Consensus Science: Anthropocene Version

Visitor “This might truly be science by voting” by David Middleton

In my most up-to-date submit addressing the Anthropocene, one commentator grew to become obsessive about the truth that to ensure that it to be adopted as a geological time interval, a minimum of three teams must approve it.

From Finney & Edwards, 2016.  “Workflow for approval and ratification of a World Normal Stratotype Part and Level (GSSP) proposal. Intensive dialogue and analysis happens on the stage of the working group, subcommission, and Worldwide Fee on Stratigraphy (ICS) Bureau. If authorized at these successive ranges, a proposal is forwarded to the Worldwide Union of Geological Sciences (IUGS) for ratification. This course of can also be adopted for different ICS choices on standardization, comparable to approval of names of formal models, of revisions to the models, and to revision or substitute of GSSPs.”

Science by voting. How come they use 60% as an alternative of 97% ?

I by no means did work out this commentator’s level. The voting is on whether or not or to not undertake a brand new subdivision within the geological time scale. It’s not voting on the science. The Anthropocene Working Group (AWG) should make a geologically coherent case that the Holocene Epoch has ended and an Anthropocene Epoch has begun. To date, they don’t actually have a 97% “consensus” inside the AWG.

Outcomes of binding vote by AWG

Launched twenty first Might 2019

Following steering from the Subcommission on Quaternary Stratigraphy and the Worldwide Fee on Stratigraphy, the AWG have accomplished a binding vote to affirm a number of the key questions that had been voted on and agreed on the IGC Cape City assembly in 2016. The main points are as follows:

No. of potential voting members: 34 No. required to be quorate (60%): 21 No. of votes acquired: 33 (97% of voting membership)

Q1. Ought to the Anthropocene be handled as a proper chrono-stratigraphic unit outlined by a GSSP?

29 voted in favour (88% of votes solid); 4 voted in opposition to; no abstentions

Q2. Ought to the first information for the bottom of the Anthropocene be one of many stratigraphic indicators across the mid-twentieth century of the Widespread Period?

29 voted in favour (88% of votes solid); 4 voted in opposition to; no abstentions

Each votes exceed the 60% supermajority of solid votes required to be agreed by the Anthropocene Working Group because the official stance of the group and can information their subsequent evaluation.

Anthropocene Working Group

Key Phrases & Abbreviations

  • Worldwide Union of Geological Sciences (IUGS)
  • Worldwide Fee on Stratigraphy (ICS)
  • Subcommission on Quaternary Stratigraphy (SQS)
  • Anthropocene Working Group (AWG)
  • World Boundary Stratotype Sections and Factors (GSSP’s, AKA “Golden Spikes”)

The Anthropocene Working Group

The AWG is populated by local weather change zealots, like Naomi Oreskes…

The AWG brand is a Mannian Hockey Stick!

It’s sort of stunning that after 10 years, they couldn’t give you a 97% consensus. The AWG was shaped in 2009. It took them 10 years to resolve if they need to put the bottom of the Anthropocene within the mid-Twentieth century. I believe this may be the primary unit of geological time for which the choice of when it occurred preceded its geological foundation.

As soon as they choose their consultant marker, researchers working with the AWG want to assemble sufficient proof from world wide to persuade the governing our bodies of geoscience that they’ve discovered a really dependable sign for the beginning of the Anthropocene. However some scientists argue that human exercise has been shaping the planet for 1000’s of years, and that the working group has settled too shortly on the Nineteen Fifties for the beginning of the proposed epoch. Erle Ellis, a geographer on the College of Maryland, Baltimore County, and an AWG member, has criticized the committee’s plans for designating the beginning of the Anthropocene. “The AWG determined the timing of the boundary earlier than deciding on the marker, not the opposite manner round,” says Ellis.

Exhausting proof

Ultimately, it will likely be the rocks which have the ultimate say.

Nature August 2019

AWG’s December 2020 publication outlined a number of the websites they’re contemplating for the Anthropocene’s “Golden Spike.” I’ll write up a submit, exploring these in additional element… Nevertheless, if “it will likely be the rocks which have the ultimate say,” there aren’t a variety of precise sedimentary rocks which can be lower than 70 years outdated. Most of the Pleistocene sandstones within the Gulf of Mexico, aren’t really “rocks” and they’re fairly a bit older than 70 years.

The AWG’s Attraction to Consensus

The AWG has analyzed a variety of features of the Anthropocene idea, with the broad vary of proof being summarized by Zalasiewicz, Waters, Williams, et al. (2019). Nevertheless, the AWG’s major job is to evaluate the Anthropocene as a possible geological time (chronostratigraphic) unit, following the flowery protocols stipulated by ICS and its father or mother physique, the Worldwide Union of Geological Sciences (IUGS). The AWG is subsequently progressing towards a proposal for a proper definition of the chronostratigraphic Anthropocene and has agreed that its isochronous base could be outlined by stratigraphic indicators related to the Nice Acceleration of the mid-twentieth century (Anthropocene Working Group, 2019).

There has, nevertheless, been a rising improvement of different and fairly completely different understandings of the Anthropocene by each a small minority of AWG members and amongst a number of disciplines outdoors geology starting from the pure and social sciences to the humanities and humanities (see Ellis, 2018; Horn & Bergthaller, 2020; Thomas et al., 2020). The origin of those various understandings could stem again to the title of the Crutzen (2002) publication—“Geology of Mankind” and the by-line typically used when referring to the Anthropocene, as “the human age” (e.g., Braje, 2015; Monastersky, 2015) or “Age of People” (H. Waters, 2016). This has led many to make use of the time period Anthropocene to embody the idea of all discernable human impacts on the planet—a wider idea than Crutzen initially supposed. On this broader view, the Anthropocene’s origin is diachronous, that’s, time-transgressive and varies regionally, towards the time when Homo sapiens first gained collective capacities to alter Earth’s ecology in unprecedented methods. The number of key occasions when human societies first started to play a major position in shaping the planet generally displays completely different disciplinary views, each as concerning contested experience inside the sciences (Robin, 2013) and past them. For instance, anthropologists and archaeologists could analyse the event of the primary city communities, or the event of agriculture both expressed within the sedimentary document as altering pollen data or inferred from modified atmospheric compositions. In distinction, as a geological job group in chronostratigraphy, the AWG investigates the Anthropocene in accordance with the mandate given to it by the SQS, as a possible geological time unit throughout which “human modification of pure programs has turn into predominant” (SQS, 2009), reasonably than domestically or regionally important.

This paper explores the various, however typically overlapping, understandings of those “anthropocenes” and contemplates whether or not there may be scope for such numerous meanings for a similar time period to coexist throughout disciplines, and the way formally defining the Anthropocene as an epoch (within the geological sense) utilizing the usual chronostratigraphic strategy might contribute to and facilitate cross-disciplinary understanding.

Zalasiewicz et al., 2020

Translation: We’re having bother with the geologically coherent motive for an Anthropocene Epoch… However all of the cool youngsters are going full-Anthropocene! So let’s invoke “disciplines outdoors geology starting from the pure and social sciences to the humanities and humanities.”

Zalasiewicz et al, 2020 included an attention-grabbing graphical comparability of the Ediacaran-Cambrian boundary to the proposed Holocene-Anthropocene boundary:

Determine 1 from Zalasiewicz et al., 2020

How do we all know Trilobites advanced roughly 521 million years in the past? As a result of the oldest well-preserved Trilobite fossils are about 521 million years outdated. Any bets on how well-preserved the fossil proof of our “33 megacities” might be 500 million years after we’re gone?

It’s additionally vital to notice that the anthropological, archaeological and cultural gadgets listed to the correct of the Neogene-Quaternary time scale weren’t used to outline the subdivisions of the Holocene. The GSSP’s had been within the rocks…

A collection of votes

Just like the stratigraphic document that the researchers are finding out, the choice to formally designate the Anthropocene is multilayered. The AWG goals to current a closing proposal figuring out a mid-twentieth-century GSSP to its father or mother physique, the Quaternary Subcommission of the ICS, by 2021. If authorized, the proposal might be voted on by the ICS and can then proceed to the chief committee of the Worldwide Union of Geological Sciences (IUGS) for closing ratification. Provided that it passes all these hurdles will the Anthropocene formally turn into a brand new unit of the Worldwide Chronostratigraphic Chart, extra generally generally known as the Geological Time Scale. To date, all 65 GSSPs which were ratified are from marine environments, apart from the one marking the beginning of the Holocene, which makes use of a Greenland ice core.

The formal course of has moved rather more slowly than has standard tradition, which has already embraced the Anthropocene and used the time period on every thing from document albums to journal covers. However the AWG is evident that its mandate is to make choices based mostly on the stratigraphic document alone.

Not everyone seems to be satisfied it may well try this but. One sore level is that the working group decided on when to set the boundary, although it had not but settled on a golden spike within the stratigraphic document. “It’s an imposition of concepts onto matter, shaping proof to suit, nevertheless it needs to be the opposite manner round,” says Matt Edgeworth, an archaeologist on the College of Leicester.

Edgeworth is a member of the AWG however voted in opposition to the choice to acknowledge the Anthropocene.

Nature August 2019

Glacial ice is a mineral… So, technically, continental ice sheets are rock formations.

A mineral is outlined as a naturally occurring, homogeneous stable, inorganically shaped, with a particular chemical composition( or vary of compositions), and an ordered atomic association. Water doesn’t move the take a look at of being a stable so it isn’t thought of a mineral though ice; which is stable, is assessed as a mineral so long as it’s naturally occurring. Thus ice in a snow financial institution is a mineral, however ice in an ice dice from a fridge is just not. The one exception to this rule ( there at all times appear to be one ) is that mercury is taken into account a mineral (extra a results of historical past – mercury was an vital alchemical substance).


Rocks are composed of a number of minerals. A mineral is a naturally occurring, homogenous, inorganic substance having a particular chemical composition and glued crystal construction. So, any naturally occurring ice, the crystalline type of water (H2O), might be thought of a mineral. Now coming to the idea of glaciers, the glacial ice, like granite, might be thought of a rock. Effectively, not precisely like granite which is an igneous rock (a rock shaped by solidification of molten magma or lava), however extra like a quartzite, a mono-mineralic metamorphic rock (a rock shaped by alteration of a pre-existing rock) (Fig.2). The mineral on this case is ice.

Geoscience Training

Though, the selection of an ice core for a GSSP might be not a good suggestion. As ice continues to build up on the Greenland Ice Sheet, the Pleistocene/Holocene boundary will quickly (geologically) be deformed and finally discharged. The Holocene Epoch shouldn’t even be an epoch.  It needs to be an interglacial stage inside the Higher Pleistocene, reasonably than an epoch of equal stature to the Pleistocene. The Pleistocene-Holocene boundary, so clear within the NGRIP ice core, loses all of its uniqueness in Antarctic ice cores, which seize a number of Late Quaternary glacial-interglacial transitions.

If the Holocene Epoch is a mistake, the Anthropocene Epoch could be a joke…

The Anthropocene Is a Joke

On geological timescales, human civilization is an occasion, not an epoch.


People at the moment are residing in a brand new geological epoch of our personal making: the Anthropocene. Or so we’re informed. Whereas some epochs in Earth historical past stretch greater than 40 million years, this new chapter began possibly 400 years in the past, when carbon dioxide dipped by a number of elements per million within the environment. Or maybe, as a panel of scientists voted earlier this yr, the epoch began as just lately as 75 years in the past, when atomic weapons started to mud the planet with an evanescence of unusual radioisotopes.

These are uncommon claims about geology, a subject that usually offers with mile-thick packages of rock stacked up over tens of tens of millions of years, whereby whole mountain ranges are born and climate away to nothing inside a single unit of time, through which extraordinarily exact rock dates—single-frame snapshots from deep time—can include 50,000-year error bars, a span nearly 10 occasions so long as all of recorded human historical past. If having an epoch shorter than an error bar appears unusual, properly, so is the Anthropocene.


The concept of the Anthropocene is an attention-grabbing thought experiment. For these invested within the stratigraphic arcana of this infinitesimal second in time, it serves as a helpful catalog of our junk. However it may well additionally serve to inflate humanity’s legacy on an ever-churning planet that can shortly destroy—or conceal ceaselessly—even our most superior creations.


Maybe, sometime, our sign within the rocks might be discovered, however provided that eagle-eyed stratigraphers, from God is aware of the place on the tree of life, crisscross their very own rearranged Earth, assiduously looking for us. However they might be unlikely to be rewarded for his or her effort. On the finish of all their travels—after cataloging all of the bedrock of the whole planet—they could lastly be led to an odd, razor-thin stratum hiding midway up some eroding, far-flung desert canyon. In the event that they then someway discovered an accompanying plaque left behind by humanity that purports to assign this uncommon layer its personal epoch—sandwiched in these cliffs, and embarrassed above and beneath by gigantic edifices of limestone, siltstone, and shale—this declare would quantity to proof of little greater than our personal species’ astounding anthropocentrism. Except we quick learn to endure on this planet, and on a scale far past something we’ve but proved ourselves able to, the detritus of civilization might be shortly devoured by the maw of deep time.


Even worse for our long-term preservation—lengthy after humanity’s temporary, synthetic greenhouse fever—we’re very more likely to return to our frequently scheduled programming and dive again right into a punishing Ice Age within the subsequent half-million years. 


However what would we depart on the seafloor, the place most sedimentary rock is made, the place many of the fossils are, and the place we now have a barely higher probability of recording our decades-long “epoch” within the rocks? Effectively, many marine sediments within the fossil document collected, over untold eons, from the diaphanous snowfall of plankton and silt, at a fee of little greater than a centimeter per thousand years. Given this unfastened metric (and our present maturity as a species), a dozen centimeters of muck appears an optimistic purpose for civilization.

A dozen centimeters is a pathetic epoch, however epoch or not, it could be a particularly attention-grabbing layer. It’s tempting to suppose a whisper of atomic-weapons testing would stay. The Promethean fireplace unleashed by the Manhattan Mission was an earth-changing invention, its unusual fallout destined to endure in some type as an unmistakable geological marker of the Anthropocene. However the longest-lived radioisotope from radioactive fallout, iodine-129, has a half-life of lower than 16 million years. If there have been a nuclear holocaust within the Triassic, amongst warring prosauropods, we wouldn’t learn about it.

The Atlantic

“Maybe, sometime, our sign within the rocks might be discovered”… Perhaps the dreaded Plutonium, an evil man-made aspect.

242Pu, with its half-life of 375,000 years, decays into 238U, the commonest naturally occurring Uranium isotope.

 Years  242Pu  238U
                             – 100.0% 0.0%
                 373,000 50.0% 50.0%
                 746,000 25.0% 75.0%
              1,119,000 12.5% 87.5%
              1,492,000 6.3% 93.8%
              1,865,000 3.1% 96.9%
              2,238,000 1.6% 98.4%
              2,611,000 0.8% 99.2%
              2,984,000 0.4% 99.6%
              3,357,000 0.2% 99.8%
              3,730,000 0.1% 99.9%
              4,103,000 0.0% 100.0%

It will likely be undetectable in lower than 5 million years, changed by “the commonest isotope of uranium present in nature.”

Perhaps cement and brick… What do you suppose cement and brick will climate into?

 Portland Cement
 Lime (CaO)  60 to 67%
 Silica (SiO2)  17 to 25%
 Alumina (Al2O3)  3 to eight%
 Iron oxide (Fe2O3)  0.5 to six%
 Magnesia (MgO)  0.1 to 4%
 Sulphur trioxide (SO3)  1 to three%
 Soda and/or Potash (Na2O+Okay2O)  0.5 to 1.3%


Silica (sand) – 50% to 60% by weight

Alumina (clay) – 20% to 30% by weight

Lime – 2 to five% by weight

Iron oxide – ≤ 7% by weight

Magnesia – lower than 1% by weight

What do you suppose the Earth’s crust is made out of? The entire uncooked supplies in cement and brick got here from the Earth’s crust.

Ultimately, it will likely be the rocks which have the ultimate say.

Two years in the past, the AWG was aiming to current a GSSP proposal by 2021.

The AWG goals to current a closing proposal figuring out a mid-twentieth-century GSSP to its father or mother physique, the Quaternary Subcommission of the ICS, by 2021. If authorized, the proposal might be voted on by the ICS and can then proceed to the chief committee of the Worldwide Union of Geological Sciences (IUGS) for closing ratification. Provided that it passes all these hurdles will the Anthropocene formally turn into a brand new unit of the Worldwide Chronostratigraphic Chart, extra generally generally known as the Geological Time Scale. To date, all 65 GSSPs which were ratified are from marine environments, apart from the one marking the beginning of the Holocene, which makes use of a Greenland ice core.

Nature August 2019

Now the AWG is taking pictures for 2024…

ICS statutes indicated that by the tip of the present cycle the AWG would wish to dissolve and on the invitation of the brand new SQS Chair to reassemble for an extra four-year time period. It was an excellent honour to be requested to step up from the teams’ place as Secretary to the position of Chair at this crucial time of GSSP evaluation, which is anticipated to be accomplished inside this time period and a proposal be formulated in time for IGC 2024. In preparation for this, the group reassembled with voting members (these with chronostratigraphic experience appropriate for voting on the GSSP proposals) and advisory members, who will proceed our work on investigating the stratigraphic and wider that means of the Anthropocene.

AWG December 2020 publication

If I didn’t know higher (/SARC), I could be inclined to suppose they’re ready for Dr. Stanley Finney to step down from his submit. In 2021, Dr. Finney started his second four-year time period because the Secretary Basic of the Worldwide Union of Geological Sciences (IUGS), which must ratify an Anthropocene Epoch.

The utility of the Anthropocene requires cautious consideration by its varied potential customers. Its idea is essentially completely different from the chronostratigraphic models which can be established by ICS in that the documentation and examine of the human influence on the Earth system are based mostly extra on direct human statement than on a stratigraphic document. The drive to formally acknowledge the Anthropocene could, in reality, be political reasonably than scientific.

Finney & Edwards, 2016

A modest proposal

No… Not that modest proposal. Let’s do away with the Holocene Epoch. Demote it to an Age/Stage of the Pleistocene Epoch and name it the Anthropolitan: The fabulous age of metropolitan people. Simply don’t blink your eyes in your drive by means of geologic time… You’ll miss it.

‘Habitus’ (2013 – ongoing) is an artwork set up by Robyn Woolston (, commissioned by Edge Hill College, which publicizes the Anthropocene epoch, Vegas-style. AAPG Explorer.


Brannen, Peter. THE ANTHROPOCENE IS A JOKE:On geological timescales, human civilization is an occasion, not an epoch. The Atlantic, 2019.

Finney, Stanley C. & Lucy E. Edwards. “The “Anthropocene” epoch: Scientific determination or political assertion?” GSA In the present day, 2016; 26 (3): 4 DOI: 10.1130/GSATG270A.1

Subramanian, Meera. People versus Earth: the hunt to outline the Anthropocene. Nature 572, 168-170 (2019). doi:

Zalasiewicz, J., Waters, C. N., Ellis, E. C., Head, M. J., Vidas, D., Steffen, W., et al. (2021). The Anthropocene: Evaluating its that means in geology (chronostratigraphy) with conceptual approaches arising in different disciplines. Earth’s Future, 9, e2020EF001896.

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