There's a study making headlines that basically says we need to put an end to global warming -- or else eco-conscious aliens might attack and kill us all to save the planet.
But what's causing so much fuss is not the report itself, it's that one of the authors happens to be a NASA scientist:
"Aliens Could Attack to End Global Warming, NASA Says"; "NASA Warns of Alien Attack Scenario"; "Global Warming Could Prompt Alien Attack: NASA" -- such was a sample of Friday morning headlines after it was first reported by the Guardian.
NASA quickly took to its Twitter account, writing two posts to clarify that the report was not an official NASA study:
In an online post, author Shawn Domagal-Goldman of NASA's Planetary Science Division said the report was not funded or supported by NASA in anyway, and in fact was "just a fun paper written by a few friends, one of whom happens to have a NASA affiliation."
Domagal-Goldman went on to say he considers the likelihood of contact with an alien civilization to be low, but did address the global warming connection:
One of the scenarios we considered in the review was the possibility that an alien civilization would contact us because they were concerned about the exponential growth of our civilization, as evidenced by climate change. This isn’t an entirely new idea; remember, this was a review effort. Indeed, Keanu Reaves recently played a similar alien in the movie “The Day the Earth Stood Still.” There were lots of other ideas we reviewed, but this was probably the most provocative.
So what did the study actually say?
For one thing, if aliens exist, all our greenhouse gas emissions could give us away as an "advanced" species and make us seem like potential "Avatar"-style invaders, leading extraterrestrial life to launch a preemptive strike against us.
Or, if they're ecologically-minded, they could observe our "destructive tendencies" and see a need to step in and "wipe humanity out in order to preserve the Earth system as a whole."
To avoid such negative possibilities, the authors recommend limiting our growth and immediately lessening our impact on global ecosystems to avoid giving off the appearance of a "rapidly expansive civilization":
It would be particularly important for us to limit our emissions of greenhouse gases, since atmospheric composition can be observed from other planets. We acknowledge that the pursuit of emissions reductions and other ecological projects may have much stronger justifications than those that derive from [extraterrestrial intelligence] encounter, but that does not render ETI encounter scenarios insignificant or irrelevant.
Still, an alien encounter might not be all bad. The paper categorizes the potential outcomes three ways: beneficial, neutral and harmful.
A neutral outcome would be if the aliens were to have no desire to communicate, observing us without making contact, or were only a "mild nuisance."
In a beneficial outcome, aliens could help us solve global problems like poverty or hunger. Of course, another way to reach a "beneficial outcome" would be if humans were to fight and overcome them.
But in a harmful outcome, such as the global warming retribution scenario, the aliens could eat, enslave or attack us, or spread their alien diseases around and make us sick.
Here's a chart to keep the various outcomes straight:
So tell us: Is the threat of a potential alien invasion, NASA-affiliated or not, enough to make you become a global warming enthusiast?
(h/t: Business Insider)