Humans Release 100x More Carbon Dioxide Than Volcanic Eruptions, Study Finds

A new study details exactly how much damage humans are doing to the environment with activities such as burning fossil fuels and deforestation, revealing that, on average, human actions produce anywhere from 40 to 100 times the carbon emissions of volcanic eruptions which take place across the world each year.

AFP reports:

“The Deep Carbon Observatory (DCO), a 500-strong international team of scientists, released a series of papers outlining how carbon is stored, emitted and reabsorbed by natural and manmade processes.

“They found that manmade carbon dioxide emissions drastically outstrip the contribution of volcanoes — which belch out gas and are often fingered as a major climate change contributor — to current warming rates.”

Based on research presented by the DCO, it has been established that natural processes such as volcanoes produce 0.28 to 0.36 gigatonnes of carbon dioxide each year. In contrast, human activity is responsible for more than 37 gigatonnes in 2018 alone.

Marie Edmonds, Professor of Volcanology and Petrology and Ron Oxburgh Fellow in Earth Sciences at Queens’ College, Cambridge, noted:

“Climate skeptics really jump on volcanoes as a possible contender for top CO2 emissions but it’s simply not the case.”

The BBC explains that the study doesn’t just look at anthropogenic carbon releases. Additionally, there was an examination of where all of the Earth’s carbon is stored and how it moves through the environment. And the results are staggering:

  • The majority of Earth’s 1.85 billion gigatonnes of carbon is below ground; two-thirds are located in the core
  •  43,500 billion tonnes (approximately 47,951 U.S. tons) of carbon are above ground in the oceans, land, and atmosphere

Researchers also took a close look at the Earth’s past history to gain a better understanding of how carbon has moved throughout the planet’s history, according to EcoWatch:

“They found that, for the most part over the past 500 million years, the planet has drawn down as much carbon into the ground as it has released, maintaining balance. However, there were a few notable exceptions.”

Those exceptions were detailed by Eos:

“In the past 500 million years, four volcanic eruptions created large igneous provinces (LIPs) that each released massive quantities of CO2 over tens of thousands of years. These LIPs caused the above-ground quantity of CO2 to spike to about 170% of its steady state value, which led to warmer surface conditions, more acidic oceans, and mass extinctions.
“Likewise, large impact events, including the Chicxulub impact 65 million years ago, released large quantities of carbon from the subsurface into the atmosphere.”

The Chicxulub impact, it should be noted, refers to a massive asteroid or comet which struck the Earth approximately 66 million years ago that is believed to have led to the extinction of the dinosaurs.

Dr. Celina Suarez from the University of Arkansas remarked:

“It’s really revealing that the amount of carbon dioxide we’re emitting in a short time period is very close to the magnitude of those previous catastrophic carbon events. A lot of those ended in mass extinctions, so there are good reasons why there is discussion now that we might be in a sixth mass extinction.”

Suarez also shot down assertions by global warming skeptics who say the Earth will adjust to increases in carbon levels:

“Climate deniers always say that Earth always rebalances itself. Well, yes it has. It will rebalance itself, but not on a timescale that is of significance to humans.”

Featured Image Via Pixabay

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Andrew Bradford

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