"In both games we played, one player received both barren areas (sulfur and volcano) which place him at a huge disadvantage. "
This has been addressed (officially)in a post from IE. It reads:
"Change to rules for Set Up:
In order to have all players start on an even playing field, if you draw a 0 terrain tile (sulphur or a volcano), place it on the board and remove your population marker as the rules currently state. THEN, draw another time card and place another population marker on the continent pictured. Continue as per normal by drawing a terrain tile and placing it in the cutout next to your population marker. Also, if the last terrain tile drawn is a 0 (sulphur or volcano), then follow the new rules. Draw another time card and place one last population marker on the board, under a below limit area on the continent pictured on the time card."