Global Warming and tectonic plate movement
That more and more scientists (97 percent in USA only) now agree that
Global Warming is caused by human activity, mainly by burning of fossil
fuels for transportation, to generate electricity, to operate homes,
business and industries and from agricultural practices and tropical
deforestation, has got the better of the deniers and in most cases their
sponsors like Big Oil and other powerful lobby groups.
Dr Lovelock in his 2009 book ‘The Vanishing Face of Gaia: Final
Warning’ urged us to save ourselves and not try to save the planet. He
figures, the nine billion plus world population (easily reachable by the
middle of this century) and rising, would be reduced to 20 percent or to
even 500 million by the end of the century.
Lovelock’s earlier work ‘The Revenge of Gaia’ (2006) was begun when
hurricane Katrina was devastating New Orleans. “Horrific though it was”
he wrote, “it distracts us from the more extensive suffering caused by
the tsunami of December 2004 that disastrously splashed across the bowl
of the Indian Ocean. That awful event starkly revealed the power of the
Earth to kill. The planet we live on has merely to shrug to take some
fraction of a million people to their death. But this is nothing
compared with what may soon happen. We are now so abusing the Earth that
it may rise and move back to the hot state it was in 55 million years
ago, and if it does, most of us, and our descendants will die.”
Greenhouse gas emissions
In other words, for thousands of years, humans have exploited the
planet without counting the cost. Now Gaia, the living Earth is fighting
wastage contributes to global warming.
Lynas’ work ‘The Carbon Calculator: Easy Ways to Reduce Your Carbon
Footprint’ (2007) and ‘Chris Goodall’s Ten Technologies to Save the
Planet’ (2008) are two popular books that empower us to fight Global
Another path-breaking book was George Monbiot’s ‘Heat: How to Save
the Planet from Burning’ (2006). An ambitious work that says we can
reduce greenhouse gas emissions up to 90 percent by 2030 using easy
means. These include “improved ways to construct homes and buildings,
providing the best mix of renewable and non-renewable power sources to
those buildings, making changes to land transportation without
significantly reducing mobility, expanding public transportation/transit
like buses and trains and curtailing of air travel”.
Interestingly, Monbiot begins his chapter on Transportation with a
quote from the Russian journalist and novelist Ilya Ehrenburg
(1891-1967) who wrote that clear as the conscience of (automaker)
Monsieur Citroen, the motorcar is destined to destroy the world, and
fittingly, Monbiot comments, may be this guy saw something in 1929 that
we failed to see for a long time!
Speaking of cars and CO2 emissions The Independent (UK) carried a
study report on April 13, 2012 which said “Painting roofs white and
using light-coloured materials to surface roads and pavements would not
only make cities cooler in summer, it would save the same amount of
carbon as taking all the cars off the roads for 50 years. The scientists
(who did the study) also have said that one of the simplest, yet most
effective, ways of engineering the urban environment to cope with global
warming is to increase the reflectivity of the cityscape so that more of
the incoming sunlight is directed back into space…”
So, we can still do a few more things to keep the global temperature
rise within 2C (or below 450 CO2 ppm) which reminds me of the walloping
wisdom of a poster hung on the wall of my dentist’s office waiting area
in Toronto. “You do not need to floss all your teeth everyday, only the
ones you want to keep”.
Writing to the prestigious science weekly Nature (Mar 31, 2005) Prof.
Kerry Sieh of the Tectonic Observatory, California Institute of
Technology, USA, on December 26, 2004 Earthquake of 9.3 magnitude and
the ensuing Indian Ocean Tsunami, observed that “because many of the
giant faults in the Aceh-Andaman neighbourhood have been dormant for a
very long time, it is quite plausible that the recent giant earthquake
and tsunami may not be the only disastrous 21st century manifestation of
the Indian plate’s unsteady tectonic journey northward’.
And in a letter to Nature on Sep. 6, 2007 Dr. Phil R. Cummins of
Geoscience Australia and a senior consultant to the government of
Australia wrote “the risk of another giant earthquake is high off
central Sumatra, …similar indicators suggest a high potential for giant
earthquakes along the coast of Myanmar,” although “there seems to be
relatively little concern about the subduction zone to the North, in the
Northern Bay of Bengal along the coast of Myanmar”.
Dr. Cummins’ views have to be taken seriously along with those of
James Cochran and others that the Indo-Australian Plate is breaking up
(into two separate plates) forming a new boundary off the South coast of
The vulnerability of Sri Lanka to Earthquakes and Tsunamis is now
well known thanks to Prof C B Dissanayake and others who are of the view
that since a number of quakes of over 7 mag have occurred on this plate
boundary, we can anticipate more frequent tremors that can lead to
bigger quakes affecting Sri Lanka.
Though scientists are yet unable to predict the exact dates, they
anticipate megathrust earthquakes when a cluster of smaller quakes occur
in given location or in its neighbourhood over a short period.
In 2004, there were no less than seven earthquakes of over 6
magnitude in Indonesia before the big one of 9.3 mag struck on December
The recent April 11 quakes in Aceh Province of Indonesia of 8.6 and
8.2 mag were preceded by a 7.2 quake off West coast of Northern Sumatra
on January 11 and a 6.2 magnitude on March 20 near Abepura, Indonesia
were followed by a 6.2 mag quake on April 15 off the coast of Sumatra.
There was also a 5.4 magnitude quake in Sulawesi, Indonesia on May 1.
And we also see that except for the year 2007 which recorded 2,270
quakes worldwide including four big ones ranging between 8-8.9
magnitude, the last three years have recorded over 2,000 quakes apiece,
that is, 2,057 quakes in 2009, 2,136 in 2010 and 2,464 in 2011. For the
year 2000 the number was 1,505 and for 2005 it was 1,844.
(Three of the World’s Ten Worst Volcanic Eruptions have also occurred
in Indonesia. The April 1816 Mt. Tambora eruption killed 92, 000 people,
the August 1883 Mt Krakatoa caused a death toll of 36,000 and the
October 1882 Mt Galunggung eruption in Java, Indonesia took 4011 lives)
And just last year a team of scientists from Australia, France and
Germany, for the first time, were able to show a link between global
warming and tectonic plate movement.
To be continued