A team of scientists has suggested that the Earth might be on the threshold of entering a new geological epoch, which might include the sixth largest mass extinction in the planet’s history.
The scientists include Jan Zalasiewicz and Mark Williams from the University of Leicester Department of Geology; Will Steffen, director of the Australian National University’s Climate Change Institute and Paul Crutzen, the Nobel Prize-winning atmospheric chemist from Mainz University.
The scientists propose that, in just two centuries, humans have wrought such vast and unprecedented changes to our world that we actually might be ushering in a new geological time interval, and alter the planet for millions of years.
Zalasiewicz, Williams, Steffen and Crutzen contend that recent human activity, including stunning population growth, sprawling megacities and increased use of fossil fuels, have changed the planet to such an extent that we are entering what they call the Anthropocene (New Man) Epoch. First proposed by Crutzen more than a decadeago, the term Anthropocene has provoked controversy.
However, as more potential consequences of human activity — such as global climate change and sharp increases in plant and animal extinctions — have emerged, Crutzen’s term has gained support.
However, scientists note that getting that formal designation will possibly be contentious.