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  • The authors of the study urged world leaders to show some interest in the topic.

    The authors of the study urged world leaders to show some interest in the topic. | Photo: Reuters

Published 15 February 2015

A scientific research team found 12 potential causes that could lead to the end of the world.

A team from Oxford University's Future of Humanity Institute and the Global Challenges Foundation determined the potential factors of a world apocalypse, the online portal CNBC reported Friday.

Commenting their results, authors of the study expressed their concern about the lack of interest of political elites in this topic. "We were surprised to find that no one else had compiled a list of global risks with impacts that, for all practical purposes, can be called infinite," says co-author Dennis Pamlin of the Global Challenges Foundation. "We don't want to be accused of scaremongering but we want to get policy makers talking."

Although the study is limited for several reasons (the choices of the threats, or the potential interconnection between them, among other), co-author Stuart Amstrong stated that "putting the risk of extinction below 5 per cent would be wildly overconfident."

The researchers determined the following 12 risks to the fate humanity.

1. Artificial Intelligence: the investigators maintain that there is uncertainty as to whether robots will take over the world or not, therefore they allocated a large range of probability to that risk (Probability: 0-10 percent).

2. Ecological collapse: if the global ecosystem was not able to sustain the global human population any further, the consequences would be unpredictable. As such, the scientists did not assign a probability rate to this risk.

3. Extreme climate change: international organizations and experts like the International Panel on Climate Change have already determined that human-caused climate change will lead to an increase of global temperatures by up to four degrees. In this study, however, the figure is said to be up to 10 degrees, which could provoke a situation of starvation, social unrest and mass deaths (Probability: 0.01 percent).

See more: Climate Change: Shangai, Bangkok Could Disappear Next Century

4. Nuclear war: despite the end of the Cold War, nuclear weapons are still proliferating, meaning that a “nuclear winter” - a curtain of smoke blocking the suns from reaching the earth for months – is still possible.

See more: Technology, Weapons and the Future

5. Supervolcano: an eruption ejecting thousands of cubic kilometres of material into the atmosphere could lead to a "volcanic winter,” with effects similar to an asteroid impact or nuclear war. From the geological record, such events are known to have caused mass extinctions (Probability: 0.00003 percent).

6. Asteroid hitting Earth: an asteroid at least 5km across – big enough to end civilization, if not wipe out human life – hits Earth about once every 20 million years. However, the progress of technologies around asteroids could prevent this type of situation.

7. Global pandemic: an apocalyptic disease would combine incurability (like Ebola), lethality (like rabies), extreme infectiousness (like the common cold) and a long incubation period (like HIV/Aids). The researchers say the potential for this scenario should be a call for world leaders to develop a strong international health system (Probability: 0.0001 percent).

See more: Up to 444 Mn Victims of Antibiotic Resistance By 2050

8. Synthetic biology: the scientists warn that genetic engineering could create new super-organisms, either accidentally or intentionally. Such organisms could harm the human species or the ecosystem in general (Probability: 0.01 percent).

9. Nanotechnology: nanotechnology in the wrong hands could become tremendous weapons and cause a great damage, say the scientists (Probability: 0.01 percent).

10. Bad global governance: mismanagement of global affairs – which some say is already taking place – could lead to the collapse of civilization (Probability: impossible to estimate).

11. Global system collapse: like the issue of bad governance, this scenarios would have greater implications for the social or economic patterns of society (Probability: impossible to estimate).

12. Unknown consequences: this catch-all category can include a combination of the different risks presented above or other types of risks not been in the study, including circumstances such as an extraterrestrial invasion (Probability: 0.1 percent).


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