Earth enters ’Age of Man': Panel votes to recognise start of the Anthropocene epoch

A panel of eminent scientists has voted to recognise the term and the dawn of the era, a vast period of geological time spanning millennia. Anthropocene means ‘age of man’ and its origin will be back-dated to the 1950s marking when mankind started irrevocably damaging the environment. Scientists are now defining when the Anthropocene started and which geological features best describe the era’s initiation.

This scientific search for a so-called “golden spike” may include the Hydrogen bomb tests of the 1950s which produced vast amounts of radioactive matter immortalised in the world’s geological records.

Increased fossil fuel consumption and the surge of chicken farming are also potential candidates for marking the Anthropocene’s start, leaving an indelible mark on the world.

The University of Leicester’s professor Jan Zalasiewicz, chaired the scientific panel which voted this week.

He said: “The Anthropocene works as a geological unit of time, process and strata.

“It is distinguishable. It is distinctive.”

Today will see the scientists discuss what else is required in order to find a “golden spike” - a clear indication of the Anthropocene in the geological record.

This clear marker the researchers are searching for is technically called a Global boundary Stratotype Section and Point (GSSP) and the future of the Anthropocene hinges on its discovery.

And as well as nailing down a date, the spike also pinpoints a primary “signal” at a specific location.

The 34-member panel will now build a proposal to put forward to the International Commission on Stratigraphy in 2021, which oversees the official geologic time chart.

Another vote will then be needed to re-write the history books and formally recognise the epoch.

Scientists refer to the period starting from 1950 as the “Great Acceleration” rise in factors associated with the human footprint.

These range from concentrations carbon dioxide, methane and stratospheric ozone in the atmosphere and an exponentially spike in population growth.

A growing scientific consensus agree the Anthropocene has started, but it is is passionately debated how to classify this geological epoch’s origin.

A popular proposal is that the 1950s’ hydrogen bomb tests offer the best marker for the birth of the Anthropocene era.

Others suggest the best sign of human-activity shaping the world will be fossil fuel remnants, plastics or fertiliser.

One of the main culprits is global warming driven by the burning of fossil fuels.

And a clear spike in the spread of invasive plant and animal species is another recent unwanted legacy of humanity.

But the tea of scientists cannot take these measures into consideration without geological evidence for them

It has to be able to measured in rocks, lake sediments, ice cores, or other such formations to meet the criteria used to determine periods.

This, however, is not a problem when it comes to the Anthropocene, Professor Zalasiewicz previously revealed.

He said: “We are spoiled for choice. There is a whole array of potential signals out there.”

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