Humans have left such a huge impact on Earth that the consequences will leave behind their own geological records far into the future. Therefore, a group of 24 scientists said Thursday that such dramatic transformations warrant the declaration of a new geological epoch: the Anthropocene. Under present definitions, we are currently in the Holocene epoch that began 11,700 years ago at the end of the last Ice Age.
The end of the Holocene epoch?
According to a study published in the journal Science, there is compelling evidence that mankind’s impact on the planet’s atmosphere, wildlife and oceans has pushed Earth into a new epoch. The research conducted by the Anthropocene Working Group will be presented later this year to the International Commission on Stratigraphy, a geological body that formally approves such time divisions.
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The new study makes the strongest case yet that the Holocene epoch has ended. Lead author Colin Waters of the British Geological Survey said the Holocene was a natural phenomenon. But humans have initiated many developments that had a global impact, modifying not only the geosphere but also the hydrosphere, atmosphere, and cryosphere. More importantly, the changes have been incredibly rapid, from annual to decadal.
Concrete evidence warrants Anthropocene epoch
We have become “a geological agent in ourselves,” said Waters. If formally accepted, Anthropocene would be the third epoch after Holocene and Pleistocene that make up the Quaternary period. Scientists identified global impact ranging from the nuclear weapon testing to mining that displaces more than 57 billion tons of material every year. Scientists said the Holocene could last another 50,000 years without human impact.
Humans have left a lasting impact on the planet, warranting the Anthropocene epoch. Researchers believe that the new epoch began sometime between 1954 and 1964. More than 50% of the planet’s surface has been transformed for human use. Concrete has become so ubiquitous that you could cover every square meter of the Earth surface with 2.2 pounds of concrete if spread evenly.
Enough plastic is produced every year to cover the entire planet. Carbon dioxide emission is increasing 100 times faster than at any point in the past 800,000 years. All these will have a lasting impact on the planet.