Image credit: Oklahoma Museum of Natural History, Creative Commons.
Think 2012 might be bad for life on Earth? You ain't seen nothing yet. According to a report by a Berkeley paleobiologist, the world is getting set for another mass extinction event.
This time, though, it might be man-made.
Scientists believe the world has gone through five mass extinction events, ranging from the Cretaceous–Tertiary extinction event about 65 million years ago, all the way back to the Ordovician–Silurian extinction event that experts think took place about 450 million years ago.
Since these planetary bad hair days took place so long ago, scientists aren't entirely sure what caused them. For example, the Ordovician–Silurian event could have been caused by gamma ray bursts or volcanism, but scientists are still digging in the dirt for clues.
On a geoplanetary scale, Earth's next mass extinction event may be merely a heartbeat away. According to the study entitled, "Has the Earth’s sixth mass extinction already arrived?" (paywall) in Nature, a Berkeley team speculates that the next mass extinction has already begun. They further speculate that it will likely reach official "mass extinction" status within about 300 years.
The Berkeley team based their estimates on the rate of species extinctions, and were able to make something of a case that Earth has seen far more species become extinct due to man-made activities than it would have if man had not reached such a stage of industrialization.
So, while scientists believe we'll survive 2012 just fine (regardless of who we elect as President), other scientists are making reservations for our future demise.
Eh, so what do you care? As long as you fanboys get your grubby little hands on an iPad 2, who cares if the world ends?
Now, I don't know if the Berkeley team is right or not. But I do know that the idea of man's impact on the environment has become highly politicized, and that many conservative leaders think global warming is so much hooey.
What do you think? Talk back below.