Anthropocene epoch declaration rejected

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Source-This post on Anthropocene epoch declaration rejected is based on the article “Why scientists voted down proposal to declare start of the Anthropocene — and what it means” published in “The Indian Express” on 8th March 2024.

Why in the News?

Recently, a committee of 18 scientists have voted against the proposal to declare the start of the Anthropocene or Human Epoch in the geological time scale.

What is Geological time scale (GTS)?

Geological time scale (GTS)

1. About:
a. Scientists have designed it to measure the history of planet Earth.
b. GTS organizes Earth’s history into different sections like aeons, eras, periods, epochs, and ages. It begins with Earth’s formation and arranges them from longest to shortest durations.

2. Chronostratigraphic classification– The GTS is based on chronostratigraphic classification.
Note– Stratigraphy is the branch of geology that focuses on studying rock layers, while chronostratigraphy specifically examines how these layers relate to the measurement of geological time.

3. Present Geological time scaleWe currently live in the Phanerozoic aeon, within the Cenozoic era, the Quaternary period, the Holocene epoch, and the Meghalayan age.

Why the proposal of Human epoch?

1. Holocene epoch: The Holocene epoch started 11,700 years ago, at the end of the Last Glacial Period (LGP). All recorded human history falls within this epoch.
Note- During the Last Glacial Period (LGP), about 25% of Earth’s land was under glaciers, sea levels were up to 400 feet lower, and temperatures dropped to 8 degrees celsius on average.

2. Anthropocene proposal– The Anthropocene concept suggests that human activities have changed the Earth so much that a new geological epoch has started.

What is Anthropocene epoch?

1. Term coined-The term Anthropocene was coined in 2000 by Dutch meteorologist Paul Crutzen and American botanist Eugene Stoermer.

2. Starting of Anthropocene epoch:
a. The Anthropocene Working Group (AWG), consisting of 37 researchers, started discussions in 2009 to determine the beginning of the epoch. After several years of discussion, they settled on 1952 as the starting point.
b. The period after World War II is seen as the “Great Acceleration” during which, there was a surge in human population, fossil fuel consumption, nuclear testing fallout, widespread use of nitrogen-based fertilizers, and increased prevalence of plastics.
c. The AWG submitted its proposal to the International Union of Geological Sciences (IUGS) in 2023. The Subcommission on Quaternary Stratigraphy (SQS), a body of the International Commission on Stratigraphy, voted on the proposal, and rejected it.

Why the scientists rejected this proposal ?

1. Contention on starting date– The proposal identified 1952 as the beginning of the Anthropocene, citing the global plutonium fallout from nuclear weapons tests. Opponents contend that human impact began earlier, including activities like farming, and cannot be confined to a single date.

2- Epoch definition standards– The IUGS committee found that adding an Anthropocene epoch and ending the Holocene didn’t match the usual standards for defining epochs using chronostratigraphy.

UPSC Syllabus- Geography

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