If you could go back in time five centuries from now, you’d see the fall of the Aztec Empire, fresh paintings from Raphael, and a cooler Northern Hemisphere. This was in the midst of a Little Ice Age (1300 – 1850CE) and the period of the golden Age of Discovery. But predicting the Earth’s future 500 from now is kinda difficult due to the many factors at play. Just imagine Christopher Columbus’ reaction upon seeing the Americas today!
We do know that two processes shape our precious planet: one involves the natural cycle, like the relationship between the Earth, Sun, and the moon, and the other one being caused by life forms, like us humans.
The Earth Itself Is In Constant Motion
The Earth is constantly changing, and it will always be like that. Aside from wobbling, even its orbit changes from time to time. These changes happen every thousand years or so, and it was responsible for the ice ages that happened all throughout the planet’s history.
As such, the Earth 500 years from now is almost just like tomorrow in terms of geology.
Humans Are Changing The Planet Nonstop
Living things are another influential factor. We’ve been altering Earth ever since the Neolithic Age, and experts disagree on the number of animal extinctions from even before that point should we be held accountable for. We manipulated the evolution of so many living species, transformed the earthscape, and burned fossil fuels just for us to live a comfortable and efficient life. As a result, the climate has been changing for the worst. Some scientists believed that the beginning of human-made climate change was during the Industrial Revolution, while others date it back to the slash–and–burn techniques of prehistoric times. Either way, the overall consensus is that humans are behind the majority of the climate-warming trends over the last century.
The United States’ National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) revealed that the global temperature was up to 1.15 °C since the 1880s. Meanwhile, NASA says that ice declines 12.85% per decade, while sea levels rise 3.3 mm yearly.
In other words, our Mother Earth is warming and our natural surroundings keep on changing, threatening the balance of our already exploited natural resources. The United Nations (UN) warns that the resulting calamities will only accelerate land degradation and food shortages – two catalysts that put man in the middle of mass migration, social unrest, and even wars.
The Earth, 500 Years From Now
Let’s just say the 26th-century Earth has had come to terms with climate change. According to some computer simulations, melting ice caps could cause sea levels to rise by up to 8 meters by year 2300.
Perhaps our 26th-century ancestors will look back on us and see our struggles before the Great Flood. Perhaps they’ll see that we made some sort of belated attempts to prevent mass extinctions, civil unrest, political conflict, and environmental destruction. Surely, certain political and cultural courses of action have been set in place as we headed to that course. Or maybe, they’ll look back on the people who watch the world burn.
Along the way, however, the technology will become more advanced. And while technology has its risks, like for example, nuclear warfare, it also helps us realize to improve, instead of heading to that point of no return. Michio Kaku, a theoretical physicist, believed that in a mere 100 years, humanity will finally make it to the Type 1 civilization on the Kardashev Scale.
Wielding such immense power and know-how, 26th-century humans could be masters of harnessing renewable energy techs such as fusion and solar energy. Furthermore, they’d be able to bend planetary energy to their will to control the climate. Still, futurists are quite skeptical if we can reach that technological prowess in a 100-year mark. According to Michael Shermer, the founder of The Skeptics Society, economic and political forces are what’s keeping us from making that great leap.
Earth, 500 Years From Now – The Takeaway
Technology has improved exponentially since the 1500s, and this pace will likely even triple in many more years to come. Even Stephen Hawking believes that the year 2600 would bring in new theoretical physics papers every 10 seconds. If Moore’s Law holds true and computers will become even more powerful, then some of these studies will come from artificial intelligence (A.I). Then again, he added that energy consumption and overcrowding would make our planet uninhabitable by the year 2600.
So, what else does the Earth, 500 years from now, hold for us? Futurist Adrian Berry believes that the human lifespan will reach 140 years and there will be some kind of computerized immortality for humans. Humans will farm the oceans and become interplanetary, while our robot colleagues will handle the exploration of the outer cosmos.
All of these technologies will be possible, at least for the privileged, only if serious changes aren’t put in place to deal with the never-ending problem of climate change.