According to a decade-long study, human activity can produce 100 times more carbon than all the volcanoes on our planet!
In a study carried out by Deep Carbon Observatory (DCO) – an international team of 500 scientists – it was found that carbon dioxide emissions, caused by humans, are actually much higher than the emissions caused by volcanoes (these are often considered to be the main cause of climate change because of the amount of gas they release). This means that we are the ones interfering, for the most part, with the current rates of warming.
Discoveries that also include a description of how carbon is stored, emitted and reabsorbed by natural and artificial processes were published in the scientific journal Elements. The same article also shows that only two tenths of 1% of the Earth’s total carbon, which corresponds to about 43,500 gigatons, is above the surface, in the oceans, on earth and in the atmosphere. The rest – 1.85 billion gigatons* – is stored in the crust, mantle and core of the planet, thus providing clues to researchers about the formation of our planet, 4.5 billion years ago.
By measuring the prominence of certain carbon isotopes in rock samples around the world, researchers were able to create a timeline dating back 500 million years, thus facilitating the mapping of how carbon moved between land, sea and air.
With this it was discovered that the planet has self-regulated the atmospheric levels of carbon dioxide in geological periods of hundreds of thousands of years. The exceptions found occurred in the form of “catastrophic disturbances” in the Earth’s carbon cycle, such as numerous volcanic eruptions or even the collision of an asteroid that led to the total extinction of the dinosaurs. “In the past, we have seen that these large carbon inputs into the atmosphere have caused warming, caused great changes in the composition of the ocean and the availability of oxygen,” said Marie Edmonds, professor of volcanology and petrology at Queens ‘College, Cambridge.
Scientists have also estimated that the impact of Chicxulub (the asteroid that killed the dinosaurs and three-quarters of all Earth life) released between 425 and 1400 gigatonnes of C02, while, for example, man-made emissions in 2018 exceeded 37 gigatonnes.
“The amount of CO2 pumped into the atmosphere by anthropogenic activity in the last 10 to 12 years (is equivalent) to the catastrophic change during these events we have seen in the past from the Earth,” Edmonds told AFP.
Celina Suarez, researcher and professor of geology at the University of Arkansas, in an interview with Agence France-Presse compared modern man-made emissions with previous carbon shocks that led to mass extinction. “We’re at the same level of carbon catastrophe, which is a little worrying”
By equating the C02 released annually by volcanoes with human-induced emissions, the former releases about 0.3 and 0.4 tonnes, 100 times less than the latter.
*one gigaton is equivalent to one million tonnes