A professor of microbiology believes that humans will be wiped out in a few decades.
Frank Fenner, professor at the Australian National University and the man who helped eradicate smallpox, told The Australian newspaper this week that “Homo sapiens will become extinct, perhaps within 100 years.”
“A lot of other animals will, too. It’s an irreversible situation. I think it’s too late. I try not to express that because people are trying to do something, but they keep putting it off.”
Fenner played a leading role in helping the variola virus that causes smallpox find extinction. He has also received many awards and honors, as well as published hundreds of scientific papers and written or co-written 22 books.
Fenner says the real trouble is the population explosion and “unbridled consumption.”
According to the U.N., the number of Homo sapiens is projected to exceed 6.9 billion this year. Fenner is pessimistic about the outcome of cutting greenhouse gas emissions.
“We’ll undergo the same fate as the people on Easter Island,” he says. “Climate change is just at the very beginning. But we’re seeing remarkable changes in the weather already.”
“The Aborigines showed that without science and the production of carbon dioxide and global warming, they could survive for 40,000 or 50,000 years. But the world can’t. The human species is likely to go the same way as many of the species that we’ve seen disappear.”
“Mitigation would slow things down a bit, but there are too many people here already.”
Other scientists share his opinion as well.
Stephen Boyden, a colleague of Fenner and a long-time friend, says there is deep pessimism among some ecologists.
“Frank may be right, but some of us still harbor the hope that there will come about an awareness of the situation and, as a result, the revolutionary changes necessary to achieve ecological sustainability,” Boyden, an immunologist who turned to human ecology later in his career, told The Australian.
“That’s where Frank and I differ. We’re both aware of the seriousness of the situation, but I don’t accept that it’s necessarily too late. While there’s a glimmer of hope, it’s worth working to solve the problem. We have the scientific knowledge to do it but we don’t have the political will.”
Fenner, who is now 95-years-old, will open the Healthy Climate, Planet and People symposium at the Australian Academy of Science next week, as part of the AAS Fenner conference series.
“As the population keeps growing to seven, eight or nine billion, there will be a lot more wars over food,” he says.
“The grandchildren of today’s generations will face a much more difficult world.”
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