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When they were creating a model for an alien civilization on another planet, Jacob Haqq-Misra admits that he and the rest of the team of researchers had Earth on their minds.

“I’ll say it upfront, a lot of the assumptions in this model are fairly Earth-centric,” Haqq-Misra tells Inverse.

It makes sense. So far, we only know of one technologically advanced species: ourselves. This means we have to look to ourselves and the evolution of our own civilization. Haqq-Misra and colleagues worked within a grim but all-too-real framework: The more advanced we become, the more harm we inflict on our planet.

In a recent paper that is currently still under review, Haqq-Misra, a senior researcher at the Blue Marble Institute of Science and co-author of the paper, and his team designed a climate model for an alien civilization to find out if planets with intelligent life also go through rapid changes caused by civilizations like humans on Earth — an era we refer to here as the “anthropocene,” a geologic era where human activity is the dominant shaper of our world.

Through their model, they found that as a society gets more advanced, world-changing problems compound. And as we seek to find alien life through technosignatures, or phenomena that could only come from advanced technology, it also could mean that whatever life we’re finding is on the verge of dying out.

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