Professor Frank Fenner, emeritus professor of microbiology at the Australian National University, has claimed that the human race will be unable to survive a population explosion and “unbridled consumption”.
“Homo sapiens will become extinct, perhaps within 100 years,” Fenner said. “A lot of other animals will, too.”
“It’s an irreversible situation. I think it’s too late. I try not to express that because people are trying to do something, but they keep putting it off.”
He said that since humans have entered an unofficial scientific period known as the Anthropocene — the time since industrialisation — we have had an effect on the planet that rivals any ice age or comet impact, the Daily Mail reported.
Fenner also blames the onset of climate change for the human race’s imminent demise.
He said: “Climate change is just at the very beginning. But we’re seeing remarkable changes in the weather already.
“We’ll undergo the same fate as the people on Easter Island… The Aborigines showed that without science and the production of carbon dioxide and global warming, they could survive for 40,000 or 50,000 years.
“But the world can’t. The human species is likely to go the same way as many of the species that we’ve seen disappear.”
Fenner, 95, has won awards for his work in helping eradicate the variola virus that causes smallpox and has written or co-written 22 books.
In 1980, he announced the eradication of the disease to the World Health Assembly and it is still regarded as one of the World Health Organisation’s greatest achievements.
However, Stephen Boyden, a colleague of Prof Fenner, said that while there was deep pessimism among some ecologists, others had a more optimistic view.
“Frank may well be right, but some of us still harbour the hope that there will come about an awareness of the situation and, as a result the revolutionary changes necessary to achieve ecological sustainability,” Boyden said.
Simon Ross, the vice-chairman of the Optimum Population Trust, said: “Mankind is facing real challenges including climate change, loss of bio-diversity and unprecedented growth in population.”
Prof Fenner’s chilling prediction echoes recent comments by Prince Charles who last week warned of “monumental problems” if the world’s population continues to grow at such a rapid pace.
According to 2009 UN estimates, the current global population is 6.8 billion which can exceed to seven billion by the end of 2011.
Earlier, Prof Nicholas Boyle of Cambridge University had said that a “Doomsday” moment will take place in 2014 — and will determine whether the 21st century is full of violence and poverty or will be peaceful and prosperous.
In 2006, another esteemed academic, Prof James Lovelock, warned that the world’s population may sink as low as 500 million over the next century due to global warming. He claimed that any attempts to tackle climate change will not be able to solve the problem, merely buy us time.