Recently the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists announced that the Doomsday Clock had moved to two minutes to midnight. We take for granted that the Earth is here forever but the bleak reality is that there is an increasing number of threats that could end the world as we know it at any point. These are 10 disasters that could potentially end our existence.
Several of the world’s most powerful countries have access to weapons of mass destruction. All out nuclear war would bring on mass extinction of people and most species of plants and animals.
Global warming, deforestation and harmful chemicals in the soil, water and air are having devastating effects on the planet. As well as the increase in extreme weather events, such as flooding and draughts, the effect on animal and insect species has a knock-on effect on plant pollination and food chains. Ecosystems are extremely delicate and the slightest disruption has a butterfly effect.
All life on the planet is dependent on the sun. A decrease in activity could bring on another ice age whilst giant solar flares could basically torch the planet. Bear in mind that all stars do die so one day the sun will also die leaving the Earth without any heat or light.
Like all living creatures, bacteria and viruses evolve, creating stronger, more resistant versions of themselves. Over-use of antibiotics helps these become resistant much faster so we are getting closer and closer to a modern day Black Plague.
The most popular opinion is that an asteroid caused the extinction of dinosaurs and the Earth is at constant risk of another impact. As well as the destructive effects that the impact itself would have, it would also cause giant tidal waves and the clouds of dust created would block out sunlight, killing plant and human life.
Although considered as low risk, particle accelerators such as the Large Hadron Collider still carry a risk as they are designed to create small black holes for scientists to research which could potentially become uncontrollable.
Gamma-ray bursts are the most powerful type of explosion and, if one occurred in the Milky Way, it would destroy Earth’s ozone layer and expose every one of extremely high levels of radiation. As they are caused by the death of stars and merger of neutron stars, they are not preventable.
Robots are currently being designed with the ability to think for themselves which opens up the possibility that they could turn on human beings. Although it sounds like a plot of a sci-fi film, artificial intelligence could lead to a robot uprising.
Much like the aftermath of an asteroid impact, after the initial damage caused by a volcanic eruption, there is risk of landslides and flooding and the dust and debris in the atmosphere would affect all life around it.
Genetically engineered diseases could be used to cause biological warfare and wipe out whole countries of people but as they are usually engineered to be antibiotic resistant, they could easily cause global pandemics.
From natural and cosmic disasters to man-made issues, the world as we know it could end at any time for a many number of reasons.
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