Turns out, Elon Musk had a point.
As soon as possible, we need to find a habitable planet as an alternative to Earth.
Despite the Earth’s immense size, new research has revealed that atmospheric oxygen levels will drop to such an extent that all life on the planet will suffocate and die within a billion years.
In other words, even though Earth technically has seven billion years left to live – until our sun becomes a red giant and swallows most objects in the inner solar system – it won’t be able to support life anymore and will be more like how Venus is today.
In a paper published in the journal Nature Geoscience early this year, researchers from Toho University in Japan and Georgia Institute of Technology in the United States have revealed that in the future, Earth’s atmosphere will be rich in methane will have very low concentrations of oxygen.
“We find that the Earth’s oxygenated atmosphere will not be a permanent feature,” Kazumi Ozaki, corresponding author of the paper, and a professor at the Toho University told the New Scientist.
The change will take the planet’s atmosphere to a state it was before the Great Oxidation Event some 2.4 billion years ago.
Crucially, the shift is a natural phenomenon and part of a cycle that the atmosphere goes through over billions of years. However, a billion years is a lot of time to find an alternative planet. That means, although human activity is not the cause of the change, it also means humans do not have any control over the change either.
According to the researchers, during the deoxygenation of the atmosphere, oxygen levels will drop sharply to levels similar to that of the Archaean Earth – between four billion to two-and-half billion years ago, just after the planet had cooled down after intense volcanic activity.
“The Earth system will probably be a world of anaerobic life forms,” Ozaki said.