are least able to protest against them, as oxygen deprivation leaves them physically and cognitively incapable of rallying.
The kicker in this dystopian future is the oxygen produced for consumption by the rich is still powered by fossil fuels. There is a perverse incentive for this to continue, as lowering global oxygen levels mean a greater percentage of people’s budgets are spent on breathing gasses, in which the energy companies hold the means of production.
What makes this such a great setting for a dystopian sci-fi novel is that it’s both plausible, and potentially sooner than most people think.
¹ Oxygen security becomes a major issue at about 6°C, or about one hundred years time.
² Global collapse of the food-chain becomes a serious risk at 3.5°C, which may be as soon as twenty years.
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