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June 14, 2024

Are We in the ‘Anthropocene,’ the Human Age? Nope, Scientists Say.

Are We in the ‘Anthropocene,’ the Human Age? Nope, Scientists Say.

Climate|Are We in the ‘Anthropocene,’ the Human Age? Nope, Scientists Say.




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A panel of experts voted down a proposal to officially declare the start of a new interval of geologic time, one defined by humanity’s changes to the planet.

In weighing their decision, scientists considered the effect on the world of nuclear activity. A 1946 test blast over Bikini atoll.Credit…Jack Rice/Associated Press

The Triassic was the dawn of the dinosaurs. The Paleogene saw the rise of mammals. The Pleistocene included the last ice ages.

Is it time to mark humankind’s transformation of the planet with its own chapter in Earth history, the “Anthropocene,” or the human age?

Not yet, scientists have decided, after a debate that has spanned nearly 15 years. Or the blink of an eye, depending on how you look at it.

A committee of roughly two dozen scholars has, by a large majority, voted down a proposal to declare the start of the Anthropocene, a newly created epoch of geologic time, according to an internal announcement of the voting results seen by The New York Times.

By geologists’ current timeline of Earth’s 4.6-billion-year history, our world right now is in the Holocene, which began 11,700 years ago with the most recent retreat of the great glaciers. Amending the chronology to say we had moved on to the Anthropocene would represent an acknowledgment that recent, human-induced changes to geological conditions had been profound enough to bring the Holocene to a close.

The declaration would shape terminology in textbooks, research articles and museums worldwide. It would guide scientists in their understanding of our still-unfolding present for generations, perhaps even millenniums, to come.

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