Reseachers modelled Earth's climatic, biological and geological systems to predict future atmospheric conditions on Earth. (Image for representation: Reuters)
By India Today Web Desk: Countries have time and again batted for an eco-friendly environment to ensure more greenery and less pollution in the atmosphere. This, not only helps sustain biodiversity, but also helps humans live a healthier life. But what will happen if the universe itself conspires to kill life on Earth in coming years?
A recent study reveals that a billion years from now, the earth's atmosphere will contain very little oxygen, making the blue planet uninhabitable.
The research was conducted by Kazumi Ozaki of the University of Tokyo and Chris Reinhard of Georgia Tech. They modelled Earth's climatic, biological and geological systems to predict future atmospheric conditions on Earth. The findings were published in peer-reviewed journal Nature Geoscience on March 1 this year.
According to the study, it could take 10,000 years for oxygen levels to drop to a millionth of what it is now, a report said.
"The drop in oxygen is very, very extreme -- we're talking around a million times less oxygen than there is today," a study author was quoted as saying.
"We find that the mean future lifespan of Earth's atmosphere, with oxygen levels more than 1 per cent of the present atmospheric level, is 1.08?ñ?0.14 billion years (1s)," the study quoted researchers as saying.
HOW WILL IT HAPPEN?
The study predicts that in a billion years, as the solar system continues its life cycle, the Sun will heat up so much so that the warmer atmosphere will break down carbon dioxide.
The levels of carbon dioxide will become so low that plants, which release oxygen through the process of photosynthesis, will be unable to survive -- ultimately cutting down oxygen levels.
During photosynthesis, plants take in carbon dioxide from the environment, process it though cellular respiration and release oxygen for living organism to breathe in.
So, when plants would die from the lack of carbon dioxide, not only there will be a loss in the food chain but, crucially, a loss in the air they produce and the air we breathe.
Methane levels will also begin to rise, reaching 10,000 times the level seen today, another report said.
OXYGEN UTOPIA A TEMPORARY CONDITION
According to researchers, this "oxygen utopia", when plants release oxygen for humans and animals to breathe, is only a temporary condition on Earth. "We find that the Earth's oxygenated atmosphere will not be a permanent feature," Ozaki was quoted as saying.
Ozaki and Reinhard said oxygen is an important biomarker, but it may not be a permanent feature of planets with life. This eventually "could change how we categorise exoplanets going forward - even without oxygen, there could be plenty of single-celled life," the report quoted then saying.
According to a report, Earth's present atmosphere is made up of 78 per cent nitrogen, 21 per cent oxygen, 0.9 per cent argon, and 0.1 per cent other gases, including carbon dioxide, methane, water vapour and neon.
Earth has not always had such a high percentage of oxygen in its atmosphere. For the first 2 billion years on Earth, no oxygen existed in the atmosphere, the report said.