Have you heard of the Fermi Paradox? It’s the conundrum caused by the fact we haven’t found alien life yet, despite other planets in our galaxy seeming to number in the billions.
There are several solutions to the theory. One is that we simply haven’t looked hard enough yet. Another is that we’re being watched, and they're waiting until we’re advanced enough to make contact.
A more sobering solution, though, is that intelligent life has, by its nature, a relatively small window of existence in the age of the universe. Through one of a number of possible disasters, either self-made or natural such as an asteroid impact, intelligent life on any given planet has but a brief snippet of time to exist before it disappears. This idea is known as The Great Filter.
What might such a Great Filter be like on Earth? Well, it could be an aforementioned asteroid impact. It could, somewhat less likely, be a rogue gamma-ray burst frying our planet. But it could, more feasibly, be climate change ridding our planet of its habitability.
To find out for sure, President-elect Donald Trump is planning to perform the greatest experiment of all time, perhaps to enlighten the rest of the universe and warn of the perils of drastically altering a planet’s climate. He’s planning to inadvertently release a truck-load of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, and see what happens.
For a while, it seemed Trump was considering not carrying out this Great Experiment and was instead warming (see what we did there) to the fact that humans were the primary cause of climate change, despite previously declaring such an idea a hoax. In an interview with the New York Times last week, he said:
“I have an open mind to it [climate change]. We’re going to look very carefully.”
This gave some people opposed to the Great Experiment a brief moment of hope.
But fear not, for they have been struck down with the almightiest carbon hammer. In an interview this past Sunday, his incoming chief of staff, Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus, told Fox News:
“As far as this issue on climate change – the only thing he was saying after being asked a few questions about it is, look, he'll have an open mind about it but he has his default position, which most of it is a bunch of bunk, but he'll have an open mind and listen to people. I think that’s what he’s saying.”
Perhaps in millennia to come, when our planet is but a smoldering wreck, an alien race will come across our ruins and remark “hmm, it’s a good thing we didn’t elect that demagogue.”