Increased Earthquakes a sign of the worsening climate crisis

By Suhasini Srinivasaragavan

Studies dating at least a decade back have shown the concerning relationship between global warming and increasing extreme weather events, including earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, tsunamis and landslides. 

“When glaciers melt, they reduce the weight on Earth’s crust…(this) can reactivate faults and lift pressures on magma chambers… increase(ing) seismic activity,” said an IOP Science study from 2018.

The Smithsonian magazine in 2016 revealed that melting glaciers may also induce earthquakes in the middle of plates, away from the fault lines where Earthquakes usually occur. 

While the cause of the disastrous earthquake in Turkey and Syria is unknown, Rumit Walia, founder of Tears of the Earth, a New Delhi-based Climate Action NGO, pointed out that the frequency of Earthquakes has increased in his home town, New Delhi.

“I have felt several minor and major Earthquakes in my life, most of them in the last few years. Although they were minor, it is a cause for concern,” said Mr Walia.

Nearby, Pakistan faced a devastating flood in 2022 that displaced thousands of people and brought the country to a standstill.

Population displacement

People displaced from their traditional regions due to environmental disruption are referred to as climate migrants. 

The United Nations says that over 5 million people may become homeless following the earthquake that wreaked havoc in Turkey and Syria last week killing over 50,000 people.

However, the 2022 United Nations Intergovernmental Report on Climate Change showed that most migration due to climate change occurs internally within a country. The UN report highlights the relationship between economic standing and cross-border migration, meaning only those who can afford to leave their home countries will. 

An average of 20 million have been annually displaced since 2008.

“Increased frequency of extreme heat events and long-term increases in average temperatures pose future risks,” said the report and projected that 143 million people will be displaced by 2050.

Mr Walia said that “people have a misconception that Europe is not suffering…heatwaves and cold waves there are more frequent now…many in Asia are unaware that Europe is not far behind.” He added that once people realise this, cross-border migration will reduce unless areas in the Global South become unlivable. 

Climate Migrants Unlikely in Ireland

Although climate migrants are unlikely in Ireland, East Galway councillor Niall Murphy from the Green Party says that Ireland should expect them in the future. While an Irish Times report says that “Ireland will not be swamped by climate migrants.”

“The next wave of refugees will be because of climate change and we cannot say that it was not in part our fault… Ireland is not prepared,” says Mr Murphy. 

First Loss and Damage Fund Meeting Soon

“We don’t like to say that it’s hopeless, however, it’s important that there is some sense of urgency,” said Colette Currie, a student of Carbon Management from the University of Edinburgh. 

The loss and damage fund was an outcome of COP27 held last year. The fund, primarily paid for by the Global North to the South, is meant to help mitigate the effects of the climate crisis. 

“We can maybe delay the ticking climate clock, but we cannot stop it,” said Mr Walia, adding, “I hope the discussions in COP 27 are put into action.” 

The first committee discussion on the operationalisation of the Loss and Damage fund is scheduled between 28th February and 3rd March 2023 in the Philippines.

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