RAMPANT deforestation and the overpopulation of Earth threaten to destroy life as we know it by 2040.
Scientists looked at historic figures for population rises, resource consumption and deforestation and plugged them into complex mathematical formulae.
They concluded that, if we continue destroying the world's forests at the current rate, Earth will no longer be capable of sustaining a large human population, Motherboard reports.
In a grim prediction, the team warned that civilisation has a 90 per cent chance of collapsing within the next 20 to 40 years if humanity does nothing to change current population and deforestation trends.
“Calculations show that, maintaining the actual rate of population growth and resource consumption, in particular forest consumption, we have a few decades left before an irreversible collapse of our civilisation,” the paper published in the journal Scientific Reports reads.
It's estimated that Earth was covered by 60million square kilometres (23million sq miles) of forest before human civilisations came along.
Today, that figure has shrunk to 40million square kilometres (15million sq miles), and is expected to drop even further over the coming decades.
According to the new study, crafted by physicists from the Alan Turing Institute in London and the University of Tarapacá, Chile, all of the world's forests could be wiped from the Earth within the next 100 to 200 years.
That, combined with an exploding population and rife over-consumption of resources, could spell bad news for humanity.
Though a couple centuries may sound a long way away, it's likely humanity would begin to feel the effects of our dwindling forests far sooner.
"Clearly it is unrealistic to imagine that the human society would start to be affected by the deforestation only when the last tree would be cut down," scientists wrote in their paper.
That's because we need healthy forests for carbon storage, oxygen production, support for natural and human food systems, homes for countless species, and more.
For the team's prediction to come to fruition, humanity would have to continue cutting down trees and boosting the population as it does today over a period of several decades.
There's no guarantee that will happen, as global policy will likely shift to push greater protection of rainforests in the coming years.
One reason for this is that, despite deforestation, new forests are being established, both naturally and through planned projects.
Deforestation still remains a major concern though, with 178million hectares destroyed last year – enough to cover Libya.
Climate change explained
Here are the basic facts…
- Scientists have lots of evidence to show that the Earth’s climate is rapidly changing due to human activity
- Climate change will result in problems like global warming, greater risk of flooding, droughts and regular heatwaves
- Each of the last three decades have been hotter than the previous one and 17 of the 18 warmest years on record have happened during the 21stcentury
- The Earth only needs to increase by a few degrees for it to spell disaster
- The oceans are already warming, polar ice and glaciers are melting, sea levels are rising and we’re seeing more extreme weather events
- In 2015, almost all of the world's nations signed a deal called the Paris Agreement which set out ways in which they could tackle climate change and try to keep temperatures below 2C
Recent research has also suggested that rates of global population growth are actually likely less than previous estimates.
One paper published by The Lancet this month suggested population growth may tail off by the mid-21st Century due to declining fertility rates.
However, as the authors of the new study highlighted, the numbers are hardly on our side when it comes to the future of humanity.
They argued that time is running out for us to change our ways and make big alterations to the way we look after our planet.
"It is hard to imagine, in absence of very strong collective efforts, big changes of these parameters to occur in such time scale," they wrote.
In other news, scientists recently revealed the grim "doomsday diet" humanity would have to survive on during a nuclear apocalypse.
Scientists have worked out the safest spots to flee if an apocalyptic outbreak begins to wipe out humanity.
And a simulation has revealed nuclear war between the US and Russia would kill up to 34million people "immediately".
Are you worried about a potential apocalypse? Let us know in the comments!
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