Human industrialisation over the past century means Earth is in its first new geological epoch in 11,500 years.
This is the agreed view of The Working Group on the Anthropocene, who say the human spread of plastics, metals and concrete, as well as climate change, has created the Anthropocene epoch which we live in now.
A geological epoch is a time unit used in measuring the age of rocks and fossils, by understanding what characterised the earth at the time. The team of 35 scientists voted and concluded the contemporary changes to global systems were significant enough for the new age to be proclaimed, which is defined by human domination on the planet.
The Anthropocene has been debated by scientists since the phrase was coined by Paul Crutzen and Eugene Stoermer in 2000, but this is the biggest official decision on the matter.
The epoch which the scientists say we just left is known as the Holocene epoch and began in 9,700 BC, but previous epochs such as the Pleistocene lasted millions of years. Scientists are now working to find what they call a “golden spike”, a physical reference point on Earth used to define the start of the era.
Professor Jan Zalasiewicz of the University of Leicester was part of the group and told the Daily Telegraph: “Human action has certainly left traces on the earth for thousands of years, if you know where to look.”
“The difference between that and what has happened in the last century or so is that the impact is global and taking place at pretty much the same time across the whole Earth. It is affecting the functioning of the whole Earth system.”