I am writing some fiction about a freezing Earth. My previous questions about it were mostly about the physics aspects of it. After watching the Snowpiercer movie, I'd like to explore a human aspect.

A mysterious event happens - no one can tell why, but the orbit of the Earth is modified into a escape trajectory. Scientists around the world are able to detect it, and they massively agree that the Earth will leave the solar system.

Though it will take millennia for the Earth to finally be really outside the solar system, the initial moments of the departure will be traumatic:

  1. In two months from day 0, the Earth will be farther from the Sun than Mars currently is. At this point most of the surface of the Earth is already covered in snow and the ice caps are growing, though the oceans are still liquid. Think about the start of an ice age.
  2. In eleven months from day 0, the Earth will be farther from the Sun than Jupiter is. At this point the Earth is already a slushy snowball planet, much colder than the ice ages humanity has previously survived.
  3. In thirteen years from day zero, the Earth will be about 50 AU away from the Sun. For comparison, Pluto's average distance to the Sun is 39 AU. Around this time the average depth of the ice layer on top of the oceans is more than 1km (0.62 miles) thick.

Supposing the mysterious event happens in 2020, which countries or organizations are most likely to be able to keep populations alive for an indefinite amount of time?

  • They should be able to build bunkers, bases, stations or whatever where people can thrive for generations;
  • There is no upper bound on the amount of people that need to be kept alive. The lower bound would of course be having enough people that inbreeding is not a problem on the long term. Consider they have 2020 knowledge and technology on genetics.
  • It doesn't matter where in the world those people will be, nor how many stations or bases will exist. We just need people to be able to live in this new world.
  • I don't care if the living conditions are spartan, either for some or for all.

I expect that countries that cannot or do not want to invest much in science and engineering would be the first to collapse and cease existing, specially where science denialism is strong. However the rapid cooling within the first couple months should be a strong wake up call. Most resources should quickly be rerouted to survival everywhere.


2 Answers 2


50,000+ people each from China, USA, Canada, Australia, Some Europe, Japan and NZ.

I expect a lot of projects to be attempted, probably enough to save the bulk of the worlds population, however the timeframe, resource shortages, skill shortages, etc will result in the majority of these projects failing, and the human population dropping to a few million. I see large communities from these 7 countries surviving for at least decades.

There's probably another 50 or so groups (of about 20-50 people) in survival bunkers. Leaders of other states in their bunkers, religious cults, or preppers who pool their resources.

China: I expect them to try to dome their existing cities. In places they'll stumble, they'll run out of food, they'll run out of power, they'll run out of oxygen or water, or the Domes will fail, but of the dozens attempted, I'd expect at least one domed Chinese megacity to survive. Internal nuclear power plant, internal hydroponic food, water recycling systems. Could be quite comfortable even.

USA: No federal public works will succeed, the whole country will fall apart into riots (they'll spend their last days burning down 5G towers), but some billionaires and/or mega companies will set up shelters in converted underground mines. Some state efforts will get fairly far but fail due to the federal failures. A few thousand Americans will survive in bunkers provided for by personal wealth.

Canada: Lot of experience with cold and living underground already, and lots of mines to convert into underground shelters. There'll be massive works for power generation but I'm predicting good things for Canada.

Western Europe - There will be massive works EU wide, but ultimately I see a lot more success in the France and Germany parts, (and probably Scandinavia too) than the east.

Japan - I expect this industrious nation to get their act together and succeed. They already have nuclear power. They may even be able to do a China and dome their big cities.

NZ - Being Covid free and getting on top of the problem very quickly, I'd expect the NZ government to handle this problem exceptionally well too. Their biggest problem is a lack of nuclear power experience, having turned their last one off in 1977.

Australia - A real unknwon wildcard. Australian states (Especially the central and Western states) have done amazingly well with Covid, demonstrating their ability to work together and fix a problem. There are enough mines in Australia already to house the entire population, there is no nuclear power experience but there is geothermal experience. So Australia should be really easy. The biggest issue is the mines are a long way from the population centres - massive logistical challenges, probably the worst of any nation: If we start at day 0 I don't think we can actually bus the entire population from our cities to our converted mines before some people freeze to death if we used every bus in the country.


Countries and organizations with access to nuclear power or geothermal power would probably survive for the longest. Deep bunkers such as those under Cheyenne mountain could remain habitable for years especially if an all out effort was made to make provision for this eventuality within the weeks available such as bringing in food and hydroponic systems etc etc (etc).

A suitable nuclear power source could probably also be connected within a few weeks, perhaps from a docked nuclear submarine connected via the grid and additional cabling where required.

However there would be little point in this activity as the inhabitants would still die in the end it would just prolong the agony by a few years or perhaps a decade.


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