Earth is 4.5 billion years old but humans evolved only around 200,000 years ago. Civilization, as we know it, is only about 6,000 years old, and industrialization started in the earnest only in the 1800s. While we’ve accomplished much in that short time, it also shows our responsibility as caretakers of the only planet we live on right now.
The negative effects of humans on Earth cannot be understated. We’ve been able to survive in various environments all over the world, even in harsh ones such as Antarctica. Every year, we destroy forests and other natural areas, driving species into smaller areas or endangerment, because of our need to build more houses for our growing population. All these factors can pose big problems for the human civilization.
Here we give you an insight into the 6 major problems we could face.
Possible Threats to the Human Civilization
1. Global Warming
Global warming refers to the warming caused by human technology since the 19th century or earlier. Global warming reflects abnormal variations in the expected climate within the Earth’s atmosphere and subsequent effects on other parts of the Earth. Projections of future climate change suggest further global warming, sea level rise, and an increase in the frequency and severity of some extreme weather events and weather-related disasters. Effects of global warming include loss of biodiversity, stresses to existing food-producing systems, increased spread of known infectious diseases such as malaria, and rapid mutation of microorganisms.
It has been suggested that runaway global warming might cause Earth to become searingly hot like Venus. In less extreme scenarios, it could cause the end of civilization, as we know it, thus making it one of the biggest future problems.
2. Agricultural Crisis
The 20th century saw a rapid increase in the human population due to medical developments and massive increases in agricultural productivity made by the Green Revolution. The energy for the Green Revolution was provided by fossil fuels in the form of fertilizers (natural gas), pesticides (oil), and hydrocarbon-fueled irrigation. Now with more and more urbanization and industrialization led by the population explosion, agricultural land as well as a number of people willing to take agriculture as a profession has reduced.
The agricultural crisis will begin to impact us after 2020, and will become critical after 2050. Coming decades could see spiraling food prices without relief and massive starvation on a global level such as never experienced before. To achieve a sustainable economy and avert disaster, the world population will have to be reduced by two-thirds, says a study.
3. Nuclear War
Only two nuclear weapons have been used in war so far – at Hiroshima and Nagasaki in World War II – and nuclear stockpiles are down from their the peak they reached in the Cold War. However, it is a mistake to think that nuclear war is impossible now.
The Cuban Missile crisis was very close to turning nuclear. Worse still, the Cuban Missile crisis was only the most well-known case. The history of Soviet-US nuclear deterrence is full of close calls and dangerous mistakes. A full-scale nuclear war between major powers would kill hundreds of millions of people directly or through the near aftermath – an unimaginable disaster. But that is not enough to make it an existential risk. The real threat is nuclear winter – that is, soot lofted into the stratosphere causing a multi-year cooling and drying of the world. Modern climate simulations show that it could preclude agriculture across much of the world for years.
4. Bioengineered Pandemic
Any disease can be made more lethal by introducing alien elements/gene into the patient’s body and then it can get transferred to millions. Recent work on bird flu has demonstrated that the contagiousness of a disease can be deliberately boosted. Right now, the risk of somebody deliberately releasing something devastating is low. But as biotechnology gets better and cheaper, more groups will be able to make diseases worse. Most work on bio-weapons has been done by governments looking for something controllable because wiping out humanity is not militarily useful. But there are always some people who might want to do things because they can.
5. Self-programmed Robots with Artificial Intelligence
Masterminds like Stephan Hawking, Elon Musk, and Bill Gates have raised concern over the potential risk of artificial intelligence to humanity in the near future. Although this science has not developed too much now, automatically programmed computers and robots posing some destruction has become every day’s news and things can get aggravated. Artificial intelligence is the biggest threat to humanity in future and can wipe out the entire human race.
6. Nanotechnology Arms Races
Nanotechnology is the control over matter with atomic or molecular precision. Although it is a good thing, but like biotechnology, increasing power also increases the potential of misuse that is hard to prevent. The most obvious risk is that atomically-precise manufacturing looks ideal for rapid, cheap manufacturing of things like weapons and it can increase arms race between countries. Weapons can also be small and handy: like a “smart poison” that acts as a nerve gas but seeks out victims, or ubiquitous “gnat bot” surveillance systems for keeping populations obedient, seems entirely possible. Also, there might be ways of getting nuclear proliferation and climate engineering into the hands of anybody who wants it.
These are the major threats that we, as a civilization, might face. We should understand the cause and avoid them from turning into a reality. Problems is never the problem. Finding a solution is. Whether you are struggling to find solutions in an exam or nuclear wars. 😉