This article sets out the current controversy among geologists about the definition of the geological age in which we are living. The Geologic Time Scale is a massive achievement that divides the whole of the Earth’s history into meaningful units of time representing key changes in the Earth system, typically based on new lifeforms appearing in the fossil record. The system splits geological time into ever finer “nested” units: eons being the longest, followed by eras then periods, epochs and finally ages…. two “committees”, some scientists wedded to the Holocene, others backing the acknowledgement of the Anthropocene are in dispute.
The article author challenges the use of ‘epoch’ for the Holocene that is one of 45 inter-glacial phases in the last 2.5 million years. He also criticises the Holocene committee for ignoring the evident huge impact of humans in the last 500 years on both the physical an d life environments of the planet’s surface which the Anthropocene committee favours as the most recent geological epoch.
The article links to two relevant short videos that elaborate differences in the two geological perspectives. From the perspective of this Spaceship Earth website, to ignore the Great Acceleration of human impact on the planet since the 1950s suggests a remarkable oversight of the IGCU Holocene committee on stratigraphy. Humans now move and construct more ‘strata’ than do the natural forces of erosion, not to mention adding larger quantities of CO2 to the atmosphere and creating a hole in the ozone layer!
A new research report referred to in this Guardian article offers in graphic form a catalogue of ten climate change trends and effects that may combine to greatly hasten the heating of Spaceship Earth. Feedback loops are likely to amplify one another leading to effects that will make any efforts to reduce CO2 emissions, of little consequence.,
One of the authors of the Stockholm Resilence Centre research Johann Rockström says there are huge gaps in data and knowledge about how one process might amplify another. Contrary to the Gaia theory, which suggests the Earth has a self-righting tendency, he says the feedbacks could push the planet to a more extreme state. As an example, the authors say the loss of Greenland ice could disrupt the Gulf Stream ocean current, which would raise sea levels and accumulate heat in the Southern Ocean, which would in turn accelerate ice loss from the east Antarctic. Concerns about this possibility were heightened earlier this year by reports that the Gulf Stream was at its weakest level in 1,600 years. Currently, global average temperatures are just over 1C above pre-industrial levels and rising at 0.17C per decade. The Paris climate agreement set actions to keep warming limited to 1.5C-2C by the end of the century, but the authors warn more drastic action may be necessary.
This is the link to the research paper
“Trajectories of the Earth System in the Anthropocene” in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Science (PNAS) in the USA.
This long read with rich interactive images, is from 1st August 2018 New York Times on-line. It takes a look at the way climate science in the early 1980s set out the trends that now are having great impact on the earth’s atmosphere and oceans and threatening present and future generations. It details some of the key scientific figures whose work three decades ago created the base for understanding climate change brought about by human action.
Here in a review of the NYT article, Naomi Klein takes issue with the NYT author’s failure to recognise that the 1980s was the decade in which politically supported neo-liberal capitalist values were set in train – the so-called Reagan-Thatcher years, Klein herself has written a major book that presents the argument that the ascendancy of powerful corporate interests, especially fossil fuel corporations, were able to mount a campaign of climate denial at that time. Offering a sliver of hope about the present, Klein sees the appearance of social democratic contenders in US politics as a counterblast to the present earth-wrecking policies of the current administration.
And here a second critical review from Common Dreams that supports the view that neo-liberal policies are the main driver of climate change,