One barrel of oil has the same amount of chemical energy as several person-years of work. I would say "stop breathing" would not have much affect as compared to not driving your car for a day. The rate at which plants/bacteria/etc can convert carbon dioxide into oxygen achieved equilibrium with the amount that animals, aerobic life, and natural disasters (volcanos and forest fires, etc) can generate it. There is a set amount of carbon in the system cycling through. When you dig up millions of tons of carbon from inside the earth's crust each year and introduce it into the system, then the balance is skewed.
To fix the problem 2 things must occur.
- 1) Stop digging carbon up.
- 2) Take carbon out of the atmosphere and rebalance the system.
There are two ways to achieve #2. Carbon can exist in 3 places:
- The atmosphere
- The ground
- In living materials
The two ways to achieve rebalance is to take carbon from the atmosphere and move it to either of the other two groups.
The easiest way I can think of to do this would be to create algae farms. The algae would then have to be reburied otherwise it would decompose and reintroduce the carbon to the atmosphere because hey, it's a cycle. And that's what cycles do. I call this un-drilling for oil.
To leave the system in balance with the carbon in living material, basically mass-reforestation would need to occur where inland arid areas of all continents would be converted into jungles forests/jungles. Without magically changing climate patterns, this is impossible with current technology.
So yes, we're hosed.
The good news is if we stop digging right now, the current conditions don't have a way to get worse (aside from the reflection of the ice caps) and that buys us more time for the process of carbon removal.