It could be said that periodic mass extinctions are a fact of life here on Earth. So, too, are human predictions anticipating the end of the world. Most recently in 2012, when, according to National Geographic, end times were forecast based on a date on the ancient Mayan calendar. Currently, though, some scientists believe the world will end in 2100, and this time, it’s entirely our fault.
2100 wouldn’t be the first time life on Earth suffered a mass extinction of apocalyptic proportions. Several such events happened over the course of the last 500 million years. About 250 million years ago, in fact, there was the “Great Dying,” when ocean waters suddenly became too acidic to sustain life, wiping out nearly all the creatures of the sea (via CBS News).
Probably the most well-known mass extinction, though, happened about 66 million years ago at the end of the Cretaceous period, when, according to The Conversation, numerous organisms — including dinosaurs — were killed off, never to exist again.
After each of these cataclysms, though, some forms of life bounced back. What is it, then, about the year 2100 that makes some scientists feel certain the world will end, and this time, it’s serious?
A mathematical equation
What’s leading some scientists to believe 2100 will be the year humanity finally bites the dust is a mathematical equation developed by MIT professor Daniel Rothman. What Rothman’s predicting is that by that date on the calendar, carbon levels in the ocean will reach the red zone due to man-made climate change, exterminating most of the life on the planet (via New York Post).
According to Rothman and the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, best case scenario is about 300 gigatons of carbon in the ocean by the date. The worst-case — and arguably far more likely — outcome is roughly 500 gigatons of carbon in sea waters by the end of the century. Meeting either mark, according to Rothman, could spell disaster for the planet.
If there’s any silver lining to the story, though, it’s that life won’t go out like a light switch. Instead, this potential mass extinction could take as long as 10,000 years to come to pass. That is, of course, unless carbon emissions are greatly reduced, but carbon emissions have skyrocketed since the Industrial Revolution, and it’s generally accepted that humans are to blame (via Carbon Brief).
Like the Mayans, Rothman can’t really predict the future, even though this time he has math on his side. Could the end of life on Earth be only decades away? That remains uncertain, but if carbon emissions remain unchecked, it’s likely. There’s still time to act, however, and the best course of action for life itself is to leave Rothman’s hypothesis untested.
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