The article is open access:
Earth’s climate has remained continuously habitable throughout 3 or 4 billion years. This presents a puzzle (the ‘habitability problem’) because loss of habitability appears to have been more likely. Solar luminosity has increased by 30% over this time, which would, if not counteracted, have caused sterility. Furthermore, Earth’s climate is precariously balanced, potentially able to deteriorate to deep-frozen conditions within as little as 1 million years. Here I present results from a novel simulation in which thousands of planets were assigned randomly generated climate feedbacks. Each planetary set-up was tested to see if it remained habitable over a period of 3 billion years. The conventional view attributes Earth’s extended habitability solely to stabilising mechanisms. The simulation results shown here reveal instead that chance also plays a role in habitability outcomes. Earth’s long-lasting habitability was therefore most likely a contingent rather than an inevitable outcome.
See also: What becomes of science when the evidence does not matter?