Is the strongest and most powerful nation on the planet headed for an apocalypse that will bring it to its knees?
We live in a world that is becoming increasingly unstable, and apocalyptic themes have become very common in books, movies, television shows and video games. It is almost as if there is an unconscious understanding on a societal level that something very big and very bad is coming, even if the vast majority of the population cannot specifically identify what that is going to be.
Last week, the Global Challenges Foundation released a new report titled "Global Catastrophic Risks 2016," in which they discussed various apocalyptic events that they believe could wipe out more than 10 percent of the population of our planet, and they warned that these types of events "are more likely than we intuitively think."
Sebastian Farquhar, director at the Global Priorities Project, told the Press Association: "There are some things that are on the horizon, things that probably won't happen in any one year but could happen, which could completely reshape our world and do so in a really devastating and disastrous way.
"History teaches us that many of these things are more likely than we intuitively think. Many of these risks are changing and growing as technologies change and grow and reshape our world. But there are also things we can do about the risks."
According to this new report, we are five times more likely to die from the various apocalyptic catastrophes that they analyzed than we are from a car accident.
In this article, I want to discuss some of the most important threats that they analyzed, in addition to adding some of my own to the list. But first I want to mention that I do not believe that the Global Challenges Foundation is correct to identify climate change as one of the most significant catastrophic threats that humanity is facing. Our climate has always been changing, and I do believe that we will see wild climate shifts in the years ahead. However, human activity plays an exceedingly small role in all of this, and there is not very much that we can do to prevent what is going to happen either. Most of the climate change that we are going to see in our future is going to be as a result of other catastrophes in this list, so I have not included it as a separate item.
With that being said, let's quickly examine some of the potential threats identified by the Global Challenges Foundation:
In various locations around the globe, there are gigantic supervolcanoes that could dramatically change the course of human history in a single moment by erupting. In the United States, the Yellowstone supervolcano is becoming increasingly active, and a full-blown eruption could potentially be up to 2,000 times more powerful than the eruption of Mount St. Helens back in 1980. As I mentioned the other day, major metropolitan areas such as Salt Lake City and Denver would be essentially destroyed, food production in this country would be virtually wiped out, and a "volcanic winter" would cool global temperatures by up to 20 degrees for up to several years.
Asteroids and Comets
This is something that the Obama administration is actually quite concerned about. During his tenure, NASA has established a "Planetary Defense Coordination Office" that is in charge of tracking giant space rocks, and NASA is working to develop a method to destroy incoming asteroids using nuclear weapons.
Scientists admit that they only know about a small fraction of the near-Earth objects that are actually out there, and we get hit "by surprise" all the time. If we were to get hit at just the right place by a very large object, like say just off the east coast of the United States, the consequences would almost be too horrible for words.
Today, 39 percent of all Americans live in counties that directly border a shoreline, and most of those people are along the east coast. According to the University of California at Santa Cruz website, if a huge asteroid did slam into the Atlantic Ocean, it could potentially produce a 400-foot-high tsunami that would sweep inland for many, many miles and kill millions upon millions of Americans in the process.
The flu pandemic of 1918 killed approximately 50,000,000 people worldwide, and scientists assure us that it will happen again one day.
Yes, we have come a long way in fighting disease, but as we learned during the recent Ebola outbreak, a really nasty virus can grip the entire world with fear in a very short period of time.
This is probably even a bigger threat than natural pandemics, because now we have the technology to genetically alter naturally occurring diseases and make them even stronger.
Whether it is on purpose or by accident, it is only a matter of time before a genetically modified superbug gets released into the general population, and when that day arrives, it may make all previous pandemics look like a Sunday picnic.
Could entities that we have created someday turn on us and start killing us?
Some might refer to this as "the Terminator scenario," and it is becoming more realistic with each passing day as our technological capabilities continue to increase at an exponential rate.
The human race now has the capability to purposely modify the weather, and this means that we also have the capability to do a tremendous amount of damage.
Have you ever looked up and noticed long white trails criss-crossing the sky? This is being done on purpose, and when they spray chemicals into our atmosphere, it could have some very severe long-term consequences that the authorities may not be anticipating.
Back during the Cold War, most Americans would have probably named this as the No. 1 catastrophic threat facing America, but these days most people tend to believe that "the Cold War" is over.
So nobody has really objected while the U.S. strategic nuclear arsenal has been reduced by about 95 percent, and Barack Obama insists that he would like to reduce it even further.
Meanwhile, both the Russians and the Chinese are rapidly modernizing their nuclear forces, and they both have developed hypersonic glide vehicles that can defeat any missile defense system that the U.S. can put up.
Our relationship with Russia has already gone down the tubes, and our relationship with China is rapidly deteriorating. In fact, China just rejected a request for the USS John C. Stennis to make a routine port call at Hong Kong. Most Americans assume that a war with either one of them is impossible, but the truth is that we may find ourselves in a conflict with both of them at the same time eventually.
The catastrophic threats above were ones that were mentioned in the report from the Global Challenges Foundation. Next are some additional items that I would like to add to the list.
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