While a slight majority of the 200 or so reader respondents to our May climate change poll insisted propagation of the very notion of large-scale world climate shifts was little more than a hoax, the split between readers was dramatized in commentary under the poll. “One volcano belching like a redneck at the saloon on a Saturday night puts more sulfur dioxide, ash and carbon dioxide into the atmosphere than all the internal combustion engines on the planet,” wrote Henry Frapp, “Not only that, but even if ‘global warming’ exists, it’s only a part of the earth’s natural climactic cycles, and humans have no effect.”
Another commenter countered the notion citing a report from the American Geophysical Union, a group made up of primarily North American earth and space scientists, whose headline ran directly counter to the volcano analogy: “Human activities emit way more carbon dioxide than do volcanoes.”
Studies analyzed by the union of scientists gave a range of annual results for volcanic gas emissions, “from a minimum of about one tenth of a billion to a maximum of about half a billion metric tons of carbon dioxide per year.” Human-produced emissions, however, for 2010 were estimated at around 35 billion metric tons. Even super-eruptions, the last of which is estimated to have occurred at the Toba site in Indonesia 74,000 years ago, are estimated by scientists to emit slightly less or an equivalent amount of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere, compared to annual human-activity-borne CO2.
The poll was opened up following news of Capitol Hill talks around a potential carbon tax, published in May. The report suggested individuals involved in fossil fuel-intensive industries such as trucking could potentially feel deleterious economic effects of a carbon tax doubly without significant offsets. One such offset discussed included a reduction in income taxes.