How much do volcanoes contribute to global warming?

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Matt Beasley

May 23, 2022, 11:46:23 AMMay 23
How much do volcanoes contribute to global warming?
By Maggie Astor, New York Times

Volcanic activity generates 130 million to 440 million tons
of carbon dioxide per year, according to the United States
Geological Survey. Human activity generates about 35 billion
tons of carbon dioxide per year — 80 times as much as the
high-end estimate for volcanic activity, and 270 times as
much as the low-end estimate. And that’s carbon dioxide.
Human activity also emits other greenhouse gases, like methane,
in far greater quantities than volcanoes.

The largest volcanic eruption in the past century was the
1991 eruption of Mount Pinatubo in the Philippines; if an
explosion that size happened every day, NASA has calculated,
it would still release only half as much carbon dioxide as
daily human activity does. The annual emissions from cement
production alone, one small component of planet-warming human
activity, are greater than the annual emissions from every
volcano in the world.

There is also no evidence that volcanic activity has increased
over the past 200 years. While there have been more documented
eruptions, researchers at the Smithsonian Institution’s Global
Volcanism Program found that this was attributable not to an
actual trend, but rather to “increases in populations living
near volcanoes to observe eruptions and improvements in
communication technologies to report those eruptions.”

All told, volcanic activity accounts for less than 1% of
greenhouse gas emissions, which is not enough to contribute
in any meaningful way to the increase we’ve seen over the past
200 years. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change found
in 2013 (see Page 56 of its report) that the climatic effects
of volcanic activity were “inconsequential” over the scale of
a century.

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