New research indicates that the Earth has entered a new geological epoch, and it’s due to human activity. Scientists looked at the scale and rate of environmental changes in the Earth’s atmosphere, oceans, and wildlife-which other recent reports indicate is at an unprecedented high-and compared them to changes during previous time periods. In every category, the consequences of human activity reflect enough change to justify the official designation of a new geological epoch, researchers say.
The study, published January 8 in Science, details the collective environmental impact caused by humans and makes a strong case for announcing the end of the current Holocene era, which began around 12,000 years ago. The time period beginning with the Industrial Revolution has the proposed name of “Anthropocene,” with the root referring to the significance of human impact on the geological condition of the Earth. The International Commission on Stratigraphy is the organization responsible for measuring the geological changes that determine units on the geological time scale. They’ll review the study later this year before making the official ruling.
At this point, our readers will be familiar with many of the environmental changes the research team addressed. Increasing global temperatures, carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere, the abundance of concrete jungles, diminishing wildlife species and their habitats – the list could go on and on. But one of the most crucial elements here, and a fact that strongly supports the claim for a new epoch, is the continued presence of isotopes from nuclear weapons testing that took place in the 1950s and 60s.
Most people, I’d venture, don’t spend much time thinking about geological epochs. Yet, this is major news. Dr. Colin Waters, a principal geologist at the British Geological Survey and an author of the study, explains why. “What this paper does is to say the changes are as big as those that happened at the end of the last ice age,” he explains. “This is a big deal.”
Via The Guardian