Extend that expiration date
The Earth didn’t come with a warranty. So the recent publication of research predicting that our planet will continue to support life for at least another 1.75 billion years was reassuring.
That is, our planet will keep supporting life “as long as nuclear holocaust, an errant asteroid or some other disaster doesn’t intervene.”
Uh-oh. There are no guarantees against any of those potential final-act calamities.
Still, the experts at the University of East Anglia in the United Kingdom have concluded that our planet will maintain a people-survivable course in this solar system and universe until straying into a “hot zone” somewhere between 1.75 billion and 3.25 billion years from now.
That range, from a study published in the journal Astrobiology, stemmed from the researchers’ calculation that the Earth, which is now roughly 4.5 billion years old, has a habitable-zone lifetime of up to 7.79 billion years.
OK, so the Climate Research Unit at East Anglia was credibly accused in 2009 of fudging figures to bolster its case for man-made climate change.
Hey, same school, different study.
And assuming mankind lasts another 1.75 billion or so years, maybe by then we’ll figure a way to get out of this place while the getting’s good.
As lead researcher Andrew Rushby put it: “If we ever needed to move to another planet, Mars is probably our best bet. It’s very close and will remain in the habitable zone until the end of the sun’s lifetime — 6 billion years from now.”
Of course, “very close” is a relative term: The Red Planet ranges from 35 million to 250 million miles from Earth.
But even if our kind can one day get there, as science fiction Ray Bradbury told NPR in 1988:
“It’s not going to do any good to land on Mars if we’re stupid.”
So for now, let’s focus on preventing that nuclear holocaust — and let our distant descendents worry about where to go before Earth’s expiration date arrives.