Stephen Hawking: Humans will turn Earth into a giant ball of fire by 2600

Key Points
  • Overcrowding and energy consumption will lead to the end of life on Earth, said Stephen Hawking.
  • The physicist is part of a project to send an ultra-fast, light-powered spacecraft to look for habitable worlds near Alpha Centauri.
Stephen Hawking in 2016 in New York City.
Getty Images

Humans will turn the planet into a giant ball of fire by the year 2600, said physicist Stephen Hawking.

Overcrowding and energy consumption will render Earth uninhabitable in just a few centuries, Hawking said via video on Sunday at the Tencent WE Summit in Beijing.

To avoid this fate, Hawking said the human species will have to seek a habitable planet elsewhere, according to the Sun newspaper. Hawking is part of the Breakthrough Starshot initiative, which plans to develop ultra-fast light-powered spacecraft that can look for habitable worlds that might be circling the nearby star, Alpha Centauri.

"Such a system could reach Mars in less than an hour, or reach Pluto in days, pass Voyager in under a week and reach Alpha Centauri in just over 20 years," Hawking said at the event.

SpaceX CEO Elon Musk similarly has said that some kind of mass extinction event will wipe out humanity on Earth at some point in the near future. In fact, Musk has said he started the company with the ultimate goal in mind of making humanity a "multi-planetary species."

Read the full story in the Sun

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