Claude Cartaginese

The EPA's Solution to a Problem that May not Exist

Posted on September 3 2009 1:20 am
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Due to the recent death of Edward Kennedy, the Senate version of the Waxman-Markley climate change bill — named after its sponsors Henry Waxman (D-CA) and Edward J. Markey (D-MA) and officially known as H.R.2454: American Clean Energy and Security Act of 2009 – is on hold. As a result, we’ll all have to suffer a bit longer with the effects of global warming until the bill is passed.

Don’t despair, however. Amy Goodman’s Democracy Now! network does have some good news to report about the government’s efforts at reversing global warming. According to Goodman, while the efforts of the Senate to pass a climate change bill may be stalled, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has announced plans to declare carbon dioxide (CO2) “a dangerous pollutant.”

A dangerous pollutant? Isn’t CO2 a naturally occurring substance?

Well, yes. CO2 is a chemical compound composed of two oxygen atoms covalently bonded to a carbon atom. Volcanoes, geothermal springs, mineral degradation and other natural phenomena all emit vast quantities of CO2 into the atmosphere. The EPA’s demonization of CO2 is based on the (unproven) belief that CO2, along with six other gases, form a heat-trapping layer in the upper atmosphere. The end result of this trapped heat is a global rise in temperature over time (also unproven).

There is nothing the EPA can do about naturally occurring sources of CO2, but by golly, the EPA’s task is to protect the environment, and that’s what it’s going to do. What the EPA has decided, in essence, is to protect the environment from another source of CO2 emissions–you.

In addition to producing CO2 every time you breathe (which the EPA can’t regulate), you also release CO2 whenever you drive your car, cook on your grill, open a can of cola or make bread (which can be regulated). It’s a common by-product of many activities. So, is all of this CO2 really a bad thing? Actually, no.

In the first place, CO2 is required by plants for photosynthesis. Plants use this “dangerous” by-product of our respiration as the main component of their respiration. The plants then release oxygen (O2) as their by-product, which is our primary source of this life-sustaining element. We benefit them; they benefit us. Symbiosis, as the scientists say.

Secondly, environmentalists theorize that there is a potentially larger threat to the atmosphere, a substance that is not even on the EPA’s list of deadly heat trappers: water vapor. Water vapor attaches itself to free carbon particles in the atmosphere, forming “black carbon,” or soot. This black carbon is considered by environmentalists to be just as hazardous as CO2, but there’s a major difference between the two: CO2 has an atmospheric lifetime of up to 100 years, while black carbon’s is only a matter of days.

The EPA could, theoretically, achieve its aims faster by going after water vapor, effectuating a change in weeks rather than centuries, yet it has not declared water vapor to be (as of this writing), dangerous.

Finally, the EPA is forced to concede that an increase in atmospheric CO2 levels may actually do some good. From a Wall Street Journal report:

The EPA did acknowledge some positive impacts from higher CO2 concentrations.

One is faster-growing trees in tropical forests, which helps offset deforestation. Another is marshes that can more quickly grow above rising sea levels, providing an insurance policy of sorts for some low-lying areas against the potential ravages of rising sea levels resulting from warmer global temperatures.

When politics and science converge, a good thing becomes a bad thing becomes a good thing becomes a mess.

By the way, another substance classified by the EPA as dangerous is methane; don’t even think about breaking wind.

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