Scientists Have New Classification For Earth

Earth’s scientists have long fantasized about alien lifeforms, and how their civilizations would function. They’ve even classified these hypothetical civilizations into three categories: Type 1 would harness all the energy of their home planet, Type 2 would do so for their whole solar system, and Type 3 could use all the energy their whole galaxy produces. Note that Earth does not even fit into the Type 1 category yet.

Recently scientists have come up with a new classification system, based on “nonequilibrium thermodynamics” – or rather, how much out of sync a planet’s energy flow is. The thought is that life, intelligent life even, promotes this disorder. There are many more categories than the previous scale – no atmosphere, agency-dominated biosphere, or even a technosphere – but the point is to get the field thinking about sustainability on a huge, even planetary scale.

On this new scale, Earth is in a moment of transition, due no doubt to the profound effect that humans are having on the planet. We’re currently a Class IV, with a heavy biosphere and with lifeforms (us)  affecting the planet a little, but we’re moving towards the final Class V, where Earth is very much affected by humans as an energy-intensive species.

The authors of the new classification study said, “Our thesis is that the development of long-term sustainable, versions of an energy-intensive civilization must be seen on a continuum of interactions between life and its host planet.” In other words, for Earth and humanity survive, we need to recognize that we’re dependant upon each other and act accordingly. Some would call those high hopes.