In 2002, Paul Crutzen, the Nobel Prize–winning chemist, suggested that the Holocene had ended and that we had entered a new epoch, the Anthropocene, because of the global environmental effects of increased human population and economic development. Independent working groups of scientists from various geological societies have worked to determine if the Anthropocene should be formally accepted into the Geological Time Scale. The term is now broadly accepted by the geoscience community, with the Geological Society of America recently titling their Annual Meeting in 2011 Archean to Anthropocene: The past is the key to the future.
The start of the Anthropocene is debated, but most consider it to have begun with the Industrial Revolution (late 18th Century), although others argue it should be defined at about 14,000 to 15,000 years ago when humans first started to alter landscapes significantly. Nevertheless, the Anthropocene is the geologic time when humans have impacted land use, ecosystems, biodiversity, species extinction, the atmosphere, hydrosphere, and cryosphere. Study of the Anthropocene is essential for us to assess our impact on Earth and to help predict future changes to our planet, including environmental risk assessment and hazard mitigation.