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Enter the Anthropocene: an Epoch of time characterised by humans
journal contributionposted on 2020-06-04, 14:46 authored by Mark Williams, J Zalasiewicz
The Fourth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change suggests changes to water supply, ecosystems, biodiversity, food supply, coastal regions and human health based on a 1˚C to 5˚C change in global climate. Changes to the life support system of planet Earth become profound beyond a 2˚C mean rise in global temperature, well within the envelope of global warming predicted for the 21st century. With a greater rise in global temperature ‘significant extinctions’ are anticipated on a scale that has not occurred for millions of years. In this context it is vital that we establish the rate and degree of present environmental change and set that against similar fundamental changes in the past. To this end, the concept of an Anthropocene Epoch of geological time, first conceptualised by the Nobel winning scientist Paul Crutzen, forms an excellent and readily accessible medium for assessing the degree of environmental change caused by humans.