Icelandic volcano no threat to climate

April 21, 2010 at 6:54 PM
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REYKJAVIK, Iceland, April 21 (UPI) -- The erupting volcano in Iceland won't have a lasting effect on the climate, experts say.

"You mess with Iceland? We shut down all your airports," goes a new joke being told in the tiny country.

Yet, while the erupting Eyjafjallajoekull volcano managed to ground most of Europe's airplanes for nearly a week, the giant cloud of ash, as impressive as it may look, won't affect the weather, much less the climate.

Experts have said the volcano is emitting 150,000-300,000 tons of carbon dioxide emissions per day. While this puts it in the league of a small-to-medium European economy, it's tiny compared with overall man-made emissions.

BBC News reports that this is "only about 1-1,000th of that produced by the sum total of humanity's fossil fuel burning, deforestation, agriculture and everything else."

The fact that most of Europe's airplanes couldn't emit for nearly a week might even offset the CO2 produced by the volcano.

And forget the cooling effect linked to aerosols blocking the sun from the atmosphere after a volcano eruption -- the Icelandic one is simply not strong enough, experts say.

"So this is not the big climate changing eruption that some people seem to think it is," Mike Burton from Italy's National Institute of Geophysics and Vulcanology told BBC News.

Climate skeptics argue that humans produce much less CO2 emissions than the world's volcanoes, a myth long debunked.

The Skeptical Science Web site, a climate blog maintained by Australia's John Cook states that "volcanoes emit around 0.3 billion tons of CO2 per year. This is about 1 percent of human CO2 emissions, which is around 29 billion tons per year."

The U.S. Geological Survey states that human activities release more than 130 times the amount of CO2 emitted by volcanoes. This figure includes underground and sub-aerial volcanoes.

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change in February admitted that its 2007 climate report report included a false claim that Himalayan glaciers could melt by 2035. The organization had used data from a World Wildlife Fund report without double-checking, the panel admitted.

The 2007 IPCC report was widely hailed as the most comprehensive and detailed scientific account of climate change. It formed a basis for ongoing U.N. negotiations to produce a successor treaty to the Kyoto Protocol, which runs out in 2012.

While the IPCC, a panel created by the United Nations and the World Meteorological Organization, announced that it would seek an independent review for its future studies, its reputation was damaged in the affair after climate skeptics launched severe attacks on the panel.

Climate science received a further blow when e-mail exchanges -- some say they were leaked others claim they were stolen -- indicated that scientists at Britain's University of East Anglia might have suppressed data pointing to global cooling.

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