Humans emit more CO2 than volcanoes
CLAIM: A volcano emits more carbon dioxide into the atmosphere in a 24 hour period than all human activity over time.
AP’S ASSESSMENT: False. Human activity produces far more CO2 than volcanoes, experts told The Associated Press, and overwhelming scientific evidence shows that climate change is caused by human behavior.
THE FACTS: Claims that an unidentified volcano in Greece emits more CO2 in one day than humans ever have has circulated on numerous social media platforms in recent days, including Facebook and Twitter.
“Just a reminder that a volcano in Greece has put more CO2 in the atmosphere in 24 hours than humans have In our entire existence,” one Twitter user wrote on Jan. 11. The tweet was shared more than 23,000 times and received more than 81,000 likes.
But the claim is baseless, according to experts. While volcanoes do release some CO2 into the atmosphere, those emissions are dwarfed by emissions from human activity.
“There is no truth to that,” said Tobias Fischer, a volcanologist at the University of New Mexico. “If you take all the emissions that all volcanoes together produce in a given year, it’s much smaller than what humans emit in a given year. And that’s been shown many times.”
Fischer added that Greece is not a very active volcanic region and that experts would certainly be aware of a single volcano that emits more CO2 than human activity.
“It makes no sense,” he said of the online claims.
Similar claims about volcanoes have circulated in the past, and have been addressed by several scientific government agencies.
According to the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, human activities emit 60 or more times the amount of CO2 released by volcanoes annually, and some U.S. states emit more CO2 in a year than all volcanoes combined. NASA estimates that human activity emits a “Mount St. Helens-sized eruption” of CO2 every 2.5 hours and a “Mount Pinatubo-sized eruption” of CO2 twice a day. And the U.S. Geological Survey says a body of research shows that volcanic CO2 emissions account for “less than a percent” of the CO2 emissions produced by human behavior.
Aradhna Tripati, a geologist at the University of California, Los Angeles, said that volcanoes can emit carbon dioxide at a very high rate, but those rates are only sustained for short amounts of time and don’t come close to matching emissions from human behavior.
“That’s not the same as what we’re doing, which is 365 days a year, you know, for decades and decades and decades,” Tripati said, referring to emissions caused by human activity.
This is part of AP’s effort to address widely shared misinformation, including work with outside companies and organizations to add factual context to misleading content that is circulating online. Learn more about fact-checking at AP.