Why the 2016 Election Might Actually Be the Literal End of the World
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Politics and Activism

Why the 2016 Election Might Actually Be the Literal End of the World

And what we can do about it.

Why the 2016 Election Might Actually Be the Literal End of the World

A few months back, author Robinson Meyer argued in his Atlantic article "Human Extinction isn't that Unlikely," that nuclear catastrophes, global pandemics, and climate change pose a much greater threat to Earth’s human population than we tend to think. He compares the risk of dying in any of these seemingly far-fetched ways to the risk of dying in a car accident: “At life-long scales, one in 120 Americans die in an accident. The risk of human extinction due to climate change—or an accidental nuclear war—is much higher than that.” Over the course of a year, the risk of human extinction is only one percent. However, over the course of a century there is a nearly 10 percent chance of Earth’s human population becoming extinct, according to the Global Challenges Foundation.

This extinction could come in any number of different forms. An example:

In 1995, Russian systems mistook a Norwegian weather rocket for a potential nuclear attack. Russian President Boris Yeltsin retrieved launch codes and had the nuclear suitcase open in front of him. Thankfully, Russian leaders decided the incident was a false alarm.

The point of this anecdote is: Earth’s nuclear arsenal is in the hands of flawed, often hot-headed human beings, and human extinction may come about as a result of human error. It may come in the form of nuclear holocaust; it may come in the form of governmental failure to take the threat of climate change seriously— a failure which could result in massive, “continent-sized superstorms by the end of the century”; it may come in the form of humans infecting humans with a population-decimating virus— as in the time of the Black Plague (which wiped out 10 percent of Earth’s population) or the “Great Plague of Justinian” (which saw around 15 percent killed).

It also could be completely out of our control. An asteroid hitting our planet or giant volcanic eruptions could produce enough airborne sediment to plunge the Earth into an artificial winter, killing off much of our food supply. Meyer summarizes Global Priorities Project director, Sebastian Farquhar, as saying:

…civilization could generally increase its resilience if it developed technology to rapidly accelerate food production. If technical society had the power to ramp-up less sunlight-dependent food sources, especially, there would be a “lower chance that a particulate winter [from a volcano or nuclear war] would have catastrophic consequences.”

So, while human extinction may come about as a result of human error—an important point to consider as electing our next president means choosing the next person we hand the nuclear codes over to-- the survival of the human race will almost certainly be the result of human innovation.

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This article has not been reviewed by Odyssey HQ and solely reflects the ideas and opinions of the creator.
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