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All The Ways Experts Believe The World Could End

List Rules
Vote up the world-ending events you think are likely to destroy all human life.

There's a haunting thought that crosses everyone's mind at one point or another: "How will the world end?" Then, we often follow that thought with, "When will it end?" There's some comfort in knowing that human extinction will likely be billions of years after our lifetimes, but there's still an unsettling feeling of knowing the planet we live on will one day cease to exist.

Many scenarios for life on Earth ending are far out of our control. There's so much that we don't know about space, the planets, and the universe, and many dreaded fates for this planet seem impossible to predict. Even though there's not much each individual can do at the moment, we can continue to live life to the fullest while still being a little curious about the planet's fate.

If you've ever wondered, "How will the Earth end?" then you're not alone. Scientists have come up with so many theories for the end of the world, and we've had a few close calls over the years. But luckily, most of the hypothesized events won't occur for several billion years. 

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  • 1
    657 VOTES

    We Could Blow Ourselves Up With Nuclear Weapons And Then Bring About A Nuclear Winter

    We Could Blow Ourselves Up With Nuclear Weapons And Then Bring About A Nuclear Winter
    Photo: US Navy (photo 80-G-396229) / Wikimedia Commons / Public domain

    Not all the causes for human extinction are out of our control. All the launch-ready nuclear weapons from the United States and Russia could burn tens of thousands of miles of land. A nuclear firestorm that massive would release up to 180 million tons of smoke and black carbon soot into the stratosphere. 

    This type of explosion would lead to a nuclear winter, which would prevent the majority of sunlight from reaching the Earth's surface. It would cause temperatures to drop drastically, freezing over major agricultural zones.

    Consequently, growing seasons for resources would be eliminated for possibly a decade or longer. Most human and animal life would slowly perish due to famine. And even if any people survived food shortages, the environment at that point could be too toxic and radioactive for human life. 

    657 votes
  • 2
    551 VOTES

    An Asteroid Could Hit The Earth

    An Asteroid Could Hit The Earth
    Photo: NASA / JPL-Caltech / Wikimedia Commons / Public Domain

    About 66 million years ago, a city-sized asteroid hit Earth and ended life for all dinosaurs and most other species. If one asteroid took out all massive reptiles so quickly, then the same could eventually happen to human life, too.

    A massive asteroid isn't expected to hit Earth anytime soon. According to the geological records from NASA, a large asteroid hits Earth about every 100 million years. However, smaller asteroids strike more often, and there's evidence of small meteor impacts killing people within the past thousand years or so.

    Currently, the only known asteroids large enough to take out the whole planet are Pallas and Vesta, which are the largest in the solar system. The strike would have to be so severe that it would boil away all of Earth's oceans. While it's possible, it's extremely unlikely that a large collision like that will occur. 

    551 votes
  • 3
    522 VOTES

    An Eruption From A Supervolcano Could Be Large Enough To Destroy Life On Earth

    The Yellowstone supervolcano is capable of causing a natural disaster that many people wouldn't suspect. If it ever erupts, it could eventually lead to human extinction.

    Scientists predict that the eruption of the volcano would kill 5 billion people. Then, the smog and ash from the volcano would create a drastic climate change and block the sun. With very little sunlight, plants would die, leaving any remaining humans to starve.

    This wouldn't be the first time that a volcano took out a massive group of people. Mount Vesuvius erupted and wiped out entire cities in 79 CE. 

    The Yellowstone supervolcano is about 2,100,000 years old, and research shows that it erupts every 600,000 to 700,000 years. There are no signs that it will erupt in the near future.

    522 votes
  • 4
    386 VOTES

    A 10-Second Gamma-Ray Burst Could Set Off A Mass Extinction

    A 10-Second Gamma-Ray Burst Could Set Off A Mass Extinction
    Photo: ESO / A. Roquette / Wikimedia Commons / CC BY 3.0

    The details of gamma-ray bursts are unclear, but researchers believe they're the most violent explosions in the cosmos. However, they've only existed in other galaxies so far, so they've never been close enough to be properly observed.

    If one of these explosions eventually occurred in the Milky Way, it would likely wipe out nearly all life on Earth. Even a gamma-ray burst that lasts only 10 seconds can demolish half of the planet's ozone. Earth's temperatures and oxygen levels would decrease, making it unsuitable for human life.

    386 votes
  • 5
    479 VOTES

    Humans May Go Extinct As Part Of A Mass Ecological Collapse

    Humans May Go Extinct As Part Of A Mass Ecological Collapse
    Photo: Jeff Keeton / Wikimedia Commons / CC BY-SA 4.0

    Due to the poor way that mankind is treating the planet, up to a million species are suspected to go extinct within the next few decades. Humans have changed about three-quarters of the planet's land, which means about half a million species don't have enough space for their basic survival needs. 

    Sadly, the rate of extinction is estimated to be hundreds of times higher than it was throughout the past 10 million years. Of course, with other species going extinct, human life will soon suffer, too.

    Other species play a role in growing food, benefiting drinking water, and providing fertile soil. The more species that disappear, the less resources humans will have to work with. Thus, humans will eventually go extinct with the other struggling species.

    479 votes
  • 6
    399 VOTES

    The Earth Could Be Engulfed By The Sun

    Perhaps the most common "end of life" scenario involves the sun continuing through its cycle like all other stars. According to research, the sun will transform into a red giant star in approximately 5 billion years. The sun will then expand, engulfing Mercury and Venus, and likely Earth, as well.

    The increased radiation from the red giant might also cause Saturn and Jupiter's atmospheres to wear away when faced with the sun's increased radiation. By the time the sun expands, life on Earth will have needed to evacuate long before then, unless scientists can figure out how to move Earth into a different orbit.

    Pluto, its cousins, and Neptune's moon Triton might become the most habitable locations when the sun becomes a red giant. By that time, those currently cold locations will feel more like Earth's current climate. 

    399 votes