Prelims Level
Mains Level
Prelims Syllabus : Science and Tech Mains Syllabus : GS-III Technology, Economic Development, Environment

Why in News:

  • Experts say human impact on Earth so profound that Holocene must give way to epoch defined by nuclear tests, plastic pollution and domesticated chicken

Background:

  • A team of scientists have voted to declare “Anthropocene” as a new chapter in the Earth’s geological history- the new epoch. The result builds on an informal vote taken at the 2016 International Geological Congress in Cape Town, and lays the groundwork for a formal proposal by 2021 to the International Commission on Stratigraphy.

What is it?

  • Coined by Paul Crutzen and Eugene Stoermer in 2000 to denote the present geological time interval, Anthropocene has been used to describe humanity’s large impact on the environment. Implications: The move signals the end of the Holocene epoch, which began 12,000 to 11,600 years ago.

Evidence of the Anthropocene

  • Human activity has: Pushed extinction rates of animals and plants far above the long-term average. The Earth is on course to see 75% of species become extinct in the next few centuries if current trends continue. Increased levels of climate-warming CO2 in the atmosphere at the fastest rate for 66m years, with fossil-fuel burning pushing levels from 280 parts per million before the industrial revolution to 400ppm and rising today.
  • Put so much plastic in our waterways and oceans that microplastic particles are now virtually ubiquitous, and plastics will likely leave identifiable fossil records for future generations to discover. Doubled the nitrogen and phosphorous in our soils in the past century with fertiliser use. This is likely to be the largest impact on the nitrogen cycle in 2.5bn years. Left a permanent layer of airborne particulates in sediment and glacial ice such as black carbon from fossil fuel burning.
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