Peak Oil is You

Donate Bitcoins ;-) or Paypal :-)

Page added on June 28, 2019

Bookmark and Share

How to Survive Doomsday

General Ideas

Let’s be optimistic and assume that we manage to avoid a self-inflicted nuclear holocaust, an extinction-sized asteroid, or deadly irradiation from a nearby supernova. That leaves about 6 billion years until the sun turns into a red giant, swelling to the orbit of Earth and melting our planet. Sounds like a lot of time.

But don’t get too relaxed. Doomsday is coming a lot sooner than that.

The Earth is, in some ways, in a precarious spot in the solar system. There’s a range of orbital distances inside which a planet can have both liquid surface water (which is believed to be necessary for life) and enough atmospheric CO2 to carry on photosynthesis. This range is called the photosynthesis habitable zone. The Earth orbits barely within the sun’s zone. Some scientists estimate that the inner edge lies just 7.5 million kilometers away, which is only 5 percent of the distance between the Earth and the sun.

Last Plant Standing: When atmospheric CO2 falls below 150 parts per million, C3 plants like wheat and rice will die off, leaving C4 plants like corn, millet, and weeds. Photo from Shutterstock.

And that inner edge is moving out. Our sun is a massive ball of gas held together by its own gravity. At its center, the intense pressure and heat fuse hydrogen nuclei together to form helium. It takes four hydrogens to make one helium nucleus. As the number of nuclei in the core of the sun decreases by three with each helium nucleus formed, the outward pressure of the core also decreases (because the pressure is proportional to the number of nuclei per volume). In response, the outer layers of the sun squeeze the core harder, increasing its pressure, temperature, and fusion rate, leading to a 10 percent growth in brightness every billion years.

The Earth responds to this increasing brightness, in part, by decreasing the thickness of its warming blanket, which is provided by atmospheric CO2. Rising temperatures on Earth speed up reactions between water and silicate-rocks, which in turn draws CO2 out of the atmosphere. Sort of like changing your winter down comforter for a cotton sheet in the summer, this helps to keep the surface temperature of the planet habitable.

Eventually, though, the warming sun will cause CO2 levels to fall so low that plants will start to die. First to go will be the C3 plants, so called because their photosynthesis process involves a molecule containing three carbon atoms. Most plants are of the C3 type, including wheat, rice, barley, oats, soybeans, peanuts, coconuts, bananas, potatoes, cotton, and most trees. In about 200 million years, when the CO2 concentration drops below 150 parts per million (it is at 400 today), C3 plants will disappear.

Civilization relies mostly on C3 plants, which make up about 85 percent of global agricultural production by dollar value. Another class of plants are C4 plants, which employ a form of photosynthesis that involves four carbon atoms and is more efficient under many conditions. Although C4 plants make up only about 3 percent of plant species, they account for about 25 percent of the total photosynthesis on Earth. In order to survive the die-off of C3 plants, we will probably turn to genetic engineering to expand the list of C4 plants. Today, C4 plants include corn, sorghum, millet, and sugarcane, as well as some grasses and weeds.

Not even cockroaches will survive.

Efforts are already underway to convert rice from a C3 plant into a C4, which would result in about 50 percent larger harvests under present-day conditions. At 100 ppm CO2, the only rice on Earth would be C4 rice. C4 plants are thought to have evolved in response to the ongoing depletion of CO2. It is likely that as C3 plants die off, C4 species will continue to expand naturally to fill the newly opened niches in the ecosystem.

Once plants disappear and cease replenishing atmospheric oxygen, animals will begin to die out. Currently, there are no known significant non-biological sources of oxygen on Earth. Once the plants are gone, oxygen will be a non-renewable resource. Large animals would probably asphyxiate within a few million years. Smaller and hardier creatures might last longer. Some types of microbes will probably survive by using metabolic reactions that do not rely on carbon dioxide or oxygen, but instead use materials such as sulfates or iron.

So that’s the number: In a paltry 500 million years or so, no humans will remain on the surface of the Earth—at least, not outside of some hypothetical controlled environment. And things get worse from there. After the atmospheric CO2 is gone and no longer able to regulate Earth’s surface temperature, things will start to get very hot. In about a billion years, the average surface temperature will increase to above 45 degrees Celsius from the current 17 degrees Celsius. Important biochemical processes turn off at temperatures above 45 degrees Celsius, leaving most of the planetary surface uninhabitable. Animal life will need to migrate to the cooler poles to survive; but by 1.5 billion years from now, even the poles will be too hot. Not even cockroaches will survive.

Now, there are a few things we can do to stay our execution. We could, for example, move the Earth’s orbit. If we fired a 100 km wide asteroid on an elliptical orbit that passed close to the Earth every 5,000 years, we could slowly gravitationally nudge the planet’s orbit farther away from the sun, provided that we don’t accidentally hit the Earth. As a less precarious alternative, we could build a giant solar sail behind the Earth with enough mass to drag the planet away from the sun. Such a sail acts like a kite, where the photons from the sun are the wind and the gravity between the solar sail and the Earth acts as the string. The sail would need to have a diameter 20 times that of the Earth but a mass only about 2 percent that of Mt. Everest, a mere trillion metric tons. Strategies like these could, in principle, keep the Earth in the habitable zone until the sun expands into a red giant. (If some other civilization has already built such a large solar sail, we could detect it using the same photometric techniques that are currently used to find exoplanets.)

Another survival choice is more complicated—or simpler, depending on your perspective. The future Earth will actually be a pleasant home for non-biological life—better than it is today. For one thing, the brighter sun will provide more abundant solar power. The space weather will also be nicer. The sun is a dynamo spinning on its axis about every 24 days, generating giant magnetic storms that disrupt communication networks, overload power grids, and damage orbiting satellites. Robots today need fear that their circuits could be fried by a solar storm, such as the large solar storm in 1989 that caused a power failure across most of Quebec. Currently, such storms are estimated to occur about once or twice per century. But as the sun ages, this rotation slows down and the magnetic storms will abate.

Given these facts, we humans might simply decide to upload ourselves into machines, which would be relatively comfortable on the dystopic future Earth. This would require advanced computing resources and a deeper understanding of neuroscience than are currently available, but there is no known fundamental reason why we could not exchange our biological hardware for robotic replacements. We could probably figure it out in the next few hundred million years.


36 Comments on "How to Survive Doomsday"

  1. ana on Fri, 28th Jun 2019 6:45 am 


    The NIGGERS can go too they are a bunch of DRUG USING MONKEYS OOO OOO AHHH AHHHH

  2. Ben on Fri, 28th Jun 2019 8:09 am 

    wow ana that comment is so intelligent

  3. makati1 on Fri, 28th Jun 2019 8:56 am 

    ana is just a typical American Ben.

  4. Robert Inget on Fri, 28th Jun 2019 9:02 am 

    I’ll be happy to survive July.

  5. Sissyfuss on Fri, 28th Jun 2019 9:35 am 

    Interesting article but of little value to the creatures facing the 6th Mass Extinction. We must begin reducing the COe level of 500 ppm beginning 40 years ago. There is so much that we need to be implementing before it’s too late. Oh, wait. Never mind.

  6. Duncan Idaho on Fri, 28th Jun 2019 9:35 am 

    “I won’t slave for beggars pay.
    Likewise, gold & jewels.
    But I would slave to learn the way
    To sink your ship of fools.”

    — The Grateful Dead, Ship of Fools

  7. likely juanpee sock on Fri, 28th Jun 2019 9:45 am 

    Ben on Fri, 28th Jun 2019 8:09 am
    wow ana that comment is so intelligent

  8. turd buster on Fri, 28th Jun 2019 9:46 am 

    “makati1 on Fri, 28th Jun 2019 8:55 am Ben/Davy More intelligent than any of your posts. How is that Mid-west swamp coming along?”

    Come on makati1, you are not very clever. Can’t you see when there is a mindless short comment from somebody who is never here like Ben it is a hallmark juanpee sock. He is a disturbed individual who loves deception.

  9. The Reel Donald on Fri, 28th Jun 2019 9:56 am 

    ana: don’t talk about ur momma like that! Black is Beautiful man.

  10. Gaia on Fri, 28th Jun 2019 10:30 am 

    I have no fear. When (not if) an apocalypse happens, I accept my fate.

  11. Gaia on Fri, 28th Jun 2019 10:32 am 

    I live for today: Yesterday is gone and tomorrow is not promised.

  12. Antius on Fri, 28th Jun 2019 10:50 am 

    A cheaper way of reducing solar flux would be to orbit a foil mirror interior to the earths orbit of the sun, which maintains the same angular speed as the Earth. Given that this would be less than local orbital velocity about the sun, the weight of the mirror would be balanced against sunlight pressure and it would remain stationary in Earth’s sky, blocking out a portion of sunlight.

    The same technique could be used to reduce solar flux arriving at Venus, allowing the planet to be cooled to more Earth-like temperatures and at least partially terraformed. The mirror need be only a few atoms thick, but still weigh thousands of tonnes.

  13. More Davy Sock Puppetry on Fri, 28th Jun 2019 11:01 am 

    turd buster on Fri, 28th Jun 2019 9:46 am

    “it is a hallmark juanpee sock. He is a disturbed individual who loves deception.”

  14. Shortend on Fri, 28th Jun 2019 11:43 am 

    Prep!? Now that’s funny so 90s

  15. Robert Inget on Fri, 28th Jun 2019 2:35 pm 

    Doom for Dollar or, we learned to hate Europe.

    It’s apparent, Europe choose Iran over Europe the same way Trump flaunted Europe by dropping out of Iran’r nuclear deal.

    It’s America First alright. First to the poorhouse.


  16. Robert Inget on Fri, 28th Jun 2019 2:41 pm 

    Europe is saying F You to the Trumper.
    This is the first real compound attack on USD supremacy.

    Trump may take the US to war, just to save face.

  17. Dredd on Fri, 28th Jun 2019 3:40 pm 

    The one way to survive is illusive at this stage of devolution (The Tenets of Ecocosmology).

  18. asg70 on Fri, 28th Jun 2019 3:44 pm 

    Notice how none of these suggestions involve reducing our CO2 footprint. That’s not-negotiable.

  19. Cloggie on Fri, 28th Jun 2019 4:13 pm 

    First EU-Japan, now the EU and South-America form the largest free trade area in the world:

  20. Hello on Fri, 28th Jun 2019 4:22 pm 

    >>>> free trade

    Yes, it doesn’t surprise me. The EU is not the brightest light. They still trod behind the US believing globalization/free trade/exporting of heavy and dirty industry/exploitation of 3rd world labor to be the key to glory!

  21. makati1 on Fri, 28th Jun 2019 5:39 pm 

    When trump has tariff’d the whole planet, he still won’t be satisfied. He is too stupid to understand that the Chinese, etc, do NOT pay the tariffs, the US tax slaves do, one way or another.

    But then, what can you expect from an uneducated, arrogant, bully who made his money by stiffing others? Now he is stiffing the entire US with his stupid tweets and building a wall of isolation around the American Police State. Just so the nukes don’t come out.


  22. makati1 on Fri, 28th Jun 2019 5:44 pm 

    BTW: The tariffs are not to even the trade dollars, they are an attempt to prevent China from overtaking and passing the US. Of course, short of war with China, he will fail, and even then China will win. The US cannot win a real war. But, keep the fighting in the ME, Europe, and North America, not Asia.

  23. JuanP on Fri, 28th Jun 2019 8:59 pm 

    Delusional Davy “He is a disturbed individual who loves deception.”
    You are projecting again, Exceptionalist!

  24. The Board Registered Membership on Fri, 28th Jun 2019 9:11 pm 

    Welcome back JuanP!

  25. JuanP on Sat, 29th Jun 2019 4:36 am 

    “The Board Registered Membership on Fri, 28th Jun 2019 9:11 pm”

    Obviously I am stuck on myself. My behavior is very pressured and irrational these days. I need to check in somewhere and stabilize.

  26. JuanP on Sat, 29th Jun 2019 5:18 am 

    Johnstone: Kamala Harris Is An Oligarch’s Wet Dream
    Harris is everything the US empire’s unelected power establishment wants in a politician: charismatic, commanding, and completely unprincipled. In that sense she’s like Obama, only better. Harris was one of the 2020 presidential hopefuls who came under fire at the beginning of the year when it was reported that she’d been reaching out to Wall Street executives to find out if they’d support her campaign. Executives named in the report include billionaire Blackstone CEO Jonathan Gray, 32 Advisors’ Robert Wolf, and Centerbridge Partners founder Mark Gallogly. It was reported two entire years ago that Harris was already courting top Hillary Clinton donors and organizers in the Hamptons. She hasn’t been in politics very long, but her campaign contributions as a senator have come from numerous plutocratic institutions. Trump supporters like to claim that the president is fighting the establishment, citing the open revulsion that so many noxious establishment figures have for him. But the establishment doesn’t hate Trump because he opposes them; he doesn’t oppose existing power structures in any meaningful way at all. The reason the heads of those power structures despise Trump is solely because he sucks at narrative management and puts an ugly face on the ugly things that America’s permanent government is constantly doing. He’s bad at managing their assets. Kamala Harris is the exact opposite of this. She’d be able to obliterate non-compliant nations and dead-end the left for eight years, and look good while doing it. She’s got the skills to become president, and she’ll have the establishment backing as well. Keep an eye on this one.

  27. JuanP on Sat, 29th Jun 2019 5:19 am 

    oops forgot my favorite, ZERO HEDGE

  28. Cloggie on Sat, 29th Jun 2019 6:07 am

    Indeed, a deep state dream come true. Of color. Woman. LBGT champ. Gun controller. Total mongrel mystery meat: Tamil, Jamaica. An Asian-African-American, thank God, not white. This is how uncle Schmul wants all Anglos to look like and be named: Kamala Harris. The result of an inversed Lebensborn program.

    I agree that the oligarchs would prefer her over Hillary, uncle Joe, or that self-styled white 0.1% Indian harpie, whose name I forgot.

  29. More Davy Identity Theft on Sat, 29th Jun 2019 6:33 am 

    JuanP on Sat, 29th Jun 2019 4:36 am

    JuanP on Sat, 29th Jun 2019 5:18 am

    JuanP on Sat, 29th Jun 2019 5:19 am

  30. Davy on Sat, 29th Jun 2019 7:06 am 

    “Solving The Baby Boomers’ Loneliness Crisis Could Be With A Robot Dog” zero hedge

    “The Wall Street Journal article called The Loneliest Generation: Americans, More Than Ever, Are Aging Alone, published in late 2018, provides excellent insight into a serious mental and physical health crisis developing for baby boomers: loneliness and isolation.”

    “The solution to solving the loneliness crisis among older Americans could be a robot animal, according to the New York Post.”

    “Carrolyn Minggia, 64, felt isolated after her aunt passed away last November. The Brooklyn Heights resident never married and has no children quickly found herself alone.”

    “”You know there’s mechanics in the center of him, so he’s not squishy,” she says. But “I don’t have to clean up after him, I don’t have to walk him. He brings me joy.”

    “Baby boomers have three choices of robot companion animals: Golden Pup Companion, Cat Companion, and Kitten Companion.”

  31. JuanP, my bad on Sat, 29th Jun 2019 7:19 am 

    More Davy Identity Theft on Sat, 29th Jun 2019 6:33 am

    JuanP on Sat, 29th Jun 2019 4:36 am

    JuanP on Sat, 29th Jun 2019 5:18 am

    JuanP on Sat, 29th Jun 2019 5:19 am

  32. JuanP on Sat, 29th Jun 2019 7:19 am 

    Dangerous viewing

  33. Cloggie on Sat, 29th Jun 2019 11:34 am 

    Kamala was “bussed” to school:

    You can buy a $30 shirt straight from Kamala with the imprint “I was bussed to school”.

    Can somebody explain to me what is the problem with being “bussed to school”?

  34. DMyers on Sat, 29th Jun 2019 10:29 pm 

    Let me explain that for you, Cloggie. Busing was a phenomenon in the US based on a certain Supreme Court decision (Brown v Board of Education). Seems the gist of the decision was that black children could not receive a decent education if surrounded only by other black children. Therefore there had to be a racial balancing in the schools, and this required that children be bused out of their home districts.

    And so I find this odd that there would be this sarcastic pejorative expression about busing, when busing was a blessing bestowed upon the underprivileged.

    Which leads to possible interpretation number two. She may be saying that she comes from an underprivileged background and has risen above that.

  35. Cloggie on Sun, 30th Jun 2019 3:23 am 

    “Let me explain that for you”

    Aha, thanks! So this time it is not referring to NOT being allowed to sit in a bus everywhere you please…

    …but this time being forced to integrate with white people, which indeed is not for the faint-hearted, which implies namely being held to white standards, something you would like to avoid like the plague, being a certified darkie:

    Grey-old white me wouldn’t like it either to be dumped in an all-black 100 m sprint class (do these exist?).

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *