Climate Change (EP: 6) Volcanic Emissions

[Intro Music] (Captions by Tang) Hello Witchlings! Last time we discussed CO2 sinks and the way we're damaging one particular ecosystem. Now, there may be some individuals left that are asking "Well, how do we know that volcanoes aren't the source of our climate woes?" Well, for starters, it has a lot to do with carbon ratios, specifically our friend delta-13-C: the ratio of carbon-13 to carbon-12. For volcanoes, they have a little bit more carbon-12, but not much. This means that their delta-13-C value is just slightly negative. In fact, data suggest that volcanoes have about a 2-10% pull on the delta-13-C ratio, in carbon-12's favor. In other words, a graph of the delta-13-C ratio would become slightly negative with volcanic activity. In fact, this is seen in ice and soil data that tell us if an eruption happened, how big it was, and many other things. The Earth had a delta-13-c ratio that fluctuated with the rise and fall of volcanoes, rock-weathering, and the decay of organic matter over millions of years.

However, we only need to look at the last 800,000 years or so — about the length of the current climate cycle that we're talking about. Because, remember, we are performing a scientific analysis, and all variables must be controlled for. This mean that oceanic temperatures, currents, landmasses, etc, must be in approximately the same shape as they were in the past. That is why only the last 800,000 years are relevant. During that period of time, the delta-13-C ratio for the Earth fluctuated at about -6.5%. This means there was a slight pull in carbon-12's favor, but not by much. After the Industrial Revolution, this ratio took a nose-dive very fast as our carbon emissions grew exponentially. You see, fossil fuel emissions have a much more negative impact on that delta-13-C ratio. Where we could say the average for volcanoes is about -6%. For fossil fuels, it's about -25%. For an Earth that's in balance, that would mean a massive increase in volcanic activity since 1800. However, we have NOT seen such an intense increase.

While we have seen many scary pictures of volcanoes erupting, and disruption to our modern tools, we just HAVEN'T seen the Volcano Apocalypse that would be required to shift the ratio by this amount. In the absence of that apocalypse, volcanoes would have to experience a dramatic increase in the amount of Carbon-12 that they produce. That's just not really physically possible. This would mean that the Earth would have to acquire a new mechanism by which volcanoes could acquire or produce more carbon-12 than carbon-13. However, that has literally never been observed anywhere in history. And it requires a lot more assumptions and belief. That is why we will simply use Occam's Razor to slice that hypothesis away~ The ONLY possibility that we could be left with if we couldn't even begrudgingly admit to anthropogenic carbon emissions being the source, would be a MASSIVE amount of decaying organic matter. Do you recall any such event since the Industrial Revolution? If you've been keeping up with the news, then you do know of one, and it's happening today. It's also happened in the past because the Earth has been warmer before, but what can THAT tell us about present day? The main thing it can tell us is that global warming-induced climate change is a positive feedback loop.

Positive feedback loops enhance or amplify an effect on a system. These loops exist within many different systems, such as child birth, where a baby presses against the cervical wall, this releases oxytocin in the individual's brain, and this causes further stimulation of the cervix and contraction. That loop repeats until the child is born. In a similar manner, as the globe is heated, the permafrost melts, and bacteria that was once dormant becomes active, and they begin breaking down the dead organic matter around them. This releases greenhouse gas into the atmosphere, where some of that goes on to contribute to global warming. And the cycle repeats itself. This feedback loop helped the Earth become a more habitable place, as the Earth entered into an unstable equilibrium point. We have, however, shifted that equilibrium because of our actions. Essentially, we played the role of the bacteria; we inserted ourself right into that cycle and we started acting like little tiny greenhouse gas producers, except we are MUCH more industrial than a colony of bacteria. Our activity has caused the permafrost to thaw, and the bacteria there to begin producing methane, from their activities.

Methane is about 100 times more efficient than CO2, at infrared capture, on a molecule-by-molecule basis. This means that it's one hundred times more potent than the gas we mainly emit. But that's not the only gas we emit, as we ALSO produce methane, too. Thus, the greenhouse gas effect is amplified by us inserting ourselves into that positive feedback loop. It's almost like adding more oxygen to a fire. To put this in perspective, and debunk the myth once and for all that volcanoes are the reason for our current carbon, we can look at the amount that volcanoes emit every year compared to what WE emit every year. ALL the emissions in a single year of volcanic activity would be enough to be EQUIVALENT to either Florida, Michigan, or Ohio's carbon emissions. For ONE YEAR. Even the emissions here in the United States from transportation in a single year, dominate ALL volcanic emissions in a single year.

Hopefully we can put that to rest; we are overwhelmingly contributing to the greenhouse gas effect. By far, it's more than any terrestrial source since 1800. We are essentially little volcanoes spewing out soot and black into the atmosphere, so it can rain back down as acid. Thank you for watching, Witchlings. Now, things are not that bad, as long as we use our knowledge and apply it in whatever way we can. I hope that you stay safe, and know that you are incredible. <3 Bye~! [Outro Music] Thanks for watching! Hope you enjoyed. <3.