"You start with billions and billions of potential germination points for life, and you end up with a sum total of zero extraterrestrial civilizations that we can observe. The Great Filter must therefore be powerful enough — which is to say, the critical steps must be improbable enough — that even with many billions of rolls of the dice, one ends up with nothing: no aliens, no spacecraft, no signals, at least none that we can detect in our neck of the woods."
Humans' Great Filter
Climate change caused by the development of advanced civilization could very well be that filter in our case. David Wallace-Wells suggested this possibility in a recent feature for New York magazine:
"In a universe that is many billions of years old, with star systems separated as much by time as by space, civilizations might emerge and develop and burn themselves up simply too fast to ever find one another.
"Peter Ward, a charismatic paleontologist among those responsible for discovering that the planet's mass extinctions were caused by greenhouse gas, calls this the 'Great Filter': 'Civilizations rise, but there's an environmental filter that causes them to die off again and disappear fairly quickly,' he told me. 'If you look at planet Earth, the filtering we've had in the past has been in these mass extinctions.'
"The mass extinction we are now living through has only just begun; so much more dying is coming."
Scientists are currently debating whether we are now in the midst of the Earth's sixth mass-extinction event or approaching it. Either way, the situation is dire — the existential risks posed by a worst-case climate-change scenario are real.
If those risks become serious enough to act as humans' Great Filter, it may be too late for us to communicate with anyone else in our universe.
Read the original article on Tech Insider. Copyright 2017.