In Massachusetts v. EPA
, the Supreme Court ruled, five to four, that atmospheric pollutants need not be toxic. Justice Scalia chided in dissent that “frisbees and flatulence” are pollutants, based on that ruling.
True pollutants have a demonstrable negative effect on the environment. This narrow, legal interpretation of the Clean Air Act and the 53 to 47 vote in the Senate to uphold the EPA declaration of CO2 as an endangerment, ensure that unless regulation of CO2 emissions--Cap and Trade—is successfully legislated by the Senate, the EPA will regulate CO2 emissions by default. Either way, the nation is destined to experience CO2 regulation and drastically curtailed use of fossil fuels despite growing evidence that natural causes account for most of the observed temperature increase since 1850. Manipulating CO2 emissions will not appreciably alter the earth’s temperature but according to the POTUS, energy costs will “skyrocket”.
The endangerment designation is based almost solely on the IPCC position that CO2 causes global warming and that human activity is the cause. Policy Makers have been led by the IPCC to believe that climate change is settled science and that the warming calamity can be averted only by drastic reduction of greenhouse gasses. Untrue! Without compelling evidence for anthropogenic global warming (AGW), the justification for the endangerment declaration collapses and the EPA goal of 83 percent reduction in CO2 emissions over the next century will result in negligible lowering of global mean temperature in any case, and is a staggeringly expensive attempt to solve a non-problem. Several lines of evidence suggest that cyclical Pacific and Atlantic ocean currents account for warming and cooling on a predictable basis without invoking anthropogenic forcing and indicate that the cooling trend that started in 1995 will continue in spite of a steady increase in CO2 concentration. Satellite data is consistent with that view. Thus, CO2 is not a major contributor to warming.
CO2 has no intrinsic toxicity but causes asphyxiation by oxygen deprivation at enormous concentrations compared to what could ever appear in the atmosphere from fossil fuel combustion. That said, a large number of toxic and polluting substances appear in stack gas and tailpipe emissions from coal and petroleum combustion--SOx, NOx, carcinogenic hydrocarbons, particulates and toxic heavy metals. Other than toxicity, the only difference between these substances and CO2, is quantity. The sheer amount of CO2 makes capture and sequestration impractical, but everything else is present in small enough quantities to expect that methods can be devised to prevent release. Huge strides in that direction already have been made and the focus of future work should be quantitative containment of toxins and real pollutants, the Supreme Court notwithstanding.
Documented beneficial effects of increased atmospheric CO2 concentration on plant growth and habitat expansion (commercial greenhouses normally operate at 1000 parts per million of CO2) could blunt the next hysteria: the effect of CO2 on biodiversity. Furthermore, cold kills more people than warmth and a small warming trend might be welcomed by anyone paying a heating bill.
Because it is now reasonably clear that disastrous AGW is not in the offing, why doesn’t it make sense to abandon the emotional, financial, and political aspects of AGW, let the CO2 go, live with the elevated CO2 levels since they are nontoxic and the effect on temperature is negligible, concentrate on even more effective sequestration of the known stack gas and tailpipe toxins and endangerments to air and water quality, and leave the energy economy alone while we systematically use it to develop cheap. reliable alternate energy sources to supplant future depletion of fossil fuels?
FamilySecurityMatters.org Contributing Editor Don Petersen, Ph.D., writes for the Los Alamos Education Group and is a retired former Leader of the Los Alamos National Laboratory's Life Sciences Division. Since Operation Desert Shield, he has served on the Deputy Undersecretary of the Army for Operational Research advisory panel for development of chemical and biological weapons detection and protection equipment.
Bill Stratton, Ph.D., writes for the Los Alamos Education Group. Now retired, he spent his career at the Los Alamos National Laboratory working on reactor safety. While a member of the working staff of the President’s Commission on the Accident at Three Mile Island, was instrumental in explaining why almost no Iodine-131 escaped from the reactor core. He has consulted for nuclear utilities, reactor vendors, the Department of Energy, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission and was a member of the Atomic Energy Commission's Advisory Committee on Reactor Safeguards.