Climate Change: Another politician (incorrectly) thinks volcanoes pollute more than cars

April 11, 2015

Climate Change

Mike Huebsch (Photo from the Wisconsin Radio Network website)

Mike Huebsch (Photo from the Wisconsin Radio Network website)


“I believe that humans can have an impact to climate change, but I don’t think it’s anywhere near the level of impact of just the natural progression of our planet,” Huebsch said. “You know, the elimination of essentially every automobile would be offset by one volcano exploding. You have to recognize the multiple factors that go into climate change.”

– Mike Huebsch, newest member of the Wisconsin Public Service Commission on April 7, 2015 when asked about climate change during his confirmation hearing after being recommended by Governor Scot Walker.

WRONG. This is an unfounded myth about the climate that has been around for decades. The propagation of the myth can be attributed to President Ronald Reagan, who said:

“I have flown twice over Mount St. Helens out on our West Coast. I’m not a scientist and I don’t know the figures, but I have a suspicion that that one little mountain has probably released more sulfur dioxide into the atmosphere of the world than has been released in the last ten years of automobile driving or things of that kind that people are so concerned about.”

– Ronald Reagan, (R) 40th President of the United States of America (and not a scientist) talking about sulfur dioxide emissions, linked to increases in acid rain.

As I pointed out in my previous post, This is highly inaccurate, as cars are responsible for around 81,000 tons of sulfur dioxide each day, around 40 times as much as Mount. St. Helens at 2000 tons.

Here is what the U.S. Geological Survey has to say about volcanic emissions versus human emissions:

Do the Earth’s volcanoes emit more CO2 than human activities? Research findings indicate that the answer to this frequently asked question is a clear and unequivocal, “No.” Human activities, responsible for a projected 35 billion metric tons (gigatons) of CO2 emissions in 2010 (Friedlingstein et al., 2010), release an amount of CO2 that dwarfs the annual CO2 emissions of all the world’s degassing subaerial and submarine volcanoes

The USGS reports that global volcanic emissions contribute about 0.26 billion metric tons per year, whereas vehicles contribute around 3.0 billion metric tons per year. 

See Wisconsin Radio Network’s article, Huebsch queried on climate change for more details.

Huebsch is not the kind of politician we need making decisions about climate change policy. We need to hold politicians to a higher standard of scientific literacy as scientific and political issues become increasingly intertwined.

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About jslachman381

I'm a Yale graduate who majored in History of Science, Medicine, and Public Health.

View all posts by jslachman381

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  1. “Why Politicians Need Science”: Politico’s poor attempt to put science on an a pedestal | The Science Writing Blog - April 11, 2015

    […] We still engage in unscientific behaviors frequently to this day whether we’re talking about climate change, genetically modified organisms, abortion, nuclear science, or almost any other area of science and […]

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