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It would preferably be something that will either last a fairly long time fifteen to twenty years perhaps, periodically and last at least some months between or last indefinitely. I do not require other species to be capable of survival though preferably at least some animals and plants should be capable of surviving as well. Assume a large amount of the human populace is capable of surviving regardless of the absence of other lifeforms.

I'm still working on the fine details of this world. But it is post apocalyptic as well as cyberpunk. Scifi clearly. Within these criteria there really isn't any other restrictions.

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  • $\begingroup$ Define "fairly long" and "periodically", because now solar eclipses seems to meet your requirements, too. Also, any permanent dimming would affect plants, and thus our food and oxygen source, so "how" may play little to no role with "not killing humans". You mean not killing them directly, but they still can starve? $\endgroup$ – Mołot Apr 20 '17 at 17:05
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    $\begingroup$ Do you have any guidance on what you mean by "killing humanity?" There's plenty of apocalyptic scenarios that only kill 95% of humans. Whether that kills humanity is actually an interesting philosophical question. $\endgroup$ – Cort Ammon - Reinstate Monica Apr 20 '17 at 17:06
  • $\begingroup$ @CortAmmon Assume a very large number of the human population survives. They're outside of harms way. I know the implications of that statement. Edited and redefined $\endgroup$ – Warm Shadow Apr 20 '17 at 17:23
  • $\begingroup$ Put enough particles in the upper atmosphere? Can last for decades, perpetual winter while in full affect. Would kill most life on the planet but won't prevent humans from using hydroponics with artificial light. $\endgroup$ – Mormacil Apr 20 '17 at 17:29
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    $\begingroup$ Can humanity survive because we've made dramatic changes to how we live (e.g., most of us live deep underground in advanced facilities), or is it important that human society be relatively unchanged? Also, are we specifically talking about Earth, or just an Earth-like planet? $\endgroup$ – Ben S. Apr 21 '17 at 5:15
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You can insert sulfate particles in the upper atmosphere that will reflect sunlight back out. There has been research into that as way to mitigate global climate change: http://www.american.edu/media/news/20151008_Nicholson_Geoenginerring_Grant.cfm

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    $\begingroup$ Yes — just add sulpher to jet fuel. $\endgroup$ – JDługosz Apr 20 '17 at 18:58
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    $\begingroup$ @JDługosz Or put it in the chemtrail tank, of course! $\endgroup$ – Cort Ammon - Reinstate Monica Apr 21 '17 at 5:42
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Would it fit your needs if something caused the tilt of the Earth's axis to become much greater? In Alaska and other places near the polar regions, the sun never sets during the summer months and never rises during the winter months; if the Earth's axial tilt increased, this would affect more and more of the planet. That fits the "periods of months" criteria, but it means that you're talking about either daylight or nighttime, not some kind of 24-hour twilight.

The Earth's axis does move small amounts over the course of hundreds or thousands of years, so this isn't as crazy as it might sound. I'll admit that I'm not sure how you could cause it to change by large amounts without something on the scale of a large asteroid impact that would have more devastating consequences, but maybe this can at least provide some food for thought.

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  • $\begingroup$ Actually, that has questions here on Worldbuilding! (And an asteroid won’t do it). $\endgroup$ – JDługosz Apr 21 '17 at 5:49
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Volcanic Eruptions

Exactly what you are describing has happened before, in 1816. After a series of smaller (but still major) volcanic eruptions starting in 1808, Mount Tambora erupted in 1815 in the largest eruption since 180AD. The eruptions put so much fine particulates into the upper atmosphere that they cooled parts of the planet by up to 1ºC and disrupted weather patterns, resulting in widespread crop failures. The disrupted weather caused 1816 to become known as "The Year Without A Summer".

So, you could easily have one or more similarly large eruptions pump the upper atmosphere full of sulphur dioxide and other fun stuff and cause widespread crop failures and thus starvation. You wouldn't even need to crack open the Yellowstone Supervolcano unless you were feeling really spiteful and felt like wiping the western United States off the map.

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