SpaceX CEO Elon Musk has said, in a tweet, that the expansion of the Sun could possibly result in the extinction of all species on the planet, making interplanetary living a necessity. While this might turn true, Musk said this in response to a paper warning about mass extinction caused by human activity.
Musk's tweet came as an unsolicited response to a paper in Biological Reviews titled The Sixth Mass Extinction: fact, fiction or speculation? Robert Cowie, one of the authors of the paper, states that there have been five mass extinctions on the planet so far and a sixth one has already begun. While the previous five were caused by extreme natural phenomena, the ongoing mass extinction is purely due to human activity. Estimates made in the paper suggest that a mind-boggling 260,000 species may have been lost which includes invertebrate animals such as snails and slugs since the year 1500.
Cowie and his colleagues suggest that conservation efforts, although limited in their scope, need to be continued while biodiversity must also be documented. When a Twitter handle, shared this paper with its audience at large, Musk jumped in to declare that Sun's expansion was a big threat too.
There is a 💯 chance of *all* species extinction due to expansion of the sun, unless humanity makes life multiplanetary— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) January 16, 2022
According to Cornell University's website, our Sun will indeed expand when it runs out of hydrogen to burn and when it does, it will envelop the Earth too. Musk is pointing to a genuine problem and everybody knows that his company SpaceX is one of the possible ways interplanetary human civilization can be made possible.
However, as Musk highlights in his tweet, 'all' species on the planet are at risk from this expansion and so far, SpaceX hasn't spoken about how it plans to save them. Unless there is an Elon's Arc in the pipeline after Starship's troubles are sorted, Musk also falls into the same category of mass extinction denial that the paper speaks about.
Cowie and his colleagues said that while some people deny a mass extinction has begun, others accept it as a natural trajectory in which humans are playing their natural role. Cowie says that accepting the extinction without reacting is an abrogation of humanity's responsibility.
Our haste to get humanity off the planet might even end up accelerating extinction. Also, while what Musk has said is true, it is unlikely to happen in five billion years, a much longer time span in comparison to the rapid extinction of thousands of species that is happening now. So, his tweet is nothing more than a marketing effort to subtly place his product into a conversation about problems.
Musk's escape plan is vital but only as Plan B. What we need is a Plan A to deal with what is happening now.