Apocalypse Now: Causes and Effects


Have you ever seen the show Doomsday Preppers? It’s all about people who believe the end of the world is imminent and who spend major portions of their time and money preparing for the inevitable doomsday. Each prepper has their own idea about how and why the apocalypse will come about, as well as how to best prepare. Some have built safe-houses, some have stockpiles of food or weapons, and some are training to fight or find food in the wild. If you are so inclined, the show can be a rich source of inspiration for characters and apocalypse situations – every person profiled on the show is colourful and adamant about their view on the end of the world as we know it.

The apocalypse has crossed many of our minds, evidenced by the multitudes of books, movies, and television shows about the end of the world. If the apocalypse is on your mind, here are a couple things that might bring it about – and the effects they would have.

Global Warming


With a one-degree rise in temperature, we will see droughts and deserts in North America; a complete elimination of fresh water in countries close to the equator; ground collapsing in the Arctic under buildings as permafrost melts; rock slides and collapses in mountain ranges as ground that was stabilized by permafrost melts; and flooding and hurricanes in coastal and low-lying areas. With two degrees or more, we will add thousands of deaths from heat stress around the globe; the collapse of staple crops, leading to starvation; and the burning of forests.

In short: famine, deserts, heat waves, land loss. Find more details here.



In Emily St. John Mandel‘s Station Eleven, the apocalypse comes about through a virus that has the key properties necessary to end the world as we know it: it’s an unknown (and therefore incurable) virus with an extremely long incubation period – where the host is very contagious – and a near-100% fatality rate.

In a disease scenario, you would have mass panic as people start dying as well as an attempted exodus from every urban centre, which would devolve into chaos as roads became packed and stalled. People may also barricade themselves into their homes in an attempt to quarantine themselves from the sick. Should disease be your scenario, consider how your disease would be transmitted and who would survive – and why.



A supervolcano eruption would send a massive amount of particles into the atmosphere, causing a “volcanic winter” by reducing global temperatures. This can lead to massive reductions in food sources and therefore global population; some scientists have also theorized that the reduced population of a volcanic winter (called a “population bottleneck“) can lead to quicker evolution because changes happen faster in smaller populations. So if you’re thinking about the best conditions for sped-up human evolution and the introduction of superpowers, here’s a definite option!

Nuclear War


Besides the massive death and destruction that would be caused by nuclear war, the bombs would be likely to cause similar effects to a supervolcano, reducing the earth’s temperature, killing crops, and drastically reducing the global population. Along with starvation, any remaining political governance would collapse.

Artificial Intelligence


This is a popular one: what do we do if the artificial intelligence we create decides the world is better off without us? Generally, when it comes to scientists’ worries about AI, the concern is that an unemotional robot decides humans are a waste of resources and decides we need to be eliminated. There are also scenarios where robots take over all human jobs, leading to economic collapse. The role of AI could be simply to trigger an apocalypse scenario (like nuclear war, a la Terminator), or the AI could more actively take over the human race and use us as slaves or as another type of resource.

What do you think? Is there another apocalyptic scenario that you would add? What are your favourite apocalyptic novels or stories? Tell me in the comments!


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