2010 GSA Denver Annual Meeting (31 October 3 November 2010)
Paper No. 154-6
Presentation Time: 9:25 AM-9:40 AM

ANTHROPOGENIC VERSUS VOLCANIC CO2: MYTHS AND MISREPRESENTATIONS

GERLACH, Terrence M., Cascades Volcano Observatory, U.S. Geological Survey, 1300 SE Cardinal Ct, Suite 100, Vancouver, WA 98683-9589, tgerlach@usgs.gov

Climate change skeptics and deniers often promote the wholly false perception in print, websites and blogs that volcanoes outdo humans in adding CO2 to the atmosphere and oceans. Ian Plimer’s 2009 bestseller Heaven and Earth: Global Warming — the Missing Science is a prime example: “Volcanoes add far more carbon dioxide to the oceans and atmosphere than humans.” … “Volcanoes produce more carbon dioxide than the world’s cars and industries combined.” … “One [submarine] hot spring can release far more carbon dioxide than a 1,000-megawatt coal-fired power station…” Plimer never offers, nor does he cite sources that offer, supporting evidence for such claims. And he does not provide published estimates of the present-day global volcanic CO2 emission rate. Although studies containing these estimates are among Heaven and Earth’s 2,311 references, the estimates themselves are not divulged. Ironically, these estimates are missing in a book alleged to rectify supposed excesses of missing science. Published estimates from research findings over 30 years for present-day global emission rates of CO2 from subaerial and submarine volcanoes range from 132 million (minimum) to 378 million (maximum) metric tons per year (MtCO2 y-1). Estimate medians and author-preferred estimates reduce outlier spread and give a ~150-270 MtCO2 y-1 range. These global volcanic estimates are dwarfed by CO2 emissions from fossil fuel burning, cement production, gas flaring and land use changes, accounting for some 36,300 MtCO2 in 2008. This anthropogenic CO2 emission rate is ~100-300 times larger than the estimate ranges for annual global volcanic CO2 release. Light-duty vehicles and industry contribute ~9,000 MtCO2 y-1, or ~25-70 times more than estimated global volcanic CO2 emissions. At full capacity, a 1,000-megawatt coal-fired power station releases ~9 MtCO2 y-1, or ~3 times the annual baseline output of Kilauea Volcano, which surely exceeds a submarine hot spring’s output. Scaling up volcanic CO2 output to the anthropogenic level requires adding on the order of 10,000 volcanoes to the 50-60 normally active volcanoes of the subaerial landscape and more than 100 mid-ocean ridge systems to the seafloor. It clearly would be a very different world if volcanoes added far more CO2 to the atmosphere and oceans than we do.

2010 GSA Denver Annual Meeting (31 October 3 November 2010)
General Information for this Meeting
Session No. 154
Exposing Myths and Misrepresentations of Climate Change and Evolution Science: Strategies and Case Studies for Geoscientists, Educators, Policy Makers, and the Press
Colorado Convention Center: Room 503
8:00 AM-12:00 PM, Tuesday, 2 November 2010

Geological Society of America Abstracts with Programs, Vol. 42, No. 5, p. 380

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