Sorry for the over the top headline but Scientists have done the maths and according to their calculations, life on Earth has 1.75 to 3.25 billion years left to thrive.
Even short geologic time scales outrun our ability to project human history.
One common, frequently unconscious misconception is that history is linear, progressing toward an inevitable end point.
Our inability to see ourselves as part of a continuum of processes that will continue into the future is also directly linked to our shortsightedness in managing our environment. Human impacts already equal or surpass many natural processes. For example, human earth-moving processes exceed natural erosion in the volume of material moved (Hooke, 2000; Wilkinson, 2005).
Let’s peer into the future. The reasons for disaster are not hard to conjecture.
Technology might become so advanced that humans will no longer need to modify the natural environment extensively, but any attempt to predict technology far in advance is bound to be almost pure speculation.
Space Weather (which includes any and all conditions and events on the sun, in the solar wind, in near-Earth space and in our upper atmosphere) can affect space-borne and ground-based technological systems and through these, human life and endeavor. Not to mention Yellowstone National Park that could decide to erupt.
Even if humans avoid causing a mass extinction, many species will have become naturally extinct and new ones will have evolved.
The truth is we don’t have a particularly detailed idea of what is going on inside out own planet never mind on the surface.
When the Earth’s molten core eventually cools and hardens to the point that there is little or no slip-sliding of different substances, it more than likely its magnetic field will die out as well. The Earth is thought to have begun this cooling sometime in the last billion years.
That’s good, since one way or the other we certainly have a lot of time left; while a magnetic flip is largely meaningless, magnetic death certainly would not be.
In all likelihood, the Sun will swallow the Earth long before then, as it convulses and expands as a part of its natural death throes and that’s if a giant asteroid or a nuclear war doesn’t finish us off first.
However the 92.9 million miles between us and our host star will not be enough to keep us comfortable.
For those of you that need to use Google the Sun is a magnetic variable star at the center of our solar system that drives the space environment of the planets, including the Earth. The distance of the Sun from the Earth is approximately 93 million miles. At this distance, light travels from the Sun to Earth in about 8 minutes and 19 seconds. The Sun has a diameter of about 865,000 miles, about 109 times that of Earth. Its mass, about 330,000 times that of Earth, accounts for about 99.86% of the total mass of the Solar System. About three-quarters of the Sun’s mass consists of hydrogen, while the rest is mostly helium. Less than 2% consists of heavier elements, including oxygen, carbon, neon, iron, and others. The Sun is neither a solid nor a gas but is actually plasma. This plasma is tenuous and gaseous near the surface, but gets denser down towards the Sun’s fusion core.
Where was I? The earth will become inhospitable to humans long before the planet enters the hot zone ( Stars like our Sun shine for nine to ten billion years. The Sun is about 4.5 billion years old, judging by the age of moon rocks. Based on this information, current astrophysical theory predicts that the Sun will become a red giant in about five billion (5,000,000,000) years. So there is not much to worry about.
However I am pushing on in years and I often wonder how my generation will survive the impending climate crisis never mind the future of our planet. There is a tragic alienation between us and nature.
There’s not much money in the end of civilization, and even less to be made in human extinction.” The destruction of the planet, on the other hand, is a good bet, because there is money in this, and as long as that’s the case, it is going to continue. The amount we consume each year already far outstrips what our planet can sustain, and the World Wildlife Fund estimates that by 2030 we will be consuming two planets’ worth of natural resources annually.
Over the course of this century, the relationship between the human world and the planet that sustains it has undergone a profound change. When the century began, neither human numbers nor technology had the power radically to alter planetary system.
We know that in two billion years or so, an expanding sun will boil away our oceans, leaving our home in the universe uninhabitable—unless, that is, we haven’t already been wiped out by the Andromeda galaxy, which is on a multi billion-year collision course with our Milky Way. Moreover, at least a third of the thousand mile-wide asteroids that hurtle across our orbital path will eventually crash into us, at a rate of about one every 300,000 years.
Perhaps Google is a good idea after all to prepare a copy of our civilization and move it into outer space and out of harm’s way—a backup of our cultural achievements and traditions.
There is hope on the horizon during my Nuclear Warheads reading ( See The Series of Posts) I learned that a regional nuclear war between India and Pakistan could decrease global surface temperature by 1°C–2°C for 5–10 years and have major impacts on precipitation and solar radiation reaching Earth’s surface. No much help. We will hit the average of 400 ppm…within the next couple of years. Arctic permafrost soils have accumulated vast stores of organic carbon—an estimated 1,400 to 1,850 pentagrams of it (a pentagram is 2.2 trillion pounds, or 1 billion metric tons). That’s about half of all the estimated organic carbon stored in Earth’s soils.
In the short-term, we need to make it in the economic interests of people to do the right thing. The chances of that happening in a Capitalist world I will leave up to yourself to decide.
Here is what is happening.
The signs of a worsening climate crisis are all around us, whether we allow ourselves to see them or not.
Unintended changes are occurring in the atmosphere, in soils, in waters, among plants and animals, and in the relationships among all of these.
Life-threatening challenges of desertification, deforestation, and pollution, of toxic chemicals, toxic wastes, and acidification of carbon dioxide and of gases that react with the ozone layer, and from any future war fought with the nuclear arsenals including increasingly powerful floods, droughts, wildfires, heat waves, and storms are underway. Evacuations from low-lying South Pacific islands have already begun.
The onslaught of droughts, earthquakes, epic rains and floods over the past decade is triple the number from the 1980s and nearly 54 times that of 1901, when this data was first collected.
Yet we are aware that such a re-orientation on a continuing basis is simply beyond the reach of present decision-making structures and institutional arrangements, both national and international and endure most of the poverty associated with environmental degradation.
The rate of change is outstripping the ability of scientific disciplines and our current capabilities to access and advise. It is frustrating the attempts of political and economic institutions, which evolved in a different, more fragmented world, to adapt and cope.
This planet has not experienced an ice-free Arctic for at least the last three million years. Guy McPherson, professor emeritus of evolutionary biology, natural resources, and ecology at the University of Arizona ” the implications are truly dire and profound for our species and the rest of the living planet.”
We are currently in the midst of what scientists consider the sixth mass extinction in planetary history, with between 150 and 200 species going extinct daily, a pace 1,000 times greater than the “natural” or “background” extinction rate.
The ability of the human psyche to take in and grasp such information is being tested. And while that is happening, yet more data continues to pour in—and the news is not good.
Thanks to climate change oceans have already lost 40 percent of their phyto plankton, the base of the global oceanic food chain, because of climate-change-induced acidification and atmospheric temperature variations.
So you might well ask if some version of extinction or near-extinction will overcome humanity.
It deeply worries many people who are seeking ways to place those concerns on the political agendas.
Climate-change-related deaths are already estimated at five million annually,
We’ve still got plenty of time left to enjoy planet Earth but we need to know how to respond, to changes that are already happening—and to those coming in the near future. It’ll happen very fast.
It appears that there is not much hope for the future, nor for a governmental willingness to make anything close to the radical changes that would be necessary to quickly ease the flow of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere; nor can we expect the mainstream media to put much effort into reporting on all of this because we are all more interested in leaving a legacy of material wealth that will be totally worthless.