Our Friend CO2

One of the stupider arguments making the rounds in the media is that “carbon-dioxide-is-not-pollution– it’s life”.

In fact, the Competitive Enterprise Institute (CEI) produced a hilarious commercial saying just that.

Friendly footage shows how CO2 comes from little girls blowing dandelion seeds, and prancing gazelles. Then cue the ominous music: “now some politicians want to label carbon dioxide a pollutant – imagine if they succeed. What would our lives be like then?

Perhaps a bit of back-story is in order. The CEI has received a whopping $2,005,000 from ExxonMobil since 1998. Their point person on climate change is the notorious Myron Ebell who is so pathologically pro-oil he once claimed that good gas mileage is a mass killer.

So what are the CEI (and their funders in the fossil fuel industry) so worried about? After decades of the atmosphere being used as a free dumping ground for astronomical amounts of carbon dioxide, the federal government is finally considering putting some regulations on our friend CO2.

It is no surprise that this proposed policy is about as popular with Big Oil as a fart in a diving bell.

The fight around CO2 regulation has been brewing for a long while. Back in 2007, the US Supreme Court found the EPA was negligent in not listing CO2 as a legally defined “pollutant” under the Clean Air Act. This designation would trigger long overdue regulation of carbon emissions – something the Bush Whitehouse was predictably opposed to.

Years of delay ensued where essentially nothing happened, other than climate change became exponentially worse. Interestingly, Myron Ebell of the CEI was accused of colluding with the Bush Whitehouse to discredit elements within the EPA that wanted to move forward with CO2 regulation.

Pitted against this immovable object was a seemingly unstoppable force. Barack Obama was elected President, and change ostensibly came to Washington.

Just last month the EPA finally submitted their carbon dioxide determination to the Whitehouse, deciding that CO2 meets the legal definition of “pollution” based on the well-known impacts climate change will have on human welfare, and almost everything else on the planet.

This is a first step on a long road towards recognizing that using the atmosphere as an unregulated dumping ground for CO2 is not only dangerous, but unfair to the taxpayer who will have to pick up the tab as our climate chickens come home to roost.

While CO2 does not stink or make your eyes burn – it is definitely dangerous in the amounts now emitted around the world:

  • Climate change from burning fossil fuels has been identified by experts as a greater threat to humanity than global terrorism.
  • Leading researchers testified before Congress just last month that large parts of the United States may be rendered an uninhabitable wasteland – perhaps within the next ninety years.
  • Dr. Nina Fedoroff, the chief scientist for the US State Department testified last week that carbon-driven climate change could leave one billion in famine in only forty years.

Historic CO2 concentrationsAll this is being driven by ballooning levels of CO2 that have not been seen in the Earth’s atmosphere for at least the last 800,000 years.

If all that isn’t dangerous, I don’t know what is.

Rather than reinventing the wheel, why not use legislation already on the books?

The venerable Clean Air Act remains one of the most powerful tools to begin making polluters pay for the well-known impacts of climate change.

But then, what polluter wants to pay for anything? Big Coal and the oil industry are pushing back hard.

Last year, the coal industry threw $45 million at a public relations campaign, and more than $10 million on lobbying. This was largely to promote the fiction of “clean coal” to the pubic, the media and lawmakers.

Hence the ridiculous argument being puffed up in the popular press that CO2 is merely a harmless gas exhaled by little girls and gazelles.

For the record, no one is disputing that historic levels of CO2 are essential for life as we know it. It is routinely added in greenhouses (and grow-ops) to boost production.

But as they say, a little dab will do ya. Too much of a good thing, be it water, whiskey or botox will kill you. The trick is knowing how much is too much.

Of course the fossil fuel industry would like the bartender to keep pouring a long while yet. And as with any drunk, rational conversation is not always possible. Sometimes the best way to keep the party going is denying there is a problem.

You can therefore expect to hear much more nonsense from the fossil fuel lobby about our invisible, harmless friend CO2.

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