Can humans destroy the planet?

By destroy I mean render incapable of sustaining any known life. Is it possible if all of humanity put their efforts towards destroying all life on earth that we could render the planet incapable of sustaining life?

I don’t think so. We could do incredible devastation, and probably render it uninhabitable for humans and many forms of complex life for a matter of centuries or even millenia, but that’s nearly nothing in the cosmic sense, and Earth’s life would eventually recover.

Tough part might be the sea organisms. We could make the oceans have to absorb a lot of CO2, or carbon in general, but maybe some organisms like that stuff.

Probably not even all land mammals. I can’t think of any coordinated action that wouldn’t reduce human population at a much faster rate than rats and mice.

Only one way to find out.

I’ll start on the Aardvarks, who wants to take Adelie Penguins?

I believe we collectively have enough nuclear warheads to clear all the lands of life and this would surely cause a massive die-off in the ocean but not leave it sterile by any means.

There are around 15000 to 21000 nuclear warheads from what I can google.

There may be but hopefully not some Cobalt Bombs in the Russian arsenal, these extremely high radiation producing bombs in a air blast would really devastate life on the and near the surface.

But eventually some critters would colonize the land again after it was safer.

You guys are thinking too small. The question is not ‘Do we have the capability right this second of wiping out life?’ but rather ‘If we put our minds to it, could we do it?’ And I think that we could, but it wouldn’t be easy. I’m picturing something like deflecting a Kuiper belt object to impact the earth and slow its rotational speed. The collision alone would likely wipe out most multicellular life, but more importantly, it would kill the magnetosphere and that would eventually boil the atmosphere off into space and the water would soon go with it. It’s not a guarantee that you wouldn’t still have some life hiding somewhere, but I think it’s reasonable to think we could take it all out. Of course, this is a multi-millenia project without a lot of room for error, but I’m going to vote that it’s possible.

That’s a pretty tall order.

You might wipe out most of the land animals/plants with salted nukes, but you’re not going to get every single bacterium everywhere.

And you’re definitely not going to wipe out the oceans. You’ll do plenty of damage, but I don’t think there’s any way you can get it all.

And you’re definitely, definitely not going to get the isolated ecosystems surrounding deep-sea hydrothermal vents. Those communities are pretty much independent from the rest of us.

No, not currently. Nukes aren’t going to even kill all life on the surface. What you need is a really, really big rock (or ball of ice), going really, REALLY fast, but humans to date have no way of really getting one to come hither and hit where we need it too. I suppose in the not so distant future we’d be able to do something, if we all worked together, but that’s going to be the only way we could kill all life, including that kilometers under ground or in the deepest oceans. I forgot what the range was, but I think anything over 200 kilometers in diameter should do the trick (could be a bit larger needed) if it’s going fast enough.

Another area that would be difficult to ‘treat’ would be deep cave bacteria. I’d bet that nukes and such would have little direct effect on such biome(s).

I’ve heard it said that, here on Earth, if there is a drop of water anywhere (reasonably speaking), it’s going to contain life of some sort. An insect has been found as deep as ~6500’ (!). Life has even been found below deep ice in Antarctica (pretty sure, no cite right now).

Seems that it would take something along lines of orchestrating a physical destruction/removal of the entirety of Earth’s crust by an enormous space-body (from an orbit, of course, to be certain) would be needed to sterilize life’s crystal hideaways in any human-scale timespan.

The fallout from a human-caused rad event is not likely to sterilize it all. Its been found that a fungus actually grew better after high-levels of radiation were imposed on it post-accident at Chernobyl.

Sterilizing Earth sure seems to be out the human realm of possibility, to me anyways.

This. You’d need to pretty much roast everything down to the mantle to truly wipe out all life. Lovely artistic depiction here. I’ve heard the phrase “crustal tsunami” used to describe this sort of event: on this size scale and with this much energy, the crust of the earth can be understood as a viscous liquid, splashing and flowing outward in a wave due to the impact and dissipating its kinetic energy as heat.

This announcement by the International Earth-Destruction Advisory Board (IEDAB) reports that the Earth was already destroyed in 2008, but it is possible that either it didn’t take or there was a false alarm due to some faulty instrumentation and the experiment should be repeated.

Boil all the seas, and those guys are dead. But even that won’t get the endoliths - 3km underground at least. Only a total crustal meltdown is going to get all of those. And we don’t have the power or tech to go full Base Delta Zero on our planet, I think.

I could do it easily if I could just find that missing Illudium Q-36 Explosive Space Modulator. Although you did specify humans…

If you could somehow destabilize the moon’s orbit and have it crash into the earth, that would probably do it. I don’t know how you’d do that, but that’d probably get everything.

Dump the Earth into the Sun. It’s the only way to be sure.

Um, do you understand scale? The nearest KBO is billions of miles away. Deflecting one of those things toward Earth in a timeframe less than millennia is unrealistic. Not to mention, they are composed of materials that are solids in the Belt but by the time you get them down here, most of their mass would have boiled off.

Now, the Asteroid belt, you might be able to get some useful rocks outta that, but the question is whether we could move one big enough into the right trajectory. Doing a carrom, so that the Moon’s orbit goes all whack might be more effective.

My man Lemmy was asked this question and I’ll paraphrase his response.
“The Earth is made of volcanoes. We aren’t going to destroy the Earth, we’re just going to destroy that bit of it that we need.”

Moderate damage distance from a 10 megaton explosion is about 1 mile. Assuming 10 megatons is about the average yield of a nuke, you’d get about a square mile of moderate damage zone out of each (Note that people and animals can still survive in the moderate damage zone if very lucky). So 21 000 warheads would take out about 21 000 square miles.

Earths land surface is about 57 million square miles. And we can probably skip most of Antarctica, about 5 million sq. miles. So we’d need, roughly 2 500 times the number of nukes the world currently possess.

The difference between this and the Gizmodo calculation is that they seem to consider everything in the light damage zone wrecked, whereas we’d need things killed outright. In practice we’d need far more nukes because we’d need to insure that random survivors don’t get together and breed back. Climate effects should help outside the tropics.

The Cobalt bombs that What Exit and I have referred to derive their destructive power not as heat and pressure, but as radiation. The explosion is lovely of course, but their bigger effect is the distribution of massive amounts of highly radioactive material over a very large area. Sure, they’ll only incinerate everything within their one-mile blast radius - but the radiation they disperse will kill every living thing within a far larger radius (I’m using “radius” here loosely - really we’d be talking about a downwind plume).

It might take a very long time for such fallout to reach hydrothermal vents (deep ocean currents circulate very slowly), by which time the radiation may have faded enough to be non-lethal. It’s entirely possible you could kill very nearly everything that depends directly or indirectly on the sun (and therefore on the usual food chains), but I don’t think even this would get everything.