Global warming is causing earthquakes and giant landslides, according to some scientists, one of which is going so far as to call the coming wrath an age of havoc.
The natural disasters are being caused by the melting of the Earth’s ice caps and increases in sea levels, according to Bill McGuire, Professor of Geophysical and Climate Hazards at London’s University College, in the United Kingdom. According to Professor McGuire, the weight of the ice sheets is putting weight on the land under them, and that weight is then transferred to the seabed when the ice sheets melt into the ocean, creating a “geological havoc.”
Professor McGuire says this happened at the end of the last ice age, when 52 million cubic kilometers of water melted into the oceans, raising sea levels by 130 metres, which caused an 8-magnitude earthquake in Scandinavia.
The recent earthquake in the Philippines was 7.2 on the Richter scale for comparison. Professor McGuire isn’t the only scientist linking earthquakes to climate change. Patrick Wu, Professor of Geophysics at the University of Calgary in Canada has amassed much research on the issue too. Though Professor Wu’s research says earthquakes due to climate change would be between 5 to 7 in magnitude.
Scientists have linked many natural disasters to climate change, usually ones that form in the atmosphere, such as hurricanes, tropical storms and tornadoes. Linking natural disasters, which form under the Earth’s surface, to climate change, is controversial, as the correlation between climatic events and the movements of our planet’s tectonic plates is a new field of study.
The argument is that although we perceive an increase in major earthquakes, this perception is due to better technologies and the fact that the earthquakes are hitting major cities.
Earthquakes in major cities such as Sumatra in 2004 (which caused a tsunami across the Indian Ocean, which killed thousands), Chile and Haiti in 2010, Japan in 2011, and recent quake in the Philippines affect thousands of people, because of their densely populated regions.
Technology has made it easier to record earthquakes, and because we live in a global society, we are more aware of these across the globe via the worldwide media and even the Internet.
All of that is true; however, scientists for decades have been measuring the melting of our planet’s ice caps and the associated alarming increases in sea levels across the globe.
We aren’t talking about a little ice cube being dropped into the ocean either – the Arctic covers almost 40 percent of Canada’s landmass, the melting of glacial ice in Iceland is so massive, it’s causing massive amounts of dust to enter our atmosphere to create “dust storms” which black out the Sun.
Canada’s Arctic, the glacial ice of Iceland, Greenland, and other massive ice sheets across the globe have been melting due to climatic changes. According to the American government’s Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), sea levels across the globe have risen 15-20cm (6-8 inches) in the past 100 years. There are some estimates that by 2100, sea levels could rise as much as 50 centimetres (20 inches).
Fifty centimetres doesn’t seem like a big increase – just a drop in the proverbial bucket. However, if the polar ice caps melted, it would affect over 10 million people living in low-lying major metropolitan areas around the globe – most of our major cities around the world would be under water.
All of that additional water would put pressure on the tectonic plates beneath, which could produce earthquakes and landslides.
So, can climate change be directly linked to the earthquake in the Philippines?
We may never fully know, as research into the link between earthquakes and global warming is ongoing. However, our dependence on fossil fuels, petrochemical products and other creature comforts is changing the landscape, whether we’d like to admit it or not.