(CBS TAMPA) — There are nearly 3 billion years remaining for life on Earth, but humans will succumb to the soaring heat of the Sun far sooner.
A new study from East Anglia University in the United Kingdom finds that Earth will cease to be habitable somewhere between 1.75 and 3.25 billion years from now. At that point, the “habitable zones” will evaporate as the Earth enters into the “hot zone” of the sun – where temperatures will be so high the oceans will evaporate.
“We used the ‘habitable zone’ concept to make these estimates – this is the distance from a planet’s star at which temperatures are conducive to having liquid water on the surface,” wrote researcher Andrew Rushby of UEA’s School of Environmental Sciences.
The researchers find that the “terminal extinction event for all life” is being accelerated by anthropogenic climate change, and that it only takes a very small increase in temperature to push the human race into extinction.
The researchers looked back in time to find that even after the future extinction of man there will still be life forms on Earth for some time.
“Looking back a similar amount of time, we know that there was cellular life on earth. We had insects 400 million years ago, dinosaurs 300 million years ago and flowering plants 130 million years ago,” wrote the researchers. “Anatomically modern humans have only been around for the last 200,000 years – so you can see it takes a really long time for intelligent life to develop.”
Despite the few billion years humans have left to inhabit the earth, the researchers are already looking into other habitable locations for the human race.
“We compared Earth to eight planets which are currently in their habitable phase, including Mars. We found that planets orbiting smaller mass stars tend to have longer habitable zone lifetimes,” wrote the researchers.”
“If we ever needed to move to another planet, Mars is probably our best bet. It’s very close and will remain in the habitable zone until the end of the Sun’s lifetime – six billion years from now.”