April 26, 2010

Volcanoes are notorious carbon emitters. Eyjafjöll has been releasing an average of 150,000 tonnes of CO2, each and every day during its peak eruptions. In the five April days of significant airline disruption, this comes out to 750,000 tonnes.

During the same period of time, the removal of so many jets from the skies has kept at least 1,300,000 tonnes, and perhaps as much as 2,800,000 tonnes, of CO2 out of the atmosphere. Even so, it is only a drop in the bucket against the estimated 24 billion tons of CO2 humankind produces annually as a whole.

(The increased car and train load is negligible compared with the air traffic. Travel which is not quick and convenient to close and far corners of the world is not so lightly undertaken.)

The total annual estimated carbon release by all erupting volcanoes, everywhere in the world, from ocean bottom plate tectonics to ongoing lava events in Hawaii, is around 200 million tonnes. The equivalent extrapolation from disrupted European air traffic alone gives between 97.5 and 210 million tonnes. (That drop seems to have gotten a bit larger.)

Even termites can influence their environment. The Sahara Desert gives us evidence of our previous ability to alter our environment in drastic ways, even without the help of oil and coal technologies. Why are we so determined to see ourselves as utterly ineffective within the ecosphere of which we are a part?

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