Global Warming And The Earthquake In Japan

Yes, some people actually said that the earthquake in Japan is, or could be, linked to Global Warming. Which is obviously incorrect if you’ve been following the scientific literature.

But Lee doren (HowTheWorldWorks) did stumble on a grain of truth when he dealt with the subject in his video:

And I don’t want to hear any Rube Goldberg talking points on, well you see we give off carbon, and then it melts the big ice sheets up on the north pole, and those weights are pushing down on the plates, and therefore the release of the weights then leads to earthquakes. I’m sorry folks that’s not how earth quakes take place. That’s not how plate tectonics take place. I don’t want to hear any nonsense.

Now this wasn’t one of the most clear explanations, but what you can understand from this is that Lee Doren holds the opinion that the earthquake has nothing to do with global warming. And cannot be linked to any melting ice sheets and subsequent sea level rise. And he’s correct with that.

Although there is published research available that melting ice sheets can cause earthquakes. What happens is that the weight of an ice sheet actually presses the crust down. And when this pressure is released when the ice melts, the crust rebounds, in a process that is called isostatic rebound. This can cause massive earthquakes, and we’ve seen these at the end of ice ages. There are even quakes happening now due to the melting of some glaciers and ice sheets.

Now to the reference of sea level rise Lee gave, this is probably not possible that it could trigger earthquakes. As I’ve consulted with AngryWomble and she’s not aware of any links between a significant sea level rise and earthquakes. Especially not as current sea level rise is just a couple of centimetres, and is predominantly caused by the thermal expansion of the oceans. Which means that there is barely any noticeable pressure difference at the ocean floor.

So these scenarios cannot explain the quake in Japan as it was clearly triggered by plate tectonics. But as the isostatic rebound papers got some attention in the media, this very well could have planted the seed for these tweets.

But then Lee makes the following jump with his argumentation:

This demonstrates that there is no falsifiability when it comes to global warming or climate change. This is not a statement wheter or not it is actually taking place, this is just a statement on the scientific arguments of it.

He’s now actually attacking the science behind anthropogenic global warming based on several tweets. Now if you take a look at these tweets and the accounts where these originated, you will notice one thing: the people who made these tweets aren’t scientists. They were made by ordinary people who had an opinion.

And afterwards they either removed them, or tweeted corrections or clarifications. But they did get a lot of hate from people after Lee Doren paraded these tweets around to make his case. Some actually received threats because of this.

But this isn’t even the worst part. One of the tweets Lee used as an example was from a 17 year old girl from Germany. Someone who doesn’t have a mastery of the English language, and because of it didn’t format her tweet correctly. She already tweeted about what she actually meant, but she gave a very good clarification to me when I followed up with her on this:

The words chosen for my tweet, I must admit, were confusing, because I don’t know if the earthquake happened due to global warming and I don’t want to claim it either, but it’s possible that there will be more of catastrophes that really happen because of global warming, because of OUR actions. Also, while we talked about Global Warming, we didn’t know about the earthquake in Japan, so these things are not really related to each other.

In other words, she didn’t mean it in the way Lee interpreted it. She definitely didn’t deserve the hateful comments she received, or any of the other people involved in this. Yes they were wrong, but they have been correcting and clarifying themselves. And as they aren’t scientists, this can’t be used to criticise the science behind the theory.

So when Lee said the following:

What indicators, or scientific data, would take place to let us know if it has stopped for some reason or if its reversed its course. We need some scientific falsifiable data to demonstrate that. But now everything is caused by this, everything is caused by man-made climate change.

This isn’t exactly a valid argument in my opinion. For one Lee said from the onset that this couldn’t be true, and even gave some reasoning for it. And with the information I added about what’s published in the scientific literature I’ve shown this is indeed the case. Which means the statements they made were falsifiable.

However most importantly, some tweets on the internet have no bearing whatsoever on the science involved. And so Lee can’t use these as an example that the theory has reached a point that it’s no longer falsifiable. What matters is what’s in the literature and can be verified.

The entire theory rests on evidence and facts that either validate or disprove parts of it. And this is constantly tested against new evidence and scrutinized by scientists on validity. It’s a continuing process where bad research gets weeded out and scientific knowledge and understanding gets corrected and amended.

Don’t start parading tweets around to try to make your case. If you want to criticise the theory do it on the science. As using tweets from some random people on the internet, is not a valid way to do this. And if this is the only way you can criticise a scientific theory, you need to think hard and long if you actually have a point.

Collin Maessen is the founder and editor of Real Skeptic and a proponent of scientific skepticism. For his content he uses the most up to date and best research as possible. Where necessary consulting or collaborating with scientists.