The survival of mankind and civilization is a natural instinct that has kept us alive for thousands of years. However, during the past few decades the scientific community has become more aware than ever before of global catastrophic risks (GCR)—the risk of events large enough to significantly harm or even destroy human civilization on a global scale. Here follow 25 of the most catastrophic disasters against humanity that we might have to deal with in the near or distant future.
The era of black holes
The Black Hole Era, perfectly described in The Five Ages of the Universe, a book written by professors Fred Adams and Gregory P. Laughlin, is an age in which organized matter will remain only in the form of black holes. Black holes themselves slowly “evaporate” the matter contained in them, by the quantum mechanical process of Hawking radiation. By the end of this era, only extremely low-energy photons, electrons, positrons, and neutrinos will remain. In other words, say bye-bye to our beautiful blue planet.
According to most religions the so-called end-time is described through various hypothetical scenarios (Day of Judgment, second coming of Christ, the coming of the Antichrist, etc.) that all agree on one thing: the end of the world as we know it and the passage to the afterlife. The strangest thing, however, is that even though science rejects the majority of these religious theories, a great number of scientists accepts the end-time as a possible catastrophic risk.
A global oppressive government
Easily the most possible scenario of all included on this list, just picture a bunch of whackos akin to Hitler, Stalin, Saddam, Kim Jong-un, and others of this “class” dominating the world’s politics and economy.
According to this wild “end of the world” risk that involves molecular nanotechnology, out-of-control self-replicating robots will kill humans and conquer the planet. Terminator, anyone?
Some scientists fear that a gamma-ray burst, the most powerful kind of explosion known in the universe that has been observed in distant galaxies, may trigger a mass extinction on Earth one day. These deadly explosions could also help explain the so-called Fermi paradox, the seeming contradiction between the high chance of alien life and the lack of evidence for it, which, in other words, means that aliens existed before a gamma-ray burst killed them.
The extinction risk of climate change
Arguably the most famous risk worldwide in the past few decades the extinction risk of global warming describes the realistic danger at this point of various species, including humans, becoming extinct due to the effects of climate change.
Coronal mass ejection
Coronal mass ejections are huge bubbles of gas threaded with magnetic field lines that are ejected from the sun over the course of several hours. According to some scientists, and because of the damage we have done to the environment since the Industrial Revolution, an uncontrollable coronal mass ejection could one day be the reason behind our planet’s demise.
The Big Rip is another controversial cosmological hypothesis, according to which the matter of the universe, from stars and galaxies to atoms and subatomic particles, is progressively torn apart by the expansion of the universe at a certain time in the future.
The Big Crunch is one of the scenarios scientists have predicted may be the way in which the universe is demolished. Just like many other hypothetical visions of the cosmos’s end, it is based on Einstein’s Theory of General Relativity: if the Big Bang describes how the universe most possibly began, the Big Crunch describes how it will end as a consequence of that beginning.
“Genetic pollution” is a controversial term used for an uncontrolled gene flow that is allowed to enter into wild populations. This gene flow is undesirable according to some environmentalists because once released, the new living organisms made through genetic engineering will interact with other forms of life, reproduce with them, transfer their characteristics, and become dominant.
A natural pandemic
Another risk on this list that sounds totally realistic is a natural pandemic that could be transmitted through the air and kill humans within a few hours, while the scientific community will be totally unable to find an effective cure in time. Ever heard of the Black Death, which killed half of Europe’s population in medieval times?
Sudden human extinction
What would Earth be like if humanity suddenly disappeared just as the dinosaurs did? According to this catastrophic risk human extinction can occur in various ways, with one of the most ludicrous being that all men would become gay (not zombies) and not reproduce with women.
Ultimate fate of the universe
The ultimate fate of the universe is a theory that says there are two possible ways the universe will be destroyed: some say the world will end in fire and some say it will end in ice. One way or another, both sides agree there will be destruction.
We keep hearing more and more about the dangers of overpopulation and most experts predict that by 2050 it will be one of the biggest problems in the world. How? Well, to make a long story short, the human population will be so large that the limited resources of the planet, such as water and oil, will not be able to keep everyone alive. This hunger for resources will lead to famine, drought, disease, and endless war between countries and within them.
Overexploitation is a very real danger in 2015 and is the harvesting of species from the wild at a rate faster than can be recovered through natural reproduction. Overfishing and overhunting are types of overexploitation, and it is estimated that currently more than a third of the world’s endangered vertebrates are threatened by overexploitation.
World War III
Albert Einstein was one of the first to describe the tragic effects of a third world war on society and the planet when he stated,
“I know not with what weapons World War III will be fought, but World War IV will be fought with sticks and stones.”
You get the point, right?
Societal collapse is one of the most realistic theories on this list since it has happened before (the Mayans, the Byzantine Empire) and is composed of the decline and fall or disintegration of whole human societies. The societal collapse that some scientists believe could affect our world would take place on a global level.
Nuclear holocaust or apocalypse refers to a possible complete or nearly complete annihilation of human life via a large quantity of nuclear weapons to produce a doomsday device. In such a scenario, all or most of the Earth is made uninhabitable by nuclear warfare in future world wars.
New World Order
The New World Order is more of a conspiracy theory than anything else and suggests that a powerful group (Illuminati, Freemasons, Zionists, etc.) is in control of the human society and will do anything in its power to destroy humankind or just enslave it so we can serve their evil ends.
The idea of a Malthusian catastrophe was first mentioned by Thomas Malthus in An Essay on the Principle of Population in 1798, where he predicted that the demands of an endlessly growing human population would outstrip agricultural progress and sustainability. This, in turn, would trigger radical social change, including population decline and a state of misery.
Well, this theory has been around since antiquity and most of you (if not all) have seen films in which one sunny morning some weird-looking aliens from outer space invade our planet and try to destroy all life on the planet. It hasn’t happened yet and we don’t think it’s happening anytime soon.
“Transhumanism” is defined as the international cultural and intellectual movement of the past few years whose main goal is the total transformation of the human condition through the development and widespread availability of technologies that will greatly enhance our intellectual, physical, and psychological capacities. Even though it sounds benign, according to most thinkers, transhumanism could put an end to human life as we’ve known it.
Experts use the term “technological singularity” to describe the hypothetical scenario in which the rapid progress of our many technologies will give birth to a runaway effect wherein artificial intelligence will exceed human intellectual capacity and control, causing humans to be replaced by smarter and more capable clones or robots.
Mutual assured destruction
The term “mutual assured destruction” (MAD) refers to the mutual use of weapons of mass destruction of two or more superpowers that will culminate in what else—the devastation of the planet and the human race. In reality, it was the feared end result of the Cold War.
If you’ve seen Die Another Day, then you probably know what kinetic bombardment is all about. For those of you who haven’t seen the film just imagine the development of an international space weapon-satellite that can destroy anything on earth within a couple of seconds. Kind of scary, no?