Wild climate misinformation is yet again running rampant through podcasts and TikTok. The new “theory” falsely attributes climate change impacts to cyclical changes in Earth’s magnetic field. Mountains of science and strong evidence disprove this, and yet, it’s still spreading — despite the popular social media platforms recently pledging to ramp up the fight against climate change misinformation.
Over 99.9% of peer-reviewed scientific papers agree climate change is happening and that it’s caused by humans. However, just because something is scientifically proven doesn’t automatically mean everyone believes it — especially in this day and age.
Disinformation campaigns on social media are still a big problem. People (or at least, some people) tend to rely on information shared within their social circles more than on information that comes from experts. This leads to the creation of echo chambers in which misinformation is spread out.
A report by the NGO Media Matters for America found that seven TikTok videos promoting the “Adam and Eve” theory about a reversal of Earth’s magnetic poles got over 20 million views between January and April. Short videos with snippets of this idea also received many views in the past months. The videos include clips from the Joe Rogan Experience podcast, with Rogan largely contradicting mainstream science, as he so often does lately.
A big misinformation campaign
The videos show clips of Rogan discussing the Adam and Eve theory with “independent researchers” (read: conspiracy theorists, not scientists) Jimmy Corsetti and Ben van Kerkwyk.
Surprisingly, this theory actually has a pretty long history. It comes from a 1965 book by Chan Thomas, which is basically speculation and a melange of ideas that provides no evidence and reads more like literature than actual science. The story implies that climate change is caused by natural forces instead of human actions.
In one of the episodes on January 18th, Rogan asked Corsetti “How much of that is agreed upon, that there could be a time where the magnetic poles actually shift?” Corsetti replied that “This is science,” explaining the Adam and Eve Theory. He described “a planet flip, 90 degrees, and that because of it the Earth does a standstill.”
Except it’s not science.
There’s no evidence that the planet has or ever will make that kind of flip any day now. In reality, pole reversals, when the North and South poles swap locations, take place over hundreds to thousands of years. They have happened 183 times in the last 83 million years, NASA said, not actually causing any big changes in glacial activity.
Furthermore, changes and shifts in Earth’s magnetic field polarity don’t impact weather and climate for a fundamental reason: air isn’t ferrous. We have a detailed account of how the Earth’s magnetic poles changed in history (this is preserved in rock records), but this is not correlated with climate at all.
The TikTok videos show Corsetti saying we are “over 200,000 years overdue” for a pole “cataclysmic” shift. This is far from reality.
Brendan Reilly, a research professor at Columbia University’s Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory, told The Verge that a shift actually “takes many, many generations” and dismissed shifts being a “dramatic thing.”
This is all unsurprising coming from Joe Rogan
Rogan has previously been questioned for using his reach to amplify climate denial. He has hosted figures who deny that fossil fuel consumption is driving climate change. Randall Carlson was six times on the podcast and said climate that CO2 isn’t driving global warming and that “natural factors” are more responsible than human action. Rogan’s pandemic claims are also scandalous and unscientific. Yet people gobble it up because Rogan is charismatic.
Overall, what this shows is how dangerous disinformation campaigns are, and the role social media can play in spreading them fast. TikTok has said it won’t allow content that “undermines well-established scientific consensus” regarding the climate crisis, following actions also taken by other platforms such as Facebook and Google.