The Xertox deep space probe from the planet Outlandia entered a polar Earth orbit and collected data from every surface area for a period of twelve months. These data included photos of the planet’s surface, along with atmospheric, oceanic, and continental compositions and temperatures (collected by deployed robotic labs).
Analysis (based on data received by Outlandia, 200 years later) reveals that the planet’s atmosphere contains high levels of greenhouse gases contributing to an average surface temperature of 65.4° F. The oceans appeared to have risen significantly over the past 150 years before major evaporation. The planet has no glaciers, with very little ice during the winter at the southern pole. The northern pole has almost no ice during winter.
There is no life on the planet beyond the bacterial, algae, and fungi groups. Given soil analyses and the planet-wide remains of buildings and large structures, it appears the planet had a wide array of higher life forms, including intelligent. Further analysis shows a sudden release of methane from warming oceans over a hundred-year period, likely due to the extensive burning of fossil fuels. This is demonstrated by the unique fossil fuel signature contained in the planet’s CO2 molecules.
Conclusion: Since this advanced civilization would have had decades warning of rising temperatures and their implications, we conclude this species rapidly developed technologically, well ahead of the time necessary to evolve beyond the stage of focusing only on meeting its immediate needs. Famine, disease, mass migrations, and conflict would have drastically reduced the populations of most species. Eventually, temperatures too high to support most life forms completed the extinction process.
This is a fictionalized account of a deep space probe mission conducted from the planet Outlandia located 200 years away in our Milky Way Galaxy. They launched Xertox in Earth’s year 1950 after spectrographic analysis indicated Earth was located in what we call, the Goldilocks zone (not too hot, not too cold . . .). Unfortunately, by the time it got here in 2150, we were toast.
Does our fate sound far-fetched? Maybe it is not. According to the University Corporation for Atmospheric Research, the average global surface temperature has increased about 1.53° F since 1880. Scientists warn of a threshold effect if the average surface temperature rises another 1° C (for a total of 3.6° F above the average 1880 temperature). Melting glaciers, rising sea levels, stronger storms, and the current (sixth) extinction of species all attest to the implications of these rising temperatures related to burning fossil fuels.
Perhaps it is time for us to evolve a lot faster.