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A list of the catastrophic events threatening humanity

Here's an article that'll cheer you right up.

A list of the catastrophic events threatening humanity
29 April 2016

Here's an article that'll cheer you right up.

Oxford's Global Priorities Project has put together a list of catastrophes that could destroy more than 10 per cent of the human population - and several of them could well happen within the next five years.

It's been created in order to drive home the reality that many of these occurrences are more likely to happen than we realise, and to spur governments across the globe into taking steps to tackle them, or prepare for the consequences. These events are distinct from 'existential risks' which would be severe enough to wipe out all human life.

Let's take a look at just how we're all going to die shall we? (You can take a look at the full paper here)

Historic catastrophic events

For some context, here are disasters of yore, including the often overlooked 'Spanish flu' pandemic of 1918-19, which resulted in the deaths of up to five per cent of the entire world's population - more than the whole of the First World War.

Supervolcanic eruptions

Low risk, and low likelihood of happening over the next five years. Supervolcanoes erupt about once every 30,000-50,000 years. So again, excellent news. Probably OK on this one guys.

Asteroid Impact

Low risk, and low likelihood of happening over the next five years. The odds of an asteroid striking the Earth is around 1 in 1,250 for each century. Sorry dinosaurs, you were just unlucky.

Failure of geo-engineering

Attempts to combat climate change (read on for that one) have already led to attempts to geo-engineer our environment, with the likes of cloud-seeding rockets causing clouds to rain on areas of under-watered earth. If it goes wrong, it could go very wrong (poisoned water sources and dead crops). Scientists rate this with a low chance of happening in the next five years, but a high level of attention needs to be given to it.

Catastrophic disruption from AI

We're creating ever-smarter Artificial Intelligence, but what if we create something that is beyond our control? It's a fascinating area of study, but ultimately could be our undoing. This is rated at a low chance of happening within the next five years, but a high danger overall.

Catastrophic climate change

No surprise this one, although scientists say there's a low chance of it having an impact within the next five years, it should still be a major focus of attention for the high danger it poses.

Engineered pandemic

High likelihood and a high impact - we're into the danger zone here. With the rise of powerful, and easy-to-obtain technologies, there is every chance that a group such as ISIS may try to weaponise pathogens, creating deadly viruses on purpose.

Nuclear war

With the likes of Donald Trump around, and the immense destructive power of modern hydrogen bombs, nuclear war is still, sadly, a clear and present danger to us in the near future.

Natural pandemic

Of course, some things are just out of our control - as the Spanish Flu shows, the effects can be truly devastating.

A list of the catastrophic events threatening humanity

(Images: Rex/AllStar/Shutterstock)