Will humans perish from this planet? According to the geologic records, everything on Earth eventually gets wiped away.

Creatures roaming the earth thousands of years ago are not here today. And the same pattern is going to be seen a thousand years from now.

Nothing on Earth is permanent. Not even the planet itself! And, so the extinction of humans is unavoidable. 

Changing climate, an acute ice age, volcanoes, and the astronomical rock that slammed onto the Earth 65 million years ago, annihilating the dinosaurs and a boatload of other creatures, have all wiped out lifeforms on Earth at least five times in the last half-billion years.

There were a total of five mass extinctions on Earth, and hard as it sounds, we are now waiting for the sixth. Only this time, there is no one to condemn but our species.

As per a report by Science Advances, the present rate, extinction is likely to be more than 100 times greater than expected, and that is just considering the species we are aware of at present.

The waters and jungles of the world are home to an infinite range of organisms, most of which will likely vanish before we have a chance to learn about them.

There are a variety of beliefs on what could eventually lead to human extinction from Earth, ranging from alien abductions to devastating asteroid impacts. Still, climate change is the most foreseeable one. 

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Asteroid impact

Asteroid to break into Earth’s atmosphere on December 9, 2021. Copyright: New York Post

Given that an asteroid was responsible for the extinction of the dinosaurs 65 million years ago, this possibility seems hauntingly plausible.

If a massive one hits us, it might trigger enormous storm surges, tremors, volcanic activity, and other calamities, pushing humans deep down into history alongside the dinosaurs. 

Nuclear war and Nuclear Winter

Nuclear arms can wipe out humans and a wide range of other organisms. And, not to forget that for the sake of “national security,” nine nations remain highly dependent on these weapons as a last resort.

A nuclear explosion from one of today’s modern advanced weaponry will indeed result in about 80 to 95 percent mortality rate in the impact zone ranging out to a circumference of 4 kilometers, with “serious damage” reaching six times that distance. 

But it is not just the imminent mortality that we need to be concerned over; we also need to be mindful about the nuclear ice age!

This risk occurs when the harmful gases and dust clouds that have been released cover the Earth and restrict the rays from the sun entering the planet.

As a result, the world will suffer years-long ice age with zero heat and light. Long, never-ending winter would be the death of humans!

Disasters and Diseases

earthquake - human extinction
Earthquake of Nepal affecting people’s life (source)

Natural disasters such as seismic events, storm surges, volcanic eruptions, and tornadoes can be devastating, yet they constitute a minor threat to humanity’s extinction.

Environmental hazards that are large enough to invade and destroy entire species are uncommon. Because the average mammal species lives for a million years, the probability of such events is one in a million per year. 

And although these natural disasters don’t themselves cause a mass extinction, they can intensify other social construction and economic balance of the world, which might further lead to struggle and indiscriminate conflicts for survival.

There have been plentiful instances where water shortages and droughts have wiped out different species of plants and animals while bringing civil war and indiscriminate deaths between various affected nations. 

On the other hand, pandemics are far more dangerous. The 1918 influenza pandemic claimed tens of millions of lives around the globe.

Different influenza viruses emerge regularly, and a significant outbreak is likely to occur at least once every 100 years.

We have improved the healthcare systems, lowering mortality risk over the last few decades, but we have also traveled far and wide, which increases the transfer of diseases. 

Natural pandemics are unlikely to wipe out the human population since someone is almost always immune. However, a terrible epidemic might potentially devastate our global society and serve as a fertile ground for mass extinction.

Climate Change and Global Warming

climate change - human extinction
Some of the effects of climate change (source)

Changing climate has also contributed to the eventual downfall of preceding human communities. A 300-year dry spell, for instance, had a role in medieval Greece’s demise some 3,200 years ago.

And a few years ago, a United Nations team of scientists published a paper claiming that we have only 12 years to maintain global warming to tolerable levels.

Global warming, tornadoes are becoming heavier, rains are becoming more intense, and the forest blazes are prolonged and more catastrophic due to climate change.

Experts warn that ignoring climate change will cause humankind “untold suffering.” But, if circumstances get worse, will humans be gone due to climate change? Analysts foresee a slew of disastrous possibilities if climate change is not addressed.

It is predicted that an average temperature rise of 5.4 degrees Fahrenheit (3 degrees Celsius) or more might cause the collapse of our socioeconomic foundation, as well as widespread instability and violence, resulting in a future that looks something like an apocalyptic thriller.

Food insecurity is one climate change scenario that could lead to economic and social breakdown. According to Live Science, global warming has various detrimental effects on food productivity and supply, including maximizing the water imbalance and diminishing food yield.

Crop failures can lead to a rise in human mortality, economic disruption, and socio-political turmoil, all of which can disintegrate our establishments. Therefore, this process escalates the likelihood of total economic collapse, resulting in mass extinction.

Evidence of species extinction as a result of climate change

The very last magnificent woolly mammoth walked the Earth about 4,000 years ago, and historians thought the giant progenitors of elephants became extinct because people slaughtered them mercilessly for generations. However, DNA testing of the mammals’ previous haunts revealed a different scenario. 

Scientists now believe that catastrophic climate change was the more likely the cause, as it destroyed the mammals’ food supply.

But, in addition to addressing the riddle of the disappeared woolly mammoth, these results could provide insight into the destiny of other organisms if the current climate issue is not addressed.

Ecological Collapse

ecological evidence - human extinction
Washed up dead whale as evidence for Ecological collapse (source)

Ecosystems are fragile communities of biological entities, such as humans and other species, coexisting with their abiotic surroundings, such as land, air, and water.

Environments can recuperate from a certain degree of human interference, such as temperature rises or habitat degradation, but there is a threshold at which the restoration is impossible.

And the analysis suggests that we may be approaching that tipping threshold. For instance, Lake Chad in West Africa is a heart-wrenching illustration of an ecological catastrophe.

The lake has been exhausted by 90% severe drought, abuse of water, and the effects of climate change over the last 60 years.

This significant loss of the freshwater lake has harmed the fortunes and daily lives of more than 40 million residents who rely on the lake for survival in Chad, Nigeria, Niger, and Cameroon.

Why are humans vulnerable to a mass extension?

Sixth mass extinction for humans. Copyright: Second thought

Vulnerabilities exist in humans as it does in all living species on Earth. Massive, warm-blooded creatures like us have difficulty dealing with environmental changes.

Tiny, cold-blooded turtles, snakes, and other critters can go for months in the absence of hydration and nourishment.

On the other hand, large animals with quick metabolic activity like dinosaurs or humankind necessitate a steady food supply.

As a result, they are susceptible to even minor food chain abnormalities produced by natural disasters like volcanic eruptions, rising temperatures, interglacial periods, or the implications that follow an asteroid crash.

We have a long life, have fewer babies, and have a lengthy generation period. Sluggish procreation makes it harder to recoup from demographic falls, and delayed natural selection makes fast changes in the environment challenging to adapt.

Mammoths, ground sloths, and other large predators perished due to these adverse characteristics. Enormous animals multiplied too slowly to endure or adapt to overexploitation by humans and climate change.

To Wrap Up

Considering the optimistic views concerning human extinction, we are so versatile and resilient that we could potentially endure a mass extinction.

Humanity would undoubtedly hoard adequate supplies to withstand years of ice and dark if given a decade’s notice before an apocalyptic event, safeguarding much or all civilization.

Longer-term interruptions, such as ice ages, may lead to massive conflict and population collapse, but advanced civilizations are likely to endure.

However, this versatility can make us the cruelest adversaries on Earth, making us too brilliant for our benefit. Altering the globe might often fundamentally transform it for the worse and introduce new threats such as nuclear weapons, contamination, overcrowding, global warming, and epidemics, and disasters.

As a result, we have used atomic negotiations, pollution regulations, access to contraception, cheap solar electricity, and vaccines to limit these hazards.

We have gotten out of every snare we have set for ourselves. But, for how long is this enough? When is the tipping point of nature?

Humanity has not contributed to the sustainability of life on the planet. On the other hand, our actions have harmed the ecosystem and rendered it less conducive for other innocent species. 

Grave annihilation would be unforeseen by default. Nonetheless, the ruins of once-thriving ancient civilizations clutter our planet, most of which came to an abrupt end for causes that modern nations are in positions to avoid.

Our survival odds will likely be far higher than one in six, which is not so bad looking at the dinosaurs or woolly mammoths. 

Humans will be the victim of their self-induced mass extinction. And, yes, we are the following dinosaurs on Earth. The cessation of humans is definite, as a law of nature.

We have been aiding and preventing ourselves for so long. But, the question is, for how long? Have we forgotten to rule out any occurrences that might signal our extension? And most importantly, how can we prevent that inevitability from happening?

(Last Updated on March 24, 2022 by Sadrish Dabadi)

Shradha Bhatta holds a Bachelors’s Degree in Social Work along with a Post-graduate degree in Project Management from Georgian College in Canada. Shradha enjoys writing on a variety of topics and takes pleasure in discovering new ideas. She likes traveling and spending time with nature. She is a very people-person who loves talking about climate change and alerting people to go green!