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Immediate Heat Threat and the Long-Term Forecast
The emergence of a forthcoming “supercontinent” has been forecasted by researchers to potentially lead to the extinction of humans and all surviving mammals within 250 million years.
In a groundbreaking endeavor, scientists hailing from the University of Bristol in the United Kingdom have utilized cutting-edge supercomputer climate models to anticipate the intensification of climate extremes in the distant future. Their focus lies on the scenario where Earth’s continents amalgamate into a singular supercontinent, known as Pangea Ultima, a development anticipated to transpire approximately 250 million years from now.
The findings of their study suggest that the resulting environment would be characterized by extreme heat and aridity, rendering it virtually uninhabitable for humans and mammals. This grim prognosis stems from the fact that neither humans nor mammals have evolved the capacity to endure prolonged exposure to such excessively high temperatures.
Scientists conducted simulations to project temperature, wind, precipitation, and humidity patterns for the prospective supercontinent. They also employed models encompassing tectonic plate movements, oceanic chemistry, and biological factors to compute carbon dioxide levels.
Their findings indicate that the formation of Pangea Ultima would not only lead to a more frequent occurrence of volcanic eruptions, releasing carbon dioxide into the atmosphere and elevating global temperatures, but it would also result in an intensified brightness of the sun, emitting more energy and consequently heating up the Earth. Experts highlighted these observations in a paper published in the journal Nature Geoscience on Monday.
Alexander Farnsworth, the senior research associate at the University of Bristol and the paper’s lead author, stated, “The emergence of the new supercontinent would essentially constitute a triple threat, combining the continentality effect, an intensified solar presence, and elevated atmospheric CO2 levels.” Farnsworth went on to explain, “Widespread temperatures ranging from 40 to 50 degrees Celsius (104 to 122 degrees Fahrenheit) and even more extreme daily variations, compounded by high humidity levels, would ultimately seal our destiny. Humans, as well as numerous other species, would succumb due to their incapacity to dissipate this heat through perspiration, which is vital for cooling their bodies.”
Furthermore, Farnsworth emphasized that the heightened temperatures would create an environment devoid of sustenance and water sources for mammals.
While acknowledging the substantial uncertainties associated with long-term predictions, the scientists conveyed a decidedly somber outlook, indicating that only a meager 8% to 16% of the supercontinent’s landmass would be suitable for mammalian habitation.
The report suggests that carbon dioxide levels could potentially double compared to current levels, contingent upon the assumption that humans immediately cease burning fossil fuels. Benjamin Mills, a professor specializing in Earth system evolution at the University of Leeds and a co-author of the report, cautioned that without prompt action, these numbers could escalate much sooner.
However, the authors of the report stressed that this disheartening prospect should not lull society into complacency regarding the contemporary climate crisis. They underscored that the ongoing human-induced climate change is already causing millions of fatalities worldwide each year.
Eunice Lo, a research fellow specializing in climate change and health at the University of Bristol and a co-author of the report, emphasized, “It is of utmost importance that we remain acutely aware of our current climate crisis, which is a consequence of human emissions of greenhouse gases.”
“While we are forecasting a planet unfit for habitation in 250 million years, we are presently grappling with the immediate consequences of extreme heat that poses severe risks to human well-being. This underscores the utmost importance of expeditiously achieving net-zero emissions,” Lo emphasized.
Climate change is currently steering the course of Earth’s future, with the potential to push billions of individuals and other species to a point where adaptation becomes impossible unless there is a substantial deceleration in global warming. This dire prospect was outlined in a significant report supported by the United Nations and published last year.
For decades, scientists have been sounding the alarm, stressing the necessity to keep warming below 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels. The window for reducing our dependence on fossil fuels and averting catastrophic alterations that could rapidly reshape life as we know it is closing.
The most recent mass extinction event occurred approximately 66 million years ago when an asteroid collided with Earth, leading to the extinction of dinosaurs and a significant portion of life on the planet.
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