A report from three researchers at Penn State suggests the Earth's rising greenhouse gases could make aliens believe we are an ever-increasing, ever-expanding threat.
It's not just the threat of another recession that tells us we're destroying ourselves. We express it in every alien movie ever made.
Save the Earth. Save the Earth. A question that, increasingly, offers the question: "Why?"
Still we, cranially deficient as we are, prefer to muse about "when?" and "how?" Well, the earthy Guardian points me to a new report, written by three researchers from Penn State, and published in the journal Acta Astronautica (PDF).
The report suggests that it's just remotely, theoretically possible that the green, blue, and orange beings out there might notice that we're sending out a lot more greenhouse gases.
In noticing these noxious emissions, the aliens might consider that our puny planet offers more of a threat than they had previously imagined. This, the report goes on to wonder, might signal to those up there that we are a rapidly expanding entity, one that needs to be nipped before it buds any further.
In order to make their point, the aliens might swoop down upon us and crush our little bodies like those of so many useless eyebrowed ants. (I paraphrase.)
The report, philosophically titled "Would contact with extraterrestrials benefit or harm humanity? A scenario analysis," offers many pie in the sky (or face) possibilities.
It offers three basic categories of scenario: beneficial, neutral, or totally bloody scary. (Again, I paraphrase, but only very slightly.)
In essence, aliens might turn out to be highly cool dudes who only want to learn how to play croquet, make baked Alaska, and teach us how to zap political or social opponents with just a laser emerging from a fingernail.
The second possibility is that they could find us to be a nuisance, a feeling that we might reciprocate. The report posits that they might be merely creepy like those prawns in "District 9." They might also be more bureaucratic than the DMV, which would drive us to paroxysms of frustration.
Or they just might want to bake Alaska and eat us for the crunchy texture of our ears. This might happen because aliens are mean-spirited or merely because they're slightly clumsy.
We have, it's true, already been warned by Stephen Hawking that aliens might truly hate our guts, leading them to eat our guts. But this report tries to concoct many and varied story lines of our future relationship with other beings.
You might be among those who, on reading the report, decide that its conclusion is: well, anything could happen. However, the authors reportedly went through this exercise so that we might consider how we're living now and any changes we might choose to make in anticipation of one of their scenarios.
Some might imagine that thinking too far into the future is beyond the scope of a world that is dominated by entities that only care about the results achieved every three months.
Correction, 7:08 p.m. PT: This story has been changed to reflect the fact that it wrongly identified the report as having originated at NASA. One of the report's authors has provided a clarification.