After doom-mongers predicted a massive asteroid disaster, we look at the lethal threats to the human race most feared by scientists.
Nobody can say we didn’t have a good innings. After all, the human race has been here for the best part of 2.8 million years.
And extinction by space rock is also the subject of Sky comedy You, Me and the Apocalypse, which tells of an eight mile wide comet just 34 days away obliterating us all.
But there are so many other ways in which the way of life as we know it could be wiped out any day now.
From catastrophic climate change to black holes and robot wars, here are some apocalyptic visions that could end the world as we know it…
If the ice in Earth’s polar caps melts it will cause the oceans to rise as much as 250 feet, which would be a big trouble to human civilisation.
More than 50% of the world’s population lives below this altitude, including New York and most other major cities.
Meanwhile, with water evaporating faster, trapping in more heat and driving temperatures still higher, experts warn that Earth could face higher temperature and water supply problem.
A hotter planet could also unleash the spread of infectious diseases, the acidification of the oceans, and an increase in droughts and famines, as well as floods and land erosion.
Scientists at the IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change) recently gave a five percent chance that the Earth’s temperature will exceed 6.4 percent by 2100.
Throughout history many deadly pathogens have emerged which have wreaked havoc on the human race.
The Black Plague killed one in every four Europeans in the 14th century, while in just two years from 1918 Spanish flu took at least 50 million lives.
Recent possible pandemics, including SARS , bird flu, and MERS, a corona-virus which originated in Saudi Arabia, have eventually died down, but experts say it is only a matter of time before one goes global.
Last year, after researchers at the University of Wisconsin-Madison created a life-threatening virus that closely resembled the 1918 Spanish flu, many disease experts were appalled.
Simon Wain-Hobson, a virologist at the Pasteur Institute in Paris, said: “It’s madness, folly. If society, the intelligent layperson, understood what was going on, they would say, ‘What the F are you doing?’”.
Many scientists are still worried about the classic end-of-the-world threat: global nuclear war.
There are massive stockpiles of nuclear weapons around the globe which could trigger a catastrophe if they fell into the wrong hands.
Currently, nine countries are known to have nuclear capabilities, including Russia, Pakistan and North Korea, which between them possess around 16,300 nuclear weapons.
In 2008, the Physics Today journal concluded that the detonation of 100 nuclear bombs – a fraction of the number out there – would bring about a “nuclear winter” causing temperatures to drop to the lowest in 1,000 years, and “likely eliminate the majority of the human population.”
Biological weapons are perhaps an even greater threat to our existence, as they are easier to develop. If anthrax, for example, were released into the air it could cause fatalities in 90 percent of the population exposed to it.
Volcanoes have form when it comes to making entire species extinct. The Permo-Triassic Extinction – the biggest extinction event of all time, when 95 percent of all Earth’s species were wiped out 252 million years ago – coincided with the largest known volcano eruption in Earth history, in today’s Siberia.
Many believe the next Earth-changing eruption is long overdue, and point to the supervolcano in American’s Yellowstone National Park as the most likely to seriously threaten us.
The Yellowstone volcano erupts with a near-clockwork cycle of every 600,000 years – and that last eruption was more than 640,000 years ago. Scientists have discovered that the ground in Yellowstone is 74cm higher than it was in 1923, indicating a massive swelling underneath the park.
Experts predict that when it blows its top again the consequences for the world will be catastrophic.