Human impact began a new timeline on Earth in 1950s

Human impact began a new timeline on Earth in 1950s

Scientists have dubbed this epoch as the Anthropocene. Derived from Greek terms for “human” and “new” — Anthropocene — this epoch started sometime between 1950 and 1954.

Climate change
Climate change has led to more extreme weather events on the planet. (Photo: internet)
  • The Anthropocene Working Group announced the development
  • The working group is proposing that humans only started a new epoch
  • The term was first coined by Paul Crutzen in 2000

Scientists have for the first time quantified the human impact on the planet and said that it led to the beginning of a new epoch on Earth in the 1950s. From climate change to species loss and pollution, the impact has brought us where we are today.

Scientists have dubbed this epoch as the Anthropocene.

Derived from Greek terms for “human” and “new” — the Anthropocene — this epoch started sometime between 1950 and 1954. The term was first coined by Paul Crutzen and Eugene Stoermer in the year 2000 to denote the present geological time interval.

The Anthropocene Working Group, which announced the development, noted that many of these changes will persist for millennia or longer, and are altering the trajectory of the Earth System, some with permanent effects. “They are being reflected in a distinctive body of geological strata now accumulating, with the potential to be preserved into the far future,” the group said in its report.

While there is evidence worldwide that captures the impact of burning fossil fuels, detonating nuclear weapons, and dumping fertilizers and plastics on land and in waterways, the scientists are proposing a small but deep lake outside of Toronto, Canada — Crawford Lake — to place a historic marker.

The factors that led to the classification of this new epoch include an increase in erosion and sediment transport, abrupt changes in the cycles of elements such as carbon, nitrogen, and phosphorus; environmental changes generated by these perturbations, including global warming, sea-level rise; rapid changes in the biosphere both on land and in the sea; and habitat loss among others.

“It’s quite clear that the scale of change has intensified unbelievably and that has to be human impact,” said University of Leicester geologist Colin Waters, who chaired the Anthropocene Working Group.

The new classification puts the human impact on the planet in a somewhat similar category as the asteroid that led to the extinction of dinosaurs from the planet 66 million years ago.

However, while that meteorite started a whole new era, the working group is proposing that humans only started a new epoch, which is a much smaller geologic time period.

“Officially, we still live within the Meghalayan Age of the Holocene Epoch. A proposal to formalise the Anthropocene is being developed by the AWG,” the group said in its report.

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