Science 3 min read

Human Carbon Emission is 100x Greater Than Volcanoes

In a series of papers, researchers revealed that human carbon emission is 100x greater than the emission caused by volcanic eruptions.

Image courtesy of Shutterstock

Image courtesy of Shutterstock

A recent study revealed that volcanoes release an annual CO2 of between 0.3 and 0.4 gigatonnes. That’s nearly 100 times less than human carbon emission.

Every time a volcanic eruption occurs, an extraordinary amount of materials make their way from the Earth’s interior out into the world. Along with pollutants such as ash and dust, an eruption also releases one of the most potent greenhouse gas, carbon dioxide, into the atmosphere.

This has led to the popular belief that these ruptures in the Earth‘s crust are major climate change contributors. However, a recent paper published in the journal Elements suggests otherwise.

In a statement to the press, Professor of Volcanology and Petrology, Marie Edmonds said:

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

In reality, human carbon emission outstrips the contribution of volcanoes.

The Planet Self-Regulates its Carbon Level

The researchers at the Deep Carbon Observatory recently released a series of papers on how the ecosystem stores, emits and reabsorbs carbon.

According to their findings, the land, ocean, and atmosphere – houses about one percent of Earth’s total carbon. That’s roughly 43,500 gigatonnes. Meanwhile, the planet’s crust, mantle, and core hold a staggering 1.85 billion gigatonnes of carbon.

For reference, one gigatonne of carbon is equivalent to about 3 million Boeing 747s.

The researchers then collected rock samples from across the world to measure the prominence of specific carbon isotopes. With that, they were able to create a timeline that stretches as far back as 500 million years to understand how carbon moved between land, sea, and air.

The DCO team discovered that the planet generally self-regulated atmospheric carbon dioxide levels. But, this occurs over geological time frames of hundreds of thousands of years.

An exception to this observation is catastrophic disturbances, which disrupts the Earth’s carbon cycle. Examples of such include volcanic eruptions or the meteor strike that killed off the dinosaurs.

Human Carbon Emission On the Same Level With Carbon Catastrophe

The team estimated that the impact which killed off 75 percent of the all life on Earth released 425 and 1,400 gigatonnes of CO2. By comparison, human carbon emission in 2018 alone exceeded 37 gigatonnes.

Edmonds told the press:

“The amount of CO2 pumped into the atmosphere by anthropogenic (manmade) activity in the last 10-12 years (is equivalent) to the catastrophic change during these events we’ve seen in Earth’s past.”

The researcher admitted that Earth’s atmosphere had contained higher COs concentration in the past outside the catastrophic events. But, it took hundreds of years for such carbon to accumulate to such levels.

Human carbon emission, on the other hand, has risen by two-third within a few centuries. And although the Earth will eventually rebalance itself, it won’t happen in a timescale that’s of significance to humans, said the researchers.

Read More: Black Gold Material can Turn Carbon Emissions to Fuel

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Sumbo Bello

Sumbo Bello is a creative writer who enjoys creating data-driven content for news sites. In his spare time, he plays basketball and listens to Coldplay.

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