False: Volcanoes emit more carbon dioxide than human activity.

By: Gayathri Loka
June 13 2022

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False: Volcanoes emit more carbon dioxide than human activity.


The Verdict False

Volcanoes emit approximately 280 metric tonnes of CO2 annually. However, human activity emits more carbon dioxide than volcanoes.

Claim ID 327de9d5


In February 2022, Mount Etna, an active volcano in Sicily, Italy, erupted. There were no injuries reported, according to the Washington Post. The volcano has been particularly active in recent years — erupting 11 times in three weeks in 2021. According to NASA, "Mount Etna has the longest recorded history of eruptions, dating back to 1500 B.C." Due to its constant activity, some social media users have claimed that Mount Etna emits more carbon dioxide than human activity. The post has a picture of a volcano and text that reads, "That one little burp by Mt Etna put out more than 10,000 times the CO2 into the atmosphere than mankind has in their entire time on Earth."

In fact:

According to the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), volcanoes emit carbon dioxide in two ways: through eruptions and underground magma. In 2019, Climate Feedback, a climate change fact-checking organization, stated that volcanoes emit approximately 280 million to 360 million metric tons of carbon dioxide annually. Out of this, active eruptions only account for about two million metric tons annually. Globally, there has not been a drastic increase in volcanic activity in the last century.

According to the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), by 2014 human activities emit carbon dioxide (65 percent), methane (16 percent), nitrous oxide (6 percent), and florentine gases (2 percent). According to EPA, human activities include electricity and heat production, fossil fuel usage, agriculture and forestry, and others. According to Our World in Data, in 2020, fossil fuel emissions went up to 34.8 billion tonnes. In 2021, the global CO2 emissions from energy combustion and industrial processes reached a record high of 36.3 billion tonnes, Reuters reported.

The verdict:

Large volcanic eruptions emit significant amounts of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. However, active eruptions of volcanoes are rare compared to daily carbon dioxide emissions caused by humans. Hence, we have marked this claim as false.

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