Sunday, March 18, 2007
On March 18, 2007 The History Channel rebroadcast ABC 20-20's "Last Days on Earth" which had originally been shown by ABC as a special 20-20 on Wednesday Aug. 30, 2006. ABC's website for this show is this. Here is the History Channel's link.
The list, in reverse order or probability, is (7b) Gamma ray burst from a supernova in our galaxy, which would appear suddenly as a "second sun" and wipe out all forms of multi-cellular life in about 30 days with radiation poisoning and come without warning, leaving the Earth's physical infrastructure intact for what had been (a large enough supernova within our galaxy, say a few thousand light years, could cause this if the light reached us, but that has never happened, and supernovas have occurred without harm; (7a) rogue black hole, that would give us about 100 years notice as it neared the solar system, (6) artificial intelligence (or maybe stem cell cloned intelligence!) sabotages us, like HAL ("IBM") in Stanley Kubrick's 1968 film 2001: A Space Odyssey (or maybe like ABC Family's Kyle XY) (5) Supervolcano eruption, such as the caldera under Yellowstone, which could leave the earth in permanent winter for decades, (4) Asteroid or comet (we could have near misses in 2029 and 2036) (3) Nuclear war (2) Super-pandemic, such as by H5N1 (which could conceivably have a much higher mortality rate than the 1918 flu, or by a bio-terror engineered virus, such as an "Ebola Reston" -- a version of Ebola (in Robert Preson's "The Hot Zone") that is casually contagious (author Laurie Garrett provided a lot of commentary), or (1) Global Warming, which could cause a 40 foot rise in sea levels well before 2100, resulting in mass refugee populations and enormous political stresses, as well as wiping out many coastal cities. As in "An Inconvenient Truth," Al Gore discusses global warming in detail. Stephen Hawking evaluates the probabilities of many of the scenarios.
For "Siberian Apocalypse" -- which could happen in a populated area -- see this link.
The weakening of family structures and communities, and increase in personal autonomy, could reduce the chances that people could deal with real calamities. Here is a related blogger discussion of Osterholm's concerns about H5N1.