Searching for Planet B

Followed by the rise of mammals, the Chicxulub impact that concluded the dinosaur era with the force of 300 million nuclear explosions, the planet’s temperatures soared in a spooky way that the planet is likely to experience again and very soon. The planet’s prominent thinkers including the late Stephen Hawking, have predicted that Earth will shortly reach a knocking point and humans will need an insurance policy, an escape plan, or to be more precise—Planet B.

The most amazing feature of this early age of mammals as Peter Brannen writes in The Atlantic is “it was almost unbelievably hot, so hot that around 50 million years ago there were crocodiles, palm trees, and sand tiger sharks in the Arctic Circle. On the other side of the blue-green orb, in waters that today would surround Antarctica, sea-surface temperatures might have topped an unthinkable 86 degrees Fahrenheit, with near-tropical forests on Antarctica itself. There were perhaps even sprawling, febrile dead zones spanning the tropics, too hot even for animal or plant life of any sort.”

Earlier this year, a terrifying analysis was published in the science journal where scientists claimed that the volume of the ocean without oxygen has quadrupled in the past 50 years. However, the oxygen deprived swaths of the open seas have proliferated by the size of the Europe.

A research team led by the German oceanographer Sunke Schmidtko in 2017 calculated for the first time that the humans have drained 2% of the oxygen from the oceans since 1950.

Theatrically declining oxygen in the oceans is an introduction to many of the worst mass extinctions in the history of Earth. The most severe one happened 94 million years ago, known as Oceanic Anoxic Event 2.

Brannen further writes, “While the supersonic asteroid that would eventually incinerate dinosaurs was still silently boomeranging around the solar system, a gigantic pulse of carbon dioxide rose from the bottom of the ocean. The Earth warmed, the seas rose, and oxygen-deprived waters spread.”

Sune Nielsen, a geochemist at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution in Massachusetts said, “Basically the entire continental shelf went anoxic. There was no oxygen at the bottom of the shelf anywhere in the world.”

So should we despair and evacuate Earth and go somewhere else? Martin Rees answers this question in his new book, “On the Future” saying that notion is a dangerous delusion.

Rees says, “I know it’s been promoted by Elon Musk and by my late colleague Stephen Hawking, but I think there’s no Planet B. The world’s problems can’t be solved by escaping from the world. They’ve got to be tackled here.”

“I think there is a likelihood that by the end of the century there will be a community of people living on Mars. I think they will be people who are thrill-seeking adventurers rather than normal people. I think they will go there, not through a NASA program, but through one of these private space endeavors, like Elon Musk’s SpaceX or Jeff Bezos’s Blue Origin. I don’t think they’ll be followed by large numbers.

“These people on Mars — I think they will be important for the far future of the 22nd century and beyond because they will be in an environment to which they’re ill adapted. They will have every incentive to use bio-modification and maybe cyborg techniques — linking to electronic machines — to adapt to their alien environment. They will quite quickly become like a new species.”