(ORDO NEWS) — The more we learn about the history of the Earth, the more incredible it becomes. Our planet was formed about 4.5 billion years ago, and for the first billion years there was no life on it.
Then it suddenly appeared, but some events that took place in our history could again eradicate all life, well, or almost everything. The negligence of people or the variability of nature – led our planet to the brink of death.
Nevertheless, life is still very “tenacious” and always finds ways to continue to exist. Luck or exact calculation, we will try to find out.
The Great Dying of the Permian
250 million years ago, an event occurred that could lead to the complete destruction of species – the Permian-Triassic extinction, against the background of this event, even the extinction of dinosaurs is not so colossal.
This extinction is also known as the Great Dying, and with good reason: 70 percent of terrestrial and 90 percent of marine species disappeared, including half of all marine families.
Plant life also suffered; only a few forests remain. This is the only event during which insects also died out en masse. The devastation of life was so massive that this mass extinction was called the Great Doom.
The culprit again was environmental change.
A huge volcanic eruption in an already hot and dry climate led to a significant increase in carbon dioxide, and as the ice sheets melted, poisonous gas, methane, was released into the atmosphere, exacerbating the problem.
These greenhouse gases have once again led to oxygen deficiency in marine habitats.
A year without summer – a volcanic eruption and its consequences
The next event, which occurred relatively recently, although it did not have such colossal destruction, could have led to much more significant consequences.
Tambora is once the largest peak in Indonesia. One day she became worried and with several tremors made the locals worry. Volcano-dominated Sumbawa Island had at least two large settlements by that time.
It happened more than two centuries ago, but its influence is still huge.
Historians credit the infamous “year without a summer” of 1816, at least indirectly, with the invention of the bicycle and the writing of the classic novel Frankenstein.
In April 1815, Tambora Volcano erupted, killing tens of thousands of people on the Indonesian island of Sumbawa.
The following year became known as “the year without summer” as unusually cold and wet conditions swept across Europe and North America. The island was shaken by a series of powerful explosions.
The top of the volcano was literally torn apart, and fiery streams of hot stones, ash and gases rushed down from its slopes at a speed of about 200 km/h.
Glass melted from a temperature of a thousand degrees, to say nothing of people – the population of the island died in a matter of minutes.
In the summer of 1816, cold, wet conditions in central and western Europe and even North America led to crop failures, livestock deaths, and famine.
Snow and “deadly frost” were observed in New England. The cloud cover made the sky gloomy. This period has been called “the last great subsistence crisis in the Western world.”
During this time, there were massive failures in agriculture and food prices skyrocketed.
This also pushed up the price of oats for horses, which were the main mode of transportation at the time, according to the National Center for Atmospheric Research.
It is believed that this was the impetus for the invention of the bicycle by Carl Dreys in 1817.
About another smaller, but no less frightening eruption that puzzled scientists – read the article “Volcanic eruption in Iceland puzzled scientists – is the island under threat?”
The risk of a nuclear catastrophe
24 years ago, US scientists and government officials faced yet another turning point involving a small but potentially catastrophic risk.
In 1945, before the first test of an atomic weapon, scientists from the Manhattan Project performed calculations that indicated the threat of runaway fusion due to excess thermal energy from fission.
There was a possibility that the test could accidentally set fire to the atmosphere and oceans, and as a result, destroy most of life on Earth.
Subsequent studies have shown that such a scenario is unlikely, but the scientists of the Manhattan Project double-checked their calculations until the last moment.
However, as noted, these calculations have never been verified by experts not associated with the project, and there is no evidence that government agencies were warned of the possible risk.
Scientists and military leaders decided to go ahead at their own risk.
Today, the threat is much greater as nuclear arsenals have become more powerful and spread throughout the world.
Although burning the atmosphere is extremely unlikely, the possibility of a nuclear winter caused by climate change exists and could lead to devastating effects similar to those that wiped out the dinosaurs.
Danger of alien infection
In the middle of the 20th century, when mankind began to think about sending probes and astronauts into space, the problem of pollution arose.
There was a danger that when returning to Earth, astronauts, rockets or probes could bring with them dangerous life forms that would surpass Earth organisms, or serious viruses.
This concern became especially relevant during the planning of the Apollo mission to the Moon.
At that time, few people thought that life could exist on the Moon, nevertheless, NASA decided to seriously consider the possibility of reverse infection.
For this, quarantine measures were introduced, although a gap was identified in the quarantine procedure.
According to the original protocol, the astronauts were supposed to stay inside the spacecraft after landing in the water.
However, due to concerns about the well-being of the astronauts in a hot room, they were taken to the ship.
Although the astronauts were wearing biocontainment suits and quarantined on the ship, when the capsule was opened at sea, the air from the inside was released, which could lead to the spread of the virus to the ocean.
Fortunately, no deadly alien life was brought to Earth this time.
However, if that were to happen, then NASA’s decision to prioritize astronauts’ short-term comfort could lead to the release of dangerous life forms into the environment.
Man is the cause of modern extinction
We are currently facing a possible mass extinction, but this time, natural disasters such as a meteorite fall or a volcanic eruption are not to blame.
This is the result of the activities of Homo sapiens, a man who destroys the environment and changes the climate by increasing the level of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere.
This leads to extinction of species reaching levels comparable to mass extinctions in the ancient past.
The similarities between past mass extinctions and the present are striking.
In the past, the cause was the release of carbon dioxide from volcanoes, causing rapid global warming, which led to a chain of environmental crises. Although the causes may be different, the results remain the same.
It’s been 66 million years since the last mass extinction, and Earth’s ecosystems have changed a lot.
Perhaps they have become more stable, but on the other hand, the changing position of the continents makes it difficult to predict future mass extinctions using past data.
However, current extinction rates are 50 times higher than background rates, suggesting a possible mass extinction at this time.
If we can stop the decline in biodiversity soon, then we still have a chance of avoiding a mass extinction.
However, if we continue to load the biosphere for the next 100 or 1000 years, we risk being on the brink of an abyss.
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