According to a new study published in the journal Nature Geoscience, the end of life on Earth is inevitable and should happen in about 1 billion years due to the lack of oxygen on the planet’s surface. The biggest culprit for the phenomenon will be the star around which we orbit, which, as it ages, fundamentally alters chemical reactions that occur here, the research points out.
Also according to the article, the star’s advanced age will make it more luminous, a characteristic that will increase its energy emission and accelerate the wear of silicate rocks, such as basalt and granite. In turn, the natural decomposition process of these materials, called weathering, will account for the massive removal of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere.
CO2, along with water, is one of the main ingredients that enable photosynthesis by plants and, consequently, the production of oxygen. Thus, the reduction will kill several species, generating a chain reaction that will further decrease the amount of the element. After crises and more crises, nothing will survive.
In fact, it could be thought that the capture of the gas would help the cooling of the Earth, something sought by researchers and their methods of geoengineering in the fight to contain climate change. However, in 2 billion years, the solar power on the planet will nullify any benefits of its kind.
A brief history of time
To reach these conclusions, scientists from Japan and the United States used computational models capable of simulating the interaction of the crust, oceans and atmosphere with the Earth’s mantle and the evolution of the carbon, oxygen, phosphorus and sulfur cycles on the surface of the planet, as well as that of the climate. Two theoretical scenarios, then, defined the direction of our existence, in which the biosphere would be active or not. Both showed similar results.
Even though the drop in photosynthesis does not exactly help the species that live here, it is only a side effect, suggests the team behind the discovery, since the balance between the entry of rocks into the mantle during subduction, in which tectonic plates slide underneath others, and the emission of gases determines the richness of oxygen – and this balance is at the mercy, precisely, of solar energy.
Still talking about oxygen, it is estimated that its accumulation started on Earth only 2.5 billion years ago and that modern levels have about 400 million springs. The rest of the time, he remained modest. In 1.08 billion years, scientists point out, it will return to this state, ending support for aerobic organisms. This can even provide important clues to hypothetical migrations of human beings to other worlds.