Human consumption and climate change have sent humanity on a steep, dangerous, and deadly spiral spin toward a “catastrophic collapse” warn researchers. The dire warning is published in the scientific journal Nature Scientific Reports. Physicists Mauro Bologna and Gerardo Aquino layout in their research that there will be a ninety percent chance of upheaval and collapse of human civilization as early as a couple of decades. The culprit that will be the end of us is deforestation and specifically the loss of forest density.
In the study introduction, Bologna and Aquino note that “Many factors due to human activity are considered as possibly responsible for the observed changes: among these water and air contamination (mostly greenhouse effect) and deforestation are the most cited. While the extent of human contribution to the greenhouse effect and temperature changes is still a matter of discussion, the deforestation is an undeniable fact.”
Trees’ services to our planet range from carbon storage, oxygen production to soil conservation and water cycle regulation. They support natural and human food systems and provide homes for countless species, including us, through building materials. Trees and forests are our best atmosphere cleaners and, due to the key role they play in the terrestrial ecosystem, it is highly unlikely to imagine the survival of many species, including ours, on Earth without them. In this sense, the debate on climate change will be almost obsolete in case of a global deforestation of the planet. Starting from this almost obvious observation, we investigate the problem of the survival of humanity from a statistical point of view. We model the interaction between forests and humans based on a deterministic logistic-like dynamics, while we assume a stochastic model for the technological development of the human civilisation. The former model has already been applied in similar contexts3,4 while the latter is based on data and model of global energy consumption5,6 used as a proxy for the technological development of a society. This gives solidity to our discussion and we show that, keeping the current rate of deforestation, statistically the probability to survive without facing a catastrophic collapse, is very low. We connect such probability to survive to the capability of humankind to spread and exploit the resources of the full solar system. According to Kardashev scale7,8, which measures a civilisation’s level of technological advancement based on the amount of energy they are able to use, in order to spread through the solar system we need to be able to harness the energy radiated by the Sun at a rate of ≈4 × 1026 Watt. Our current energy consumption rate is estimated in ≈1013 Watt9. As showed in the subsections “Statistical Model of technological development” and “Numerical results” of the following section, a successful outcome has a well defined threshold and we conclude that the probability of avoiding a catastrophic collapse is very low, less than 10% in the most optimistic estimate.
There are too many sapiens on the planet. We consume more of earth resources faster than they can be replaced by nature while processing those resources with fossil fuels. As a result, our climate is warming rapidly – melting ice caps, forest pestilence, and sparking wildfires in the expanse of the Boreal/Taiga forest in the northern hemisphere. Our sheer numbers are resulting in the loss of the blessing of our biosphere, tropical forests in the Amazon, Congo, and Southeast Asia. These forests are logged for their wood, transitioned from their natural state to agricultural land while native populations and the biodiversity of the tropical rainforests face suffering, death, and extinction.
Nafeez Ahmed writes on the study in Vice:
This trajectory would make the collapse of human civilization take place much earlier due to the escalating impacts of deforestation on the planetary life-support systems necessary for human survival—including carbon storage, oxygen production, soil conservation, water cycle regulation, support for natural and human food systems, and homes for countless species.
In the absence of these critical services, “it is highly unlikely to imagine the survival of many species, including ours, on Earth without [forests]” the study points out. “The progressive degradation of the environment due to deforestation would heavily affect human society and consequently the human collapse would start much earlier.
This verdict would seem to indicate that there is an over 90 percent probability of a collapse of industrial civilization, based specifically on assessing the impact of deforestation on the ‘carrying capacity’ of the planet—the capacity of the planet to support human life.
The model developed by these scientists depicts human population growth reaching a maximum level that is undermined by the debilitation of forests. After this point, “a rapid disastrous collapse in population occurs before eventually reaching a low population steady state or total extinction… We call this point in time the ‘no-return point’ because if the deforestation rate is not changed before this time the human population will not be able to sustain itself and a disastrous collapse or even extinction will occur.”