FACT CHECK: Did A Recent Volcanic Eruption Emit More CO2 Than Mankind Has Ever Produced?
A post shared on Facebook claims a recent volcanic eruption at Mount Etna emitted 10,000 times more carbon dioxide (CO2) into the atmosphere than mankind has in its entire history on Earth.
There is no evidence to support such a statement. Volcanologists agreed the claim is false.
Mount Etna, also called the Sicilian Monticello, is an active volcano located on the eastern coast of Sicily, according to Britannica. The volcano is considered the most active in Europe, with some recent eruptions lasting several weeks or months, the encyclopedia states.
The Facebook post makes the claim that a recent “burp” from the volcano emitted a huge amount of CO2 into the atmosphere. “That one little burp by Mt Etna has already put more than 10,000 times the CO2 into the atmosphere than mankind has in our ENTIRE time on earth,” the image’s text reads. “But don’t worry a scam is in the works to tax you your minuscule footprint….”
This claim is incorrect. While there are scholarly articles documenting carbon emissions from Mt. Etna’s recent eruptions, there are no articles making the specific claim offered in the Facebook post. Human activities emit approximately 60 times the amount of carbon dioxide that volcanoes do per year, according to Climate.gov.
“Volcanoes definitely do not emit nearly as much CO2 as human activity,” said volcanologist Arianna Soldati in an email to Check Your Fact. She directed Check Your Fact to a statement from the Smithsonian Institution debunking the claim that volcanic eruptions contribute to global warming. (RELATED: Does This Video Show A Volcanic Eruption In Tonga?)
“Totally untrue,” said volcanologist Erik Klemetti in an email to Check Your Fact when asked about the viral claim. He pointed to a 2011 article he authored for Wired titled “Why volcanism isn’t the source of increasing carbon dioxide emissions.” The article references a study from the United States Geological Survey that estimates volcanoes emit 0.13-0.44 billion metric tons of CO2 per year, while humans emit 35 gigatons per year.
This is not the first time misinformation has been linked to a volcanic eruption. Check Your Fact previously debunked a viral post that claimed to show three photos of dead fish that washed up on Tonga’s shores after a volcanic eruption in the area.