A new study, led by the University of Bristol and published in *Nature Geoscience*, paints a grim picture of the future: a mass extinction event awaits mammals, including humans, in about 250 million years. The culprit? The formation of a supercontinent, extreme heat, and a potent mix of factors that threaten life on Earth. The study focuses on the emergence of a supercontinent known as Pangea Ultima, expected to happen in the next 250 million years. This supercontinent will create a hot, dry, and largely uninhabitable world.
Several factors drive this impending catastrophe. The sun will grow brighter, emitting more energy and raising Earth’s temperature. Supercontinent formation triggers more volcanic eruptions, releasing vast amounts of carbon dioxide (CO2), further warming the planet. While mammals have adapted to cold weather, their tolerance for extreme heat remains limited. Prolonged exposure to high temperatures could be unsurvivable, with temperatures reaching 40 to 50 degrees Celsius, combined with high humidity. The study highlights the importance of addressing the current climate crisis, driven by human-induced greenhouse gas emissions. It underscores the need to transition to net-zero emissions promptly to combat immediate threats from climate change.
The research uses advanced climate models to predict the future climate of Pangea Ultima. It also suggests that when assessing the habitability of exoplanets, we must consider continental layouts, not just their position within the habitable zone. While the predicted mass extinction event is far off, it serves as a stark reminder of our planet’s vulnerability and the importance of responsible environmental stewardship. The study calls for immediate action to address today’s climate crisis, ensuring the long-term survival of all species on Earth.