By Kennedy Maize
The Obama administration’s Environmental Protection Agency is declaring that carbon dioxide, a life-giving and ubiquitous atmospheric chemical, is a threat to public health. That’s a completely illogical determination, but also completely expected.
The notion that carbon dioxide is a pollutant has nothing to do with chemistry or physics or biology or climatology, but everything to do with politics. The life-sustaining molecule makes photosynthesis possible. Without CO2 – as even those who want to limit its role in our atmosphere would acknowledge – life on this planet would cease.
Yet, says the EPA in a proposed determination that completely defies science, CO2 is a killer pollutant, a threat to public health. Why? Because CO2, and other trace gases in the atmosphere, allegedly cause the global climate to warm. The increase in these gases, say the advocates of CO2 reductions, are the result of man-made actions, in the form of coal-fired and natural gas power plants, cars, and other uses of fuels derived from dead dinosaurs. There is, of course, no evidence for this assertion.
And is a warmer climate bad? Absolutely yes, say the would-be regulators, again without empirical evidence. Mankind is altering the climate in ways that we can’t predict, based on physical evidence. But they must be bad, the regulators assert. Numerous studies by credentialed academics predict gloom and doom as a result of a warming Earth. Is there any reality beyond computer projections based on unwarranted assumptions? No.
On the contrary, a warmer climate may be a better climate. It’s not by any means a settled argument. People are moving to Florida, South Texas, and other warmer climes for reasons that make sense to them. Global warming, according to many of the dubious computers models, will mean warmer winters, not hotter summers. Who can object to that?
The policymakers – including the Obama administration — assume that climate warming is universally bad, based in part on bogus assessments from academics who want to prove that their apocalyptic visions are valid.
That’s too bad. One can conjure up many scenarios of the results of climate warming (if it is likely). I suspect that Carl Hiassen and Tim Dorsey would view Florida sinking into the sea as a pretty good idea. It would take a long time, providing the two Florida-based eco-and-wacko novelists plenty of material. Nor would they necessarily object to the final outcome.
Skepticism would be a welcome addition to the Obama administration’s science team. That isn’t in the cards. The global warming religion is triumphant in Washington today; heretics should be burned at the stake, as long as that doesn’t result in carbon dioxide emissions. Former Clinton administration energy official Joe Romm has declared that climate change skeptic Freeman Dyson, one of the greatest physicists of the age, is a fool. Romm, I suggest, is the clown in this act.
I’d like to organize a science curriculum on CO2 for grade schooolers. If I could present it before the kids themselves, I would ask, “Is CO2 bad?” I suspect the answer would be a resounding “Yes.” Should it be eliminated entirely from our atmosphere? I’m sure the answer would be “Yes.”
Then I’d ask, “Do you like trees, flowers, fruits and vegetables?” The kids would probably answer, “Yes.” “Do you like dogs, cats, rabbits, and ponies?” “Yes.”
Do you know that if you eliminate all carbon dioxide from the air around us, you will kill all the trees, flowers, fruits, and vegetables; all the dogs, cats, rabbits, and horses? That’s a true statement. Is that what you want?
The answer would be “No.”
The point I’m trying to make is that carbon dioxide is not a “pollutant” in any sentient definition, but an essential part of life. The convoluted reasoning of the EPA to regulate greenhouse gases (primarily, but not entirely, CO2) as pollutants defies logic and science.
One can argue that some CO2 is good but too much is bad. That makes logical sense. Ultimately it’s specious in this case. The attempt to define what is “too much” crashes against empirical reality. There is simply no way to determine how much CO2 is too much, in terms of the concentrations we’re talking about today. Is 300 parts per million too much? How about 350 ppm? How does one determine the impact of the difference?
Today, policy on climate change is based on computer models that have very little empirical support. Even the physical mechanisms that the models claim to understand are flakey. They don’t understand the interrelationships among the terrestrial earth, the aquatic planet (70% of the surface of the globe is water), and the clouds that determine so much of weather. In short, they are crap shoots, not precise predictors.
Climate models are worthwhile scientific enterprises. They can help us understand what we know and don’t know about the climate and direct our inquiries. They are not useful guides to public policy. Indeed, they are largely false indicators. Policy makers should view the global circulation models as interesting, but far from determinative, inputs to policy.
The Obama administration’s attempt to regulate CO2 through the existing Clean Air Act is empty-headed, but may be intended to push Congress to act. I suspect the courts will reject the EPA’s attempt to define a life-giving molecule at one concentration as a chemical life-killer at another, at levels of parts per million.
That would put the issue where it belongs: in Congress. Because CO2 emissions are so controversial, and touch so many industries and congressional districts, many of the solons would have been happy to see the issue defined by the courts, absolving them of the need to grapple with the nettlesome issue.
I don’t think that’s going to happen. Congress is going to have to make the decision here, and I suspect it will be that CO2 isn’t a conventional pollutant, despite the views of the environmental community and many in the Obama administration. Back to regulatory and political square one.