While funding is pumped into preventing low-probability scenarios such as asteroid collision, the far more likely threat of a large volcanic eruption is close to ignored — despite much that could be done to reduce the risks, say researchers.
The world is “woefully underprepared” for a massive volcanic eruption and the likely repercussions on global supply chains, climate and food, according to experts from the University of Cambridge’s Centre for the Study of Existential Risk (CSER), and the University of Birmingham.
In an article published in the journal Nature, they say there is a “broad misconception” that risks of major eruptions are low, and describe current lack of governmental investment in monitoring and responding to potential volcano disasters as “reckless.”
However, the researchers argue that steps can be taken to protect against volcanic devastation — from improved surveillance to increased public education and magma manipulation — and the resources needed to do so are long overdue.
Mani compares the risk of a giant eruption to that of a 1km-wide asteroid crashing into Earth. Such events would have similar climatic consequences, but the likelihood of a volcanic catastrophe is hundreds of times higher than the combined chances of an asteroid or comet collision.
“Hundreds of millions of dollars are pumped into asteroid threats every year, yet there is a severe lack of global financing and coordination for volcano preparedness,” Mani said. “This urgently needs to change. We are completely underestimating the risk to our societies that volcanoes pose.”
“The Tonga eruption was the volcanic equivalent of an asteroid just missing the Earth, and needs to be treated as a wake-up call,” said Mani.
Financial losses from a large magnitude eruption would be in the multi-trillions, and on a comparable scale to the pandemic, say the experts.
“We may not know about even relatively recent eruptions due to a lack of research into marine and lake cores, particularly in neglected regions such as Southeast Asia,” said Cassidy. “Volcanoes can lie dormant for a long time, but still be capable of sudden and extraordinary destruction.”
The experts also call for increased research into volcano “geoengineering.” This includes the need to study means of countering aerosols released by a massive eruption, which could lead to a “volcanic winter.” They also say that work to investigate manipulating pockets of magma beneath active volcanoes should be undertaken.
Full article at Science Daily.