How Much Do Volcanoes Contribute To Global Warming

The idea that volcanoes have a major contribution to global warming is complex and disputed. On one hand, vast amounts of carbon dioxide (CO₂) are released in volcanic eruptions and this gas is a major contributor to the increase of global temperature. On the other hand, some experts argue that this gas quantity is not substantial when compared to the human-induced greenhouse gas production. This article will explore the similarity and differences between the two sources of CO₂ and examine the true extent of volcanoes’ contribution to global warming.

First and foremost, it is essential to acknowledge the amount of CO₂ discharged by volcanoes. In fact, volcanic eruptions spew out much more greenhouses gases than the ones generated by human activity, with some eruptions capable of releasing hundreds or even thousands of kilotons per event. For example, the eruption of Kilauea volcano, located in Hawaii, between 1983 and 2018 is estimated to have emitted a total of 543,890 kilotons of CO₂ in the atmosphere.
Furthermore, many active volcanoes in Indonesia and the Philippines provide a continuous CO₂ emission. According to a 2009 paper by Professors J.A. Takahashi and W.W. Chadwick, these volcanoes produce more than 4 million tons of CO₂ each year, accounting for approximately 0.25% of the total global emissions.

Nevertheless, some scientists argue the impact of volanic emissions is insignificant when compared to human-made emissions. In 2019, a study by the Chinese Academy of Sciences demonstrated that human industrial activities account for 79% of carbon emissions in the atmosphere, while volcanoes are only responsible for 0.17% of this number. Moreover, the impact of volcanic eruptions is generally extinct sing after a few years. In the Unites States, for instance, the CO₂ spikes recorded in Mount St Helens and Mount Redoubt eruption were estimated to have returned to their pre-eruption emission levels within two years.
Consequently, although volcanoes account for a certain percentage of environmental pollution, their contribution is not substantial nor long-lasting and could not be easily noticed when compared to anthropogenic emissions. As Professor Michaela Cottrell argued in her 2018 article, volcanoes are not the main cause of climate change, “the effects related to volcanic activity are largely outweighed by human-induced effects”.

At the same time, scientists are now debating the role of volcanic aerosols in global cooling. The eruptions produce sulfate aerosols that are able to reflect the solar radiation back to the space therefore cooling the lower atmosphere. A team of scientists at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory recently conducted an experiment and discovered that the amount of sunlight reaching the surface of the earth was reduced by 10% with the eruption of Mount Pinatubo in the Philippines in 1991.
Overall, it is hard to firmly conclude that either volcanoes are a strong factor in global warming or they might even have a capacity to cool the planet. While the large CO₂ discharges caused by eruptions could lead to a certain raise of temperatures, the long-term effect is debatable and their contribution is minor when compared to human activities. However, further research should be conducted to understand the true impact of volcanic aerosol reflectance on global warming.

In conclusion, it is undeniable that volcanoes can affect the global climate but to what extent is uncertain. While their carbon emissions may lead to temperature increase, the main pollutant contributor is still the human-induced emissions. In the face of the global climate crisis, we should redirect our focus on the major cause and find sustainable solutions that are essential for our planet’s survival. Moreover, more research should be conducted about the cooling effect of volcanoes since this phenomenon could help us mitigate the effects of global warming.

Ernestine Warren is a passionate environmentalist, author, and advocate for the protection of the Earth's precious resources. She has written extensively on the causes and effects of global warming, providing accurate information to help educate people on how to combat this major global problem. With a background in science and biology, Ernestine has the tools to help develop solutions that meet everyone's needs while minimizing environmental damage. Her hope is that each person can do their part for the planet and make a real difference to help reduce climate change.

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