Paris: The human impact on Earth’s chemistry and climate has cut short the 11,700-year-old geological epoch known as the Holocene and ushered in a new one, scientists said on Monday.
The Anthropocene, or “new age of man,” would start from the mid-20th century if their recommendation — submitted on Monday to the International Geological Congress in Cape Town, South Africa — is adopted.
That approval process is likely to take at least two years and requires ratification by three other academic bodies. But after seven years of deliberation, the 35-strong Working Group has unanimously recognised the Anthropocene as a reality, and voted 30-to-three (with two abstentions) for the transition to be officially registered.
“Our working model is that the optimal boundary is the mid-20th century,” said Jan Zalasiewicz, a geologist at the University of Leicester. “If adopted — and we’re a long way from that — the Holocene would finish and the Anthropocene would formally have begun.”
The new epoch should begin about 1950, the experts said, and was likely to be defined by the radioactive elements dispersed across the planet by nuclear bomb tests, although an array of other signals, including plastic pollution, soot from power stations, concrete, and even the bones left by the global proliferation of the domestic chicken were now under consideration.
The current epoch, the Holocene, is the 12,000 years of stable climate since the last ice age during which all human civilisation developed. But the striking acceleration since the mid-20th century of carbon dioxide emissions and sea level rise, the global mass extinction of species, and the transformation of land by deforestation and development mark the end of that slice of geological time, the experts argue. The Earth is so profoundly changed that the Holocene must give way to the Anthropocene.
The idea that the world had entered an epoch defined by humans was first suggested in 2000 by scientists Paul Crutzen and Eugene Stoermer....