Quantcast
Environmental News for a Healthier Planet and Life

Geologists: Holocene Epoch Ended, 'Anthropocene' Started in 1950s

Popular
Clouds over Australia. NASA

By Andrea Germanos

A group of scientists said that the scope of human impact on planet Earth is so great that the "Anthropocene" warrants a formal place in the Geological Time Scale.

"Our findings suggest that the Anthropocene should follow on from the Holocene Epoch that has seen 11.7 thousand years of relative environmental stability, since the retreat of the last Ice Age, as we enter a more unstable and rapidly evolving phase of our planet's history," said professor Jan Zalasiewicz from the University of Leicester's School of Geography, Geology, and the Environment, in a statement released Monday.


The scientsts wrote:

"We conclude that human impact has now grown to the point that it has changed the course of Earth history by at least many millennia, in terms of the anticipated long-term climate effects (e.g. postponement of the next glacial maximum: see Ganopolski et al., 2016; Clark et al., 2016), and in terms of the extensive and ongoing transformation of the biota, including a geologically unprecedented phase of human-mediated species invasions, and by species extinctions which are accelerating (Williams et al., 2015, 2016)."

Defining characteristics of the period include:

"marked acceleration of rates of erosion and sedimentation; large-scale chemical perturbations to the cycles of carbon, nitrogen, phosphorus and other elements; the inception of significant change in global climate and sea level; and biotic changes including unprecedented levels of species invasions across the Earth. Many of these changes are geologically long-lasting, and some are effectively irreversible."

The findings from the international team led by the University of Leicester were presented last year at the International Geological Congress at Cape Town, South Africa, but were just published online in the journal Anthropocene.

Use of the word coined by Nobel Prize-winning scientist Paul Crutzen in 2000 is not new, but so far it's been merely an informal description of the time period when human activity started significantly altering the planet. The Anthropocene Working Group (AWG), which comprises experts from a range of fields, has been tackling the issue of whether it should be a formal declaration since 2009.

According to the group, the answer is clear: the Anthropocene is real; it should be formalized; and it should be defined as an epoch (rather than another classification such as a sub-age or era). The group suggested that the new epoch's "golden spike" (or physical reference point) that marks its start is the plutonium fallout from nuclear weapons tests in the 1950s.

Going forward, they wrote, it seems likely that "human impacts will become increasingly significant."

Getting the formal classification is not a done deal, as more analysis is needed, and a stamp of approval from the International Commission of Stratigraphy (ICS) could be years off. Still, said honorary chair of AWG, Colin Waters of the Geology Depart of the University of Leicister, "Whatever decision is ultimately made, the geological reality of the Anthropocene is now clear."

Reposted with permission from our media associate Common Dreams.

EcoWatch Daily Newsletter

Workers convert the Scottish Events Campus, where COP26 was to be held, into a field hospital to treat COVID-19 patients. ANDY BUCHANAN / AFP via Getty Images

The most important international climate talks since the Paris agreement was reached in 2015 have been delayed because of the coronavirus pandemic.

Read More Show Less
An aerial view of a crude oil storage facility of Caspian Pipeline Consortium (CPC) in the Krasnodar Territory. Vitaly Timkiv / TASS / Getty Images

Oil rigs around the world keep pulling crude oil out of the ground, but the global pandemic has sent shockwaves into the market. The supply is up, but demand has plummeted now that industry has ground to a halt, highways are empty, and airplanes are parked in hangars.

Read More Show Less
Sponsored
Examples (from left) of a lead pipe, a corroded steel pipe and a lead pipe treated with protective orthophosphate. U.S. EPA Region 5

Under an agreement negotiated by community groups — represented by NRDC and the Pennsylvania Utility Law Project — the Pittsburgh Water and Sewer Authority (PWSA) will remove thousands of lead water pipes by 2026 in order to address the chronically high lead levels in the city's drinking water and protect residents' health.

Read More Show Less
ROBYN BECK / AFP / Getty Images

By Dave Cooke

So, they finally went and did it — the Trump administration just finalized a rule to undo requirements on manufacturers to improve fuel economy and reduce greenhouse gas emissions from new passenger cars and trucks. Even with the economy at the brink of a recession, they went forward with a policy they know is bad for consumers — their own analysis shows that American drivers are going to spend hundreds of dollars more in fuel as a result of this stupid policy — but they went ahead and did it anyway.

Read More Show Less

By Richard Connor

A blood test that screens for more than 50 types of cancer could help doctors treat patients at an earlier stage than previously possible, a new study shows. The method was used to screen for more than 50 types of cancer — including particularly deadly variants such as pancreatic, ovarian, bowel and brain.

Read More Show Less