I love urban myths. Here’s a doozy. Volcanoes put out more C02 than humans. In fact, I even heard one that said, Volcanoes put out more C02 in a day than humans do in a year. Well, just in case you check the paper every morning to look at current eruptions to decide whether you’ll drive your vehicle into work in the morning or take public transportation—take the public.
This is silly at oh so many levels. First, yes, volcanoes have played a huge role in putting C02 in our atmosphere—on geologic time scales. Second, volcanoes are usually associated with global cooling through sulphur emissions. Things like Tambora (1815) are even implicated in the cooling that caused some of the cropping hardships for Joseph Smith’s family when he was a child! Thirdly, the recent drastic increases in atmospheric carbon have occurred over the last 200 or so years (much more dramatic lately). Volcanoes existed before the current rise in concentrations and were dumping at the about same rates as now.
Lastly, Volcanoes do put out about a huge amount of carbon dioxide. Scientists at the U.S. Geological Survey’s Hawaii Volcano Observatory estimate that volcanoes (both land and underwater) dump about 200 million tons of C02 into the atmosphere annually. Humans, they arugue further, through the burning of fossil fuel dump about—drum roll please—26 Billion tons per annum. So using real math we can see that volcanoes are dumping around a measly 0.7%, less than a single percent of what humans are doing.
(Now to be fair. I don’t think the semi-scientifically-minded climate change doubters are seriously making this argument, or at least I haven’t run across it, so this really does seem to be something that is going around as an urban myth and a talkradio broadside.)
Next time you are at a Ward Party and someone says, “How about those volcanoes dumping C02 into the atmosphere—stupid global warming people telling us it was us humans.” You can answer, “Hey did I ever tell you about the time I picked up the three Nephites hitchhiking just outside of Panguitch?”