Fact check: Human activities, not earth's magnetic poles biggest culprit in climate change

Salabani secondary school which was closed following floods during heavy rains in Baringo south on October 29, 2022.

Photo credit: Cheboite Kigen | Nation Media Group

Scientists have attributed global warming and climate change mainly to human activities, such as burning of fossil fuels.

Following an article by Australian scientists, that the earth’s magnetic poles triggered massive climatic shifts 42,000 years ago, leading to changes in the environment, some people have totally shifted the blame of climate change from human activities to the magnetic poles.

On February 10, a social media user took to Instagram and posted; "Humans are not causing climate change. I know this is an unpopular belief because it’s used as a political tool. This isn’t fear mongering, but simply facts. We have no way of knowing when this shift will occur or how quickly, but it’s been an earth phenomenon for eons."

Magnetic pole shifting is complex, and I suggest you do some research as it is causing havoc worldwide in weather, climate, earthquakes, tsunamis etc. Do not fear, but do not bury your head in the sand. Be prepared and listen to your intuition.

The claim that humans are not causing climate change is false, and the contribution of magnetic poles to climate change is also partly false. Here is why.

“Over the last century, burning of fossil fuels like coal and oil has increased the concentration of atmospheric carbon dioxide. This increase happens because the coal or oil burning process combines carbon with oxygen in the air to make carbon dioxide. To a lesser extent, clearing of land for agriculture, industry, and other human activities has increased concentrations of greenhouse gases, "says National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA).

“The industrial activities that our modern civilization depends upon have raised atmospheric carbon dioxide levels by nearly 50 per cent since 1750. This increase is due to human activities, because scientists can see a distinctive isotopic fingerprint in the atmosphere,” adds NASA.

The second claim that attributes climate change to shifting of the earth’s magnetic poles is partly false.

In the Australian based study, published in the Science, and thereafter in the Cosmos magazine, scientists said that the earth’s magnetic poles reversed about 42,000 years ago, and that if it happened today, it would likely impact satellites and electrical grids negatively.

The study also states that the reversal is likely to coincide with environmental changes such as mass extinction and growing ice sheets.

While conducting the study, scientists felled trees that were alive during the period, then seed the tree rings to build an atmospheric radiocarbon record. The three rings, as they observed, recorded changes in levels of radiocarbon during the pole reversal.

The results were then compared to other records obtained from different sources such as ice cores. They would establish that radiocarbon levels significantly increased.

Besides, because the strength of the earth’s magnetic shield was lowered, the earth’s cosmic radiation shield “was totally gone.

“Unfiltered radiation from space ripped apart air particles in earth’s atmosphere, separating electrons and emitting light – a process called ionisation. The ionised air ‘fried’ the ozone layer, triggering a ripple of climate change across the globe.”

However, this has been criticised by the NASA who say, “Variations in earth's magnetic field aren't causing today's climate change.”

NASA explains that even though the magnetic field weakens during a pole reversal, it does not disappear completely, and that the earth’s atmosphere continues to protect the earth from cosmic rays and charged solar particles.

“Though there may be a small amount of particulate radiation that makes it down to earth’s surface. The magnetic field becomes jumbled, and multiple magnetic poles can emerge in unexpected places. Plant and animal fossils from the period of the last major pole reversal don’t show any big changes. Deep ocean sediment samples indicate glacial activity was stable. In fact, geologic and fossil records from previous reversals show nothing remarkable, such as doomsday events or major extinctions,” says NASA.

“Radiocarbon evidence shows that about 41,500 years ago, the magnetic field weakened significantly, and the poles reversed, only to flip back again about 500 years later. While there is some evidence of regional climate changes during the event timeframe, ice cores from Antarctica and Greenland don’t show any major changes.

Moreover, when viewed within the context of climate variability during the last ice age, any changes in climate observed at earth’s surface were subtle.

Bottom line: There’s no evidence that earth’s climate has been significantly impacted by the last three magnetic field excursions, nor by any excursion event within at least the last 2.8 million years,” adds NASA.

This fact check was produced by Nation with support from Code for Africa’s Pesa Check, International Fact Checking Network, and African Fact Checking Alliance Network