Apocalypse How: Class 4

Planetary-scale Species Extinction of most complex multi-cellular organisms. Not only are humans gone, but most critters with them, leaving only a select few to evolve and refill the biosphere (or, as the name suggests, what's left of it).


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    Anime and Manga 
  • The premise of 7 Seeds does this. Scientists predicted that a meteorite with a diameter of several dozens of kilometers and various smaller ones were going to crash on the planet and wipe out all life and cause an ice-age.
  • The prestory to Ergo Proxy destroyed essentially the entire biosphere of planet earth, though humans still managed to survive (Granted they no longer were living on Earth, but...).
  • Mewtwo attempts this in Pokemon The First Movie via a self-produced global hurricane with the eye around his island. He creates a few dozen clones of the strongest Pokemon he could get, intending to repopulate the world with human-free Pokemon. Eventually he changes his mind.
    • In the following movie, the disruption of the harmony of fire, ice and lightning starts similar world-threatening storms.
  • Second Impact in Neon Genesis Evangelion and Rebuild of Evangelion melted the Antarctic icecap and generated tidal waves that inundated coastal regions, wiping out cities and large tracts of arable land. Simultaneously, the oceans were poisoned (only in the Rebuild continuity) and left barren and the axis of the Earth shifted. What species survived only endured due to humanity's intervention to maintain the terrestrial ecosystems. Third Impact is expected to escalate the situation to Class 5.
  • The anime Wolf's Rain, in which the Earth's crumbling biosphere is for all appearances dying of old age, has this as a comparatively optimistic outcome. No wonder the wolves want to leave.
  • Macross: Do You Remember Love ups Earth's desolation to this level. In the original series, the Earth was devastated, but it was shown to be recovering several years later and there were still several million human survivors scattered about the surface. In the movie, absolutely nothing on the land has survived, although there are apparently still fish in the ocean, with the crew of the Macross being the only human beings left alive.

  • Y: The Last Man is a 3.5, as every male mammal on the planet dies, save for Yorick and his pet helper monkey and two male astronauts in space. The cause has been vague, but options include an ancient curse or a biological experiment gone wrong. The comic even mentions that, 7 months after the disaster struck, the first species has gone extinct as its reproductive cycle has flown by. It should be noted that the actual short-term effects look more like a Class 1. The looming fact that this is the last generation as far as most of humanity knows barring serious reproductive breakthroughs is anything but glossed over. Thankfully, in the Distant Finale, we see that Dr. Mann's cloning research has paid off, and it looks like humanity has made a mostly complete recovery — complete with roughly the same political problems as before — making this a Class 1 with a recovery period in the decades. In addition, even after rats should have died out with no males to propagate the species — almost five years on — some are seen on the streets of Asia, which stuns Mann.
  • In a three-part story arc at the beginning of John Byrne's post-Crisis Superman, (issues #20-22, 1988) three renegade Kryptonians from an Alternate Universe do this to their dimension's Earth. The enormity of their crime drove Supes to break his non-killing oath and give them a Kryptonite shower. Much controversy ensued.

    Fan Works 
  • In Gender Confusion, all living creatures die within the Elemental Nations, effectively wiping out humanity because of Deidara's sacrifice. This occurs due to narrowly avoiding a Class 6 Universal apocalypse.

    Films — Animation 
  • Wall E: While (an unknown percentage of) humanity escapes into outer space, the biosphere of Earth completely collapses, with only two living species seen in the film proper: the cockroach, and a small plant (and both seem to be very rare). It appears that no humans survive on Earth itself. The fact that human civilization does survive (in a way) aboard the starliners makes this a bit of a toss-up between Class 4 and Class 1 — but really, it's simply a case of humans fleeing from a Class 4 event.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • In Star Wars the planet Tatooine use to be a beautiful habitable world, then it was bombarded by the Rakata turning it into the desert world it is now, the few that survived were the Tusken Raiders.
  • The Quiet Earth, film version. The vast majority of the Earth's animals were affected by the Event and disappeared, up to and including most humans. The cause of it was human-engineered, but the fact that animals were also affected pushed it from Class 3 to Class 4. Plants were completely untouched, however.

  • According to The Bible, a Class 4 catastrophe occurred some 4400 or so years ago, with a global flood wiping out nearly everything except for a wooden supertanker-sized boat filled with animals and a human family.
  • In The Mote In Gods Eye, the Earth is a radioactive wasteland kept as a military training preserve by the Empire of Man, as a lesson to all young officers in the Imperial Fleet "to show them what the Empire exists to prevent." The only places on Earth that can support life are the high mountaintops (ironically, some Jamaican Blue Mountain coffee plants have survived the Apocalypse, and they've all been declared the private property of the Emperor for his exclusive use. Smart Emperor...) At the end of the book, this is averted, as society is able to deal with the asteroid by some unspecified means.
  • Isaac Asimov's Foundation series has a galactic empire that has lost knowledge of where Earth is, although it is alluded to several times that it has been rendered fatally radioactive through nuclear war. The protagonists eventually find it.
    • In the Robot series R. Daneel Olivaw and R. Giskard discover that a spacer plot leads to the Spacers deliberately making the Earth grow radioactive to destroy the Settler society, and the robots refused to prevent the process, believing it will be better for the humanity, since it will force the Earthers to spread out.
    • In the opening chapters of The Stars Like Dust, the Earth has large areas of nuclear wasteland, and everyone is forced to wear film badges to measure their exposure to radiation, while in an early Imperial-era novel, the Earth is revealed to be almost completely uninhabitable.
  • The conclusion of Dougal Dixon's Man After Man finds the Earth almost totally stripped of life by the evolved, no-longer-recognizable descendents of human space colonists. Its contaminated atmosphere no longer supports any organisms, such that only a handful of native species survive, clinging to deep-sea hydrothermal vents.
  • In Down To A Sunless Sea, the last nuclear war wipes out almost everyone, except two planeloads of people, who have to run to Antarctica to start over, then they discover that the nuclear weapons have knocked the planet off its axis, meaning that Antarctica is soon going to be in the tropics. Depending on which ending your copy has, either it's the end of the world at which point God steps in to begin all over again, with the last two human survivors the new Adam and Eve, or they will go out to rebuild the world.
    • Mao Zedong apparently gave serious thought to having a few 747s full of Chinese citizens in the air at all times, to provide for just this situation. (In practice, the shockwaves from a global thermonuclear war would likely knock these aircraft out of the air, so it probably wouldn't work.)
  • On the Beach showed humanity completely dying out after a large-scale nuclear war. In the book, it's discussed that dogs, mice and rabbits, being more resistant to the spreading radiation, will outlive humans, but even the rabbits won't last more than a year or so after.
  • Scenario #8 in John Scalzi's Alternate History Search Results studies what would happen if Hitler had been killed in 1908...by hitting him with a meteor. Humanity and 93% of all species on Earth are killed off as collateral damage.
  • In the Riftwar Cycle by Raymond E. Feist, Kelewan gets this, not once, but twice. In the same book. First it starts getting swallowed by an ever-expanding portal to what amounts to the second circle of hell, powered by the deaths of the army trying to stop it. Then, to put an end to that threat, Pug created a gigantic rift portal that basically slammed a large part of Kelewan's moon into its surface at extreme speed. Luckily, a good part of the population escaped to another world.
  • The Fimbulwinter Game, played out at Dream Park in The Barsoom Project, depicts the near-total freezing of the planet by a crazed Cabal of Inuit sorcerers. Only Arctic natives and organisms have any hope of surviving, and it's hinted that the Cabal's rituals may have overdone it, potentially pushing even these into extinction (and this example into Class 5).
  • Sergej Luk'yanenko's Линия Грёз, set in the Master of Orion universe, describes the destruction of the Sakras: the human Empire went for planet-wide meson bombardments on all planets that belonged to the Sakras race or were about to be conquered by them. Technically a Class 6 for those Sakras on the receiving end, the bombardment burns the atmosphere and boils the oceans. Several decades later a human refugee remarks that there is hope for her homeworld - the oceans are about to stop boiling and the planet might be repopulated. The genocide of an entire race is unique in the books, and frowned upon by other races in the games, but repopulating and terraforming planets which were previously rendered sterile is par for the course. It is possible to win the game by becoming the only remaining sentient species.
  • Roger Zelazny's Damnation Alley is set post-nuclear apocalypse. Most of the surviving population are in coastal cities, while those remaining in the Midwest blame scientists for the catastrophe, and crucify any they catch. There is animal life, but not as we know it.
  • Alien Earth by Megan Lindholm, in which a large group of Humans were rescued by aliens, just prior to the total collapse of Earth's ecosystem. What's left is mostly inedible to these humans, being mostly ground hugging bushes.
  • The Night Land is set "billions of years hence", after the Sun has died (although that should have incinerated Earth). Humans have only survived by sealing themselves inside The Last Redoubt, a massive city inside a pyramid. No one can live in the outside world without special suits. The only things living outside are Eldritch Abominations that have colonized the Earth.
  • In The Green Gods, massive amounts of climate change caused plants to evolve sapience and begin taking over the world. Many animals, including humans, are on the brink of extinction.
  • In The Fractal Prince the Sobornost mind-upload collective has purged most of Earth's surface from life after uploading perfect copies to their giant databanks, and a Grey Goo-nanotech called Wildcode did the rest. Only one city, ironically protected by the Wildcode, still has baseline human population. By the end even it's gone, after Matjek Chen unleases the Dragons, an even more destructive Grey Goo weapon, on the planet in order to retrieve a copy of his past self. In subversion, upload copies of people continue to live in the Wildcode itself until Chen's purge. Amusingly, the sequel novel, The Causal Angel reveals that the catalyst for all these events was a deliberately engineered planetwide stockmarket crash.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Babylon 5 has the Vorlon planet killers. These planet killers are more likely to be around Class 3-4—one episode has Ivanova requesting atmospheric shuttles to evacuate survivors from the surface of a world devastated by the planet killer. It doesn't destroy the planet, but once it strikes, it's curtains for most of the population, and the few who remain will probably slowly die of starvation, disease, radiation poisoning, or the like unless they are rescued.
  • On Buffy the Vampire Slayer, the opening of the Hellmouth is a 4.5. This would release demon hordes onto the Earth, resulting in the extinction of not only the human race, but every other native critter. The natural biosphere would be replaced with a demonic one. This is averted four times, in the episodes "The Harvest", "Prophecy Girl", "The Zeppo", and "Doomed". The release of the First's army of Turok-Han, as averted in the series finale, would apparently have a similar effect.
  • The final episode of Dinosaurs. Earl Sinclair unwittingly engineers a series of catastrophies that causes the extinction of all plant life, and eventually dinosaurs with it. But the scale is so far beyond what really happened to the dinosaurs, it could go beyond even Class 4 on the AW scale.
  • The Doctor Who stories The Ark in Space and "The Beast Below" disasters where enormous solar flares roasted the Earth, which are probably the same event. Humanity may well recover (they had warning and were able to evacuate), but the biosphere is implied to be long gone.
    • The Sontaran Experiment, the adventure following The Ark in Space, takes place on Earth directly after the events of the previous serial (the Doctor and companions having used a transmat to reach the surface). There is a well-established biosphere and a perfectly reasonable climate.
      • There was even a team of humans looking to recolonize the planet.
  • The virus that wiped out humanity in The Last Man on Earth apparently wiped out all land-based vertebrate life, at least. There are no cats or dogs or birds to be seen, Carol makes a random comment about how meatballs are a thing of the past, and the gang is shocked when they find a random cow. The fate of non-vertebrates (bugs, worms, etc) and marine life is unclear.
  • Power Rangers RPM starts with at least a 1.5, but by the end of Ziggy's first scene, it's clear that it's really a 4. Yes, this takes place on Earth.note  In Power Rangers. Its strongly implied that the means by which the Venjix Virus razed the planet was nuclear carpet-bombing.

    Tabletop Games 
  • The Exterminatus operation in Warhammer 40,000 is an attempt to destroy a planet as an economic or military asset. Depending on how thoroughly it's carried out, it usually ranges from Class 4 to Class 5, but can go all the way to X if they really try. If the bombardees have particularly deep bunkers or the bombardiers get sloppy, this can be as low as Class 2, as in the case of Tallarn (Single-Biome Planet turned from lush vegetation to desert Death World, but still inhabited).
  • Tech Infantry has a meteor impact do this to the planet Earth, although it is eventually resettled by humans and other life from colony worlds. Then it later gets destroyed in even more spectacular fashion.
  • In Rocket Age Mars and Io have faced Class 4 level events.

  • In Xenoblade, Zanza, the soul of Bionis, causes this whenever his civilization grows advanced enough to leave his body as without ether (i.e. life energy) from living organisms, he would die.
  • The oldest semi-confirmed event in Touhou backstory is the creation of Heaven (lit. Celestial World). It occurred by removing a massive Keystone from the Earth, devastating the surface and destroying everything. The good news is that this happened so long ago that even Eirin Yagokoro had not yet been born, so it's a good possibility that very little death occurred.
  • The Armageddon spell in Ultima, which is described in the fluff as destroying all life in the world, and when actually cast instantly kills all NPCs. Depending on the game, there may be two or three survivors, usually the Avatar and Lord British.

  • Homestuck: After Her Imperious Condescension took over Post-Scratch Earth, she turned it into a Crapsack World and caused the collapse of civilization and a series of holocausts, eventually just flooding the planet. This should have wiped out most of Earth's biosphere, but apparently some life still survived.
    • This, however, is only true because she was instructed to do it all by Lord English, an omnipotent and practically omniscient being of destruction.
  • Rash Illness in Stand Still, Stay Silent attacks only mammals (except for cats), turning them into trolls (humans), beasts (animals) giants (Body of Bodies), and general Body Horror. Seeing how only about 11% of population is immune (probably less at the start of the Illness), it killed most of mammal and human life on Earth, leaving only few scattered remains.
  • This happens in Deviant Universe during the Dark Future storyline.

    Web Original 
  • The Jenkinsverse sees the alien planet Cimbrean facing a Biosphere Extinction after an unwitting human traveller innocently (and unavoidably) contaminates it with their gut flora when they answer a call of nature. Cimbrean's biosphere has no way of defending against these organisms, which proceed to go mad, spreading at an incredible rate and digesting all organic matter as they go. By the time anybody notices, the contagion has progressed beyond the point where it could be contained, and the only hope of preventing Cimbrean from becoming totally uninhabitable is to import Terran life forms to replace the doomed natives.

    Western Animation 
  • The pre-series apocalypse in Adventure Time seems to have been partially this, and partially Class 3: The Mushroom War (which destroyed all humans but one...maybe) suggests that humans blew each other to bits, but there is also a distinct lack of normal wildlife in Ooo (about the only exception is Jake's family (dogs); everything else is anthropomorphic candy, part-rainbow, etc.) which sends it up to this class.
    • Actually, normal wildlife is also shown to still be around in the land of Ooo.

    Real Life 
  • Mass Extinctions (events of this scale) have happened several times in Earth's history:
    • The Ordovician-Silurian Extinction was probably caused by natural climate change, and killed 60-70% of all species.
    • The Devonian Extinction, caused by more natural climate change (possibly triggered by one or several meteor impacts, or the evolution of plants), wiped out 70% of all species on Earth.
    • The Permian-Triassic Extinction was by far the most destructive, killing 90-96% of all species on the planet. (Even scientists not given to sensationalism call it "The Great Dying") There are several possible causes, including asteroid impacts, increased volcanism, release of methane, or some combination of the above.
    • The Triassic-Jurassic Extinction was probably caused by more climate change, and killed 70-75% of all species.
    • The Cretaceous-Paleogene (earlier known as Cretaceous-Tertiary) Extinction is the most famous. Probably caused by an asteroid impact, it killed 75% of all species, including the Dinosaurs.
    • Humans are seemingly in the process of causing another one, but how serious it gets depends on our actions.
      • Actually, the current (relatively minor) extinction process had been going on for a while. Lots of species of large mammals have been lost in the past 50-80 thousand years. And while humans are most likely part of the reason for the extinction, there is also climate change (no, not the one we have been causing since the 20th century) and the apparition of new diseases are also to be blamed.
  • Global nuclear war could leave the world safe for cock-roaches.
  • There was a close call during the 1990's when a German biotech company created a genetically modified root bacterium called K. planticola that was supposed to increase the rate at which plant life decomposed into ethanol. What it nearly did is eradicate every plant on Earth. Cracked have a decent (and funny) article on it.