No, Eli, Global Warming Is Not Like A Catastrophic Earthquake

Eli Rabett is trying to compare (he misuses the world ‘correlate’, but let’s not quibble) a potential large earthquake in the Northwestern United States with global warming. The two phenomena are similar in the way a pig is similar to a painting. Or a tractor. (Would that then mean that paintings are also similar to tractors?)

Which is to say they are not at all similar.

Rabett writes, “The correlations I see between this issue and climate are in the seriousness of risk, timescale, and effort needed to respond to the problem.” There is no correlation between a large earthquake and global warming for any of these factors.

Seriousness of risk: A large earthquake in the Pacific Northwest is postulated to create a tsunami. The director of FEMA Region X said ““Our operating assumption is that everything west of Interstate 5 will be toast.” This would endanger 7 million people living in the affected area. Global warming, on the other hand, moves at a glacial pace. Sea level rise is currently 3 mm per year. And although the Western Antarctic Ice Sheet might succumb to a combination of mechanical pressure and warmer waters at its base, its collapse would still play out over decades, giving ample time to move people and valuables inland.

The sea level rise expected this century from global warming will not be as great as the distance from the bottom to the top of your computer screen. Sea level rise amounts to one inch every 8 years.

This is a tsunami:

Timescale: An earthquake is over in a few minutes. Climate change is something that started 70 years ago, is barely noticeable now and is not expected to hit its stride until the middle of this century. See the difference?

Effort needed to respond to the problem: We are already preparing both both climate change and earthquakes. The difference is we can adapt to climate change. At this point in time there is very little we can do to adapt to a 9.5 earthquake in the Pacific Northwest. The best we could do is move people out of harm’s way.

No, Eli, earthquakes accompanied by tsunamis have nothing at all in common with climate change. However, you inadvertently made on telling point, writing, “Having said all that, one thing that did bother me with the article is that some things seemed exaggerated.” While that I believe is not true for earthquakes and tsunamis (the Indian Ocean earthquake and tsunami killed a quarter of a million people), it is certainly true of climate change.


6 responses to “No, Eli, Global Warming Is Not Like A Catastrophic Earthquake

  1. I wonder, has anybody looked at the number of people killed and wounded by seismic events and volcanoes, over the last 100 years?

    Maybe we need a UN committee to improve humanity’s ability to withstand earthquakes? (Just kidding).

  2. I think what Eli is trying to say is, I feel as strongly about climate changes as I I do earthquakes. It is all about how things register on his emotional richter scale. You notice that a lot about people who feel strongly about issues. After a while feelings mean more than the issues.

  3. There was a prediction of a major earthquake on the New Madrid fault decades ago. Widely hyped, but many were skeptical.

  4. Tom, “climate change” started when “climate” started.

  5. Great essay, by the way. The magical thinking of Rabett’s is interesting to read. We have always adapted to changing climates, by the way: dams, levees, raised houses, farming crop choices, air conditioning, heating, etc.

  6. In fact, someone who is demonstrated to be a much more sound thinker than Eli has posted this:

    It is long past time to challenge the underpinning catastrophist dogmas that shape far too much of our public square.

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