I'm planning to write a story whereby scientist had predicted Earth will be hit by a colossal coronal mass ejection (estimated at least a thousand times stronger than the perfect solar storm a.k.a Carrington event in 1859) the likes no one have seen or dreamed of, such an event is likely to stripped our atmosphere so that it triggers a sixth mass extinction event on an unprecedented scale wiping out roughly 85% of life over a course of a decade maybe I don't know and I need advise.

Using current technology how could humanity brace themselves for such catastrophe? my focus are on rationing basic necessity such as air, water, food and radiation pills in case there are survivors.


3 Answers 3


Short answer is: humanity is doomed. Like basically every other life forms on the surface, for various reasons. And humanity will die badly IMHO.

While the outcome will depend on how much of the atmosphere is stripped out (let's say 85% of it), an event like this can leave humanity with more or less the same problems it has to build a base on Mars (well, except for the launching cost and a higher pressure and gravity) and currently I don't think we have the technology to build (in ten years) habitable structures for billion of people (not ever for millions of people).

With this in mind, to survive humanity has only the option to build enormous structures for people to live, to grow food (forget to eat meat for some thousand years) and to work, where "work" means build everything people need, atmosphere ( and water probably) included.

But since I am doubtful that we can build something like this for even millions of people, I think that humans will be able to only move away in time the date of the extinction, not survive and flourish again, simply because in ten years we will be able to sustain only some thousand people, and also with the advantage of a starting point where we have all what we can need, a solution like this work well only with a high technological level.
After all we will end to live in a planet with basically no atmosphere.

  • $\begingroup$ "(forget to eat meat for some thousand years)" - Of course, if you don't keep meat animals around is some quantity, there won't be any meat in the forseeable future. $\endgroup$ Apr 8, 2016 at 14:06
  • $\begingroup$ @WhatRoughBeast the problem is that if you keep cows (or other meat animals around) you need to feed also them. And this mean you need way more resources, so you need to think about it very carefully $\endgroup$
    – Gianluca
    Apr 8, 2016 at 14:14
  • $\begingroup$ Oh yeah, but my point is that if you lose them, you can't get them back. $\endgroup$ Apr 8, 2016 at 14:36

One solution could be to build enclosed mass cities for all humanity, and whatever flora and fauna we can save. Since the disaster has been predicted and has not taken place yet, the time remaining to humans (hopefully a couple decades before the disaster) could be spent collecting all manner of flora and fauna, and putting them in a protected, sealed environment. It may be possible to artificially create an atmosphere in such a city, through chemical reactions, and biological processes. Food, water, supplies, etc. could also be stockpiled up, but contingency plans must be put into place, so humans can learn how to build on these resources: re-learn how to make materials needed in an artificial atmosphere. With the right regulations, such a civilisation could possibly exist for a while.

The main problems would be the extremely high cost of building such massive cities, not to mention the time required to stockpile resources and conduct research and experiments on how to regulate the atmosphere and environment in the cities. The humanity problem would be how to decide who gets to live in the cities, and who dies outside, unless you could build cities big enough for all humanity. But other than that, basically, we're all living in bubbles in the middle of a ruined earth. Eventual relocation to space may be a consideration. Or you could just wait for the atmosphere to 'reboot', if that's possible.


So, 85% of life is going to be wiped out, and humanity's goal is to be in the 15%?

This is a tough ask. I'm not sure exactly what you mean by "stripping the atmosphere", but if literally all of it is removed then (a) the seas boil due to lack of pressure and therefore (b) I don't think anything like as much as 15% of life survives. So it's not quite that bad. There's some atmospheric pressure left, at least enough to keep some parts of the ocean intact.

But let's face it, the surviving 15% is going to be tiny little stuff that lives in water, not great big vertebrates who live on the surface, sunburn easily, and need to breathe air.

Best bet is to build a sealed bubble underground to support a small number of survivors, but while that's within our technology it's not really within our expertise. The closest is Cold War nuclear bunkers, which might be good enough to survive the event, but didn't really anticipate a thousands-of-years aftermath in which the land remains inhospitable until we somehow re-seed it.

Frankly for an 85% extinction event I'd put my affairs in order and wait for the inevitable. But the best chance is to try to invent a self-sufficient bunker before it hits. The more we know about how long it'll be until the atmosphere is breathable again (if ever), the better. The longer we have, and the shorter the Era of Death, the more chance of developing technology to make it work. Given a long enough horizon, we could be bio-engineering radiation-resistant cyanobacteria and seeding the oceans with them, with the intention of oxygenating the new atmosphere ASAP so that we can emerge blinking into the light after a few thousand years to start planting our seeds.


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