The end of the world scenario is simple. For unknown reasons the nuclear powers start using their weapons on each other and MAD – or Mutually Assured Destruction – occurs. The devastation from thermonuclear blasts would be bad enough and would send what was left of mankind back to the Stone Age. Worse though would be the ongoing effects of nuclear radiation and nuclear winter. The radiation would engulf the planet on a scale that can’t be imagined. Within 6 months anyone who was not “blown up” would be very sick. Within 24 months just about everyone is dead. Disease, residual radiation pockets, starvation, secondary pollutants, poisoned rain and freezing temperatures will just about finish off humanity. It is very possible that a select few will survive on stockpiled rations in deep underground bunkers but even they will have to face a radically changed world if they ever return to the surface. (Amtrak Wars) Humanity as we know it would be gone.
2. BIOLOGICAL CATASTROPHE / WEAPON
Plagues have always claimed a terrible death toll from the human population. Bubonic plague caused by the bacterium “Yersinia Pestis” claimed an estimated 75 million lives in the 1340’s pandemic alone. The Spanish Flu outbreak of 1918 may have killed up to 100 million people. The most lethal of the natural diseases is Ebola Hemorrhagic Fever but fortunately it has never fully erupted outside of Africa although according to the excellent 1994 book the “Hot Zone” by Richard Preston it was accidentally brought to Reston Virginia in the USA but miraculously did not escape the containment laboratory. (It was an airborne variation.) Ebola outbreaks continue till today. It is not surprising that this ranks high in our list of end of the world predictions.
The Uganda Ministry of Health recently confirmed an outbreak of Ebola in the Bundibugyo area. Samples tested by the United States National Reference Laboratories and the Centers for Disease Control and the World Health Organization confirmed the presence of a new species of the Ebola virus.
These natural super-diseases are terrifying but because humans have evolved along with these bacteria and viruses there are usually survivors. Even the most deadly of all natural viruses, the Ebola Filovirus only kills nine out of every ten people. (One of the teams’ father actually survived a case of very severe Hemorrhagic Fever, possibly the Ebola disease, in 1956 in Southern Rhodesia, Africa) The real concern is that bio-weapons specialists have been experimenting and there is real concern that new and deadly strains of Ebola, Anthrax, Smallpox and even Bubonic Plague have been created. These new diseases may well be 100% effective. Only those that were pre-vaccinated before weapons use would survive and even they might not survive the ensuing natural mutations. This is a very real and terrifying threat to the survival of the human race particularly if the release was unanticipated and accidental. Stephen King’s novel, “The Stand”, is an excellent description of how this scenario might unfold. (Just ignore the mystic bits.)
3. OVER POPULATION PREDICTIONS
In our list of end of the world predictions, this actually may be the most serious longer-term threat facing humanity. There are just too many people on this planet and the number is getting bigger by the minute. Unpleasant as it may sound, we are the mammal equivalent of locusts. We are Consumers with a capital C. We devour vast amounts and we are desperately opposed to limiting our numbers. It’s probably an ancient racial survival instinct. Locust swarms work by consuming everything they can and then die when the food runs out. However, locusts have a survival mechanism we don’t. They can lay eggs that wait until conditions are good and then start again (diapause). The reason Brood X (cicadas) only appear in the USA once every seventeen years maybe for the exact same principle. Locusts can also breed incredibly fast in the right conditions with one female producing dozens of offsping in just a few weeks.We humans can’t do that on any serious scale. We would just die. Still, before we did we would fight each other for the few resources that remain and we would fight to the death. It would be “Total War” at every level. It’s very possible that those that do survive would be unable to make it on their own. The only thing we can hope for is that Humanity will somehow change its behavior before this happens. For example, China is already limiting the number of children per couple to one. Strange as it may seem – a plague that wipes out 70% of humanity might actually ensure the survival of our species in the longer-term. Let us put this scenario another way. At the current rate of population growth it could well be all over in in a thousand years. That’s soon!
4. NEW UNKNOWN WEAPON
In this scenario a new type of weapon is created. It might be a Fusion Bomb capable of turning the world into a short-term star, it might be a new form of radiation or it might even be a gravitational weapon that stops the world spinning. Now while all of these possibilities seem like farfetched science fiction “end of the world predictions” it is worth noting that so would have nuclear weapons seemed to Napoleon Bonaparte (1769 – 1821). In fact, he probably could not have imagined such a destructive power as even possible. The point is that just 100 years ago people were still using cavalry with lances. So, 100 years from now – who knows? One thing we can be sure of – the Arms Race is still very much alive and well.
5. COLLAPSE OF THE WORLD WIDE ECOSYSTEM
Most biologists now agree that the worldwide ecosystem is a far more fragile entity than was previously thought. The ecosystem produces the air we breathe and the food that we eat. The ecosystem is also a very complex matrix of interdependent relationships. There has been a vast amount written about this subject so please forgive us if we simplify things a little. The theory states that if mankind continues to destroy the planetary ecosystem then eventually a “tipping point” or “destructive critical mass” will be reached. Suddenly crops won’t grow because the insects that pollinate them have died off. (Believe it or not there is now a significant shortage of pollinating bees in the USA right now). Pollutants damage the seas and the food chains fail. Millions of microbiological ecosystems that produce oxygen just disappear. Each small loss creates further losses until the Earth starts to lose its larger species and finally us. This is a classic example of a huge number of micro-disasters adding up to one very big one. The planet would survive and would probably regenerate once the cause (us) was wiped out. In fact after 50 million years or so it might look quite like it did just before the last major ice age. By then there will be very few traces that we once existed at all. It is this theme that was used in the recent (2008) Pixar / Disney film “Wall-E” and was used in the final episode of the once incredibly popular series “Dinosaurs” produced by Michael Jacobs Productions and Jim Henson Productions in association with Walt Disney Television as a parody of human society.” As one of our end of the world predictions this would be a very nasty way to go.
6. TOTAL ICE AGE (SNOWBALL EARTH)
According to climatologist the Earth is actually in an Ice Age cycle that fluctuates between warm and cold periods. Right now we are in what is called an interglacial period – the warm time in between the much longer and colder ones. If the record of ice ages is accurate and consistent then it’s due to get very much colder in the next few thousand years – maybe starting tomorrow. There is no doubt that with the aid of modern technology humanity could survive. However, a theory that was recently put forward claims that we are heating the planet too fast and that this warming trend will trigger rapid cooling if the desalination of the polar oceans causes the current known as the North Atlantic Current (conveyor belt) to fail. The ice age that follows would be far colder than normal and would destroy civilization in the northern hemisphere.