Climate Change: Shaking the World

It is no secret that there are more natural disasters happening than usual in the previous months. Most recently, there has been talk about the major earthquakes devastating so many. Not only have these earthquakes been hitting in shorter time frames, they have been hitting at higher magnitudes as well. This is leaving people wanting answers and explanations. What we want to know is why is this happening? And does climate change have anything to do with it?

Recently, Mexico has been hit with 2 major earthquakes. According to a writer from Vox.com, Umair Irfan, “The first, the strongest in a century at magnitude 8.2, occurred off of the Southern Mexican coast near Chiapas state on September 7, killing 98. Another powerful — but seismically unrelated — earthquake struck Tuesday 100 miles Southwest of Mexico’s sprawling capital. This magnitude 7.1 quake has killed at least 230 people in and around Mexico City so far.” (1,2) The article later explains that earthquakes can possibly be man-made. This can be from injecting wastewater into the ground and essentially lubricating faults. (Irfan 41) Climate change also plays a role in these earthquakes according to Irfan, though the amount of influence is small. Irfan also explains that increasing average temperatures will cause ice to melt and return water to the ocean, causing the land underneath the ice to move because the pressure on it has decreased. (48) This means that the water melting could cause the plates to move and create an earthquake.

Bill McGuire, a writer from The Guardian, has similar views to Irfan. The article explains that there is a link between climate change and all recent natural disasters. In relevance to the recent earthquakes, McGuire explains that in order to make the ice sheets that are melting in the first place, water was taken from the oceans and frozen.(8) In return, McGuire states, “As the ice sheets melted so this gigantic volume of water was returned, bending the crust around the margins of the oceans basins under the enormous added weight, and provoking volcanoes in the vicinity to erupt and faults to rupture, bringing geological mayhem to regions remote from the ice’s polar fastnesses.” (9) This argument is similar to Irfan’s from Vox.com, both authors argue that the melting ice sheets cause the faults to move, influencing earthquakes.

With the talk of climate change becoming more prevalent in the past few years, citizens have taken it upon themselves to prepare for the disastrous outcomes. In an article written on Newsweek.com, author Kristin Hugo explains the effects of humans on earthquakes. In her article, Hugo uses Lima as an example when talking about how preparation for the effects of climate change influence earthquakes. According to the author, the people of Lima fear that the glaciers melting will hinder their water source, so in response they build reservoirs. (Hugo 4,5) Hugo states, “The water in the reservoir can lubricate faults, and filling and draining the reservoir creates and lifts pressure. Furthermore, filling a reservoir can force pressure on water at the bottom, which can run into the ground and create cracks and instability.” (6) Though it has been proven that areas with reservoirs have more seismic activity, it can be argued that there was seismic activity present there anyways. (Hugo 10) Therefore, this theory can only be proven with more research but in the time being it seems to be a viable source.

With a completely different perspective, an article on the Pollution Solutions website argues that climate change doesn’t cause earthquakes, but rather that earthquakes cause climate change. The article explains that when earthquakes occur methane is released from the sub-sea level pockets in the Earth. The article states, “Methane is classed as a greenhouse gas and is much more harmful than carbon dioxide when released uncombusted into the atmosphere. Although methane only remains in the atmosphere for around a decade, it is 25-times more damaging than carbon dioxide over a 100-year period. Excess uncombusted methane in the atmosphere traps heat from the sun and contributes to the Earth’s increasing surface temperatures.” (Pollution Solutions 2) This means that as more earthquakes occur, more methane is trapped and the higher the atmospheric temperature gets. According to the other articles, this could cause ice sheets to melt, in turn causing more earthquakes. Meaning this could potentially be a cycle of natural disasters causing climate change and climate change causing natural disasters.

When it comes to labeling one of these theories as right, I would side with author Bill McGuire from the Guardian. Though none of these theories have been proven correct, his argument seems to be the most logical and has plenty of evidence to back it up. With the atmospheric temperature rising, it has been proven that the ice sheets have been melting at fast rates. Thus, supporting his theory that the ice melting at such a fast rate puts too much pressure on the plates and causes them to shift, creating earthquakes. Rather than to put theories to test that aren’t really supported, McGuire’s is very simple and the evidence is available for us to see just by looking at Antarctica. His theory is by far the most correct.

The article I would have to disagree with is from Pollution Solutions. Though the evidence that methane is released from the Earth during earthquakes is compelling, it doesn’t sound logical. If this theory were true there would be a never-ending cycle of earthquakes. In reality, major earthquakes happen years apart. Therefore, it doesn’t seem accurate that methane released during earthquakes could be the cause of earthquakes. This theory would be very hard to prove, and the evidence doesn’t necessarily make sense so I believe it is the least correct.

Considering the recent natural disasters that are effecting the world, many have wanted answers as to why this is happening. Scientists are using this time and these disasters to put as much evidence out for the world to see as possible. All of this has brought up the climate change debate of whether it is even real or not. Looking at all the articles written about climate change and its correlation to earthquakes, I believe it effects natural disasters. No matter what size of an impact climate change has, it is an impact nonetheless.

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