Earth’s future is an uninhabitable hellworld

Planet Earth has been around for 4.5 billion years, plus or minus, and has changed a lot in that time. What began as a ball of molten, boiling magma eventually cooled and developed several small tectonic plates; a few billion years or so later, the planet was covered with various supercontinent formations and teeming with life.

But the Earth is still young, cosmologically speaking. We’re barely more than a third of its likely life and there’s a lot of change to come.

Unfortunately, it seems unlikely that we will survive them. According to a study published last year that used supercomputers to model the climate over the next 250 million years, the world of the future will once again be dominated by a single supercontinent – ​​and virtually uninhabitable by a mammal.

“The outlook for the far future looks very bleak,” Alexander Farnsworth, senior research fellow at the University of Bristol’s Cabot Institute for the Environment and lead author of the study, confirmed in a statement.

“Carbon dioxide levels could be double current levels,” he explained. “Because the Sun is expected to emit about 2.5 percent more radiation and the supercontinent is mostly located in the hot, humid tropics, much of the planet could face temperatures between 40 and 70 °C [104 to 158 °F].”

The new supercontinent — known as Pangea Ultima, in reference to the ancient supercontinent Pangea — would create a “triple whammy,” Farnsworth said: not only would the world deal with about 50 percent more CO2 in the atmosphere from current levels; not only would the sun be hotter than it is now—this happens to all stars as they age, due to the evolving push and pull between gravity and fusion going on in the core—but the sheer size of the supercontinent itself would make almost completely uninhabitable. This is due to the continentality effect—the fact that coastal areas are cooler and wetter than inland, and the reason why summer and winter temperatures are so much more extreme in, say, Lawrence, Kansas, than in Baltimore.

“The result is a mostly hostile environment, devoid of food and water sources for mammals,” Farnsworth said. “Widespread temperatures between 40 and 50 degrees Celsius and even greater daily extremes combined with high levels of humidity will ultimately prevent our fate.” Humans – along with many other species – will die due to their inability to release this heat through sweat, cooling their bodies.

And here’s the bottom line: it’s the best-case scenario. “We believe that CO2 could rise from about 400 parts per million (ppm) today to more than 600 ppm many millions of years into the future,” explained Benjamin Mills, Professor of Earth System Evolution at the University of Leeds, who led the calculations for the study. “Of course, that assumes people stop burning fossil fuels, otherwise we’d see these numbers much, much sooner.”

So while the study paints an ominous picture of Earth many millions of years from now, the authors caution us not to forget the problems just around the corner. “It is vitally important that we do not lose sight of our current climate crisis, which is the result of human emissions of greenhouse gases,” warned Eunice Law, a research fellow in climate change and health at the University of Bristol and co-author of the paper.

“We are already experiencing extreme heat that is harmful to human health,” she pointed out. “That’s why it’s so important to reach net zero emissions as soon as possible.”

The research was published in the journal Nature Geoscience.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Scroll to Top