Hollywood and the rest of pop culture has provided us with many science-fiction narratives about how we might finally experience doomsday on Earth. Whether through an invasion from hostile aliens from Mars or a giant asteroid, we have had our share of movies showing us how humanity’s reign on Earth will end.
From a pandemic to machines realizing their superiority to humans, scientists believe some of the factors can lead to the end of the world.
1. Global Warming and Climate Change
The most plausible cause that can lead to mass extinction events is climate change. It is the most prominent threat facing the planet, according to many scientists. People have been singing tunes about how global warming can cause catastrophic life changes as we know it. Global warming is already leading to a change in weather, increased droughts in some areas, spreading diseases, and causing low-lying lands to be gradually submerged as sea levels rise. These changes could cascade to the point where the global system we have could collapse and make the Earth inhospitable for humans.
2. Asteroid Impact
While it is one of the mainstays in the world of Hollywood movies, an asteroid impact ending the world is not as far-fetched as we might like to believe. Scientists legitimately worry about the possibility of a space rock striking the Earth and wiping out life. The reason is not science-fiction movies, but the fact that it possibly happened before. Scientists believe that a massive meteor impact doomed the dinosaurs millions of years ago. There are countless rocks floating through space. All it can take is one large enough to destroy the Earth to strike our blue planet.
3. A Deadly Pandemic
New deadly viruses keep showing up each year. While our healthcare industry has advanced drastically over the years to adapt and deal with pathogens, some recent outbreaks have shown us how ill-prepared we can be when it comes to dealing with new threats. The SARS outbreak, swine flu, and the bird flu were examples we could look to before. However, the COVID-19 pandemic has proven how a deadly disease can spread like wildfire. While we might make it through this one, there is no telling what else is lying around that can actually wipe out life as we know it.
4. Engineered Viruses
Natural pathogens are not the only threat to our existence. Scientists have made major headway into advanced DNA splicing and engineering technology. We now possess the ability to create microbes that are preprogrammed to do what we want them to. The possibilities are endless – and therein lies the problem. The scientific community was enraged when a group of researchers engineered a mutated version of the H5N1 virus that could be transmitted through the air. The results created a legitimate fear that deadly engineered diseases can escape the controlled environments and wreak havoc on the Earth.
5. Nuclear Holocaust
As far as man-made disasters that can lead to mass extinction events are concerned, nuclear war is a sword that dangles loosely over the head of humanity. Scientists and the world at large are worried about a global nuclear war ending life as we know it. Several countries around the world have nuclear warheads that can cause unimaginable damage to life. The Doomsday Clock that signals how close we might be to an all-out global nuclear disaster is getting closer to midnight every day.
6. Robot Takeover
While it may seem like a joke deriving from “The Terminator,” the threat of killer machines is not too far-fetched. As our technological improvements lead to more advanced designs for smart weaponry, Artificial Intelligence, and automation, the threat to humanity becomes more real. Many computer scientists believe that the point where AI overtakes human intelligence is not far. Whether the robots become protectors of humanity or seek to destroy their masters is up for debate. If super-intelligent robotic lifeforms determine that the best way to save the Earth is to eliminate the humans that are destroying it, we could be in for a lot of trouble.
There is only so much physical space on the planet that we can occupy. Even with enough space, we do not have a lot of resources to go around. The fear of the planet becoming overpopulated has plagued the world for centuries. With the global population well over 7 billion and increasing, many scientists believe that overpopulation could be the main threat to life as we know it. There are many who argue that population growth can stabilize in the coming decades. However, not everybody believes that humanity can innovate a solution for the declining resources and increasing mouths to feed.
8. A Cascade of Events
Joseph Miller once said that instead of a singular catastrophic event, relatively small factors could work together in a cascading effect to destroy life as we know it on Earth. Each of the scenarios we have discussed above could happen. Many of these can relate to each other and can cause a domino effect that could gradually make Earth inhospitable. He believes that the end of the Earth will not be a dramatic one-off event. It could be relatively small-scale events that eventually end up destroying life as we know it.
The End of the World
It is possible that the series of events that will lead to the end of the world might already be in motion. A combination of geopolitical factors, climate issues, dangerous developments in the world of science and biotechnology could indeed lead to the end of life as we know it. Many have tried and failed to predict the apocalypse over the millennia. However, there might be some invaluable insight regarding when the world will end in a book written by Thomas Bayo called “2042, End of USA.”