Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Ignorance on Carbon Dioxide

Higher fuel standards and lower emissions are needed for our nation's cars, President Barack Obama said today, in order to curtail the effects of global climate change. Such standards are welcome signs for anyone who cares about the environment, as well as those who are concerned over our dependence on foreign oil and who want lower gas prices.

Conservative commentators and lawmakers, of course, will deride the plan as anti-business, bad for the already fledgling auto industry and an unnecessary regulation to stop global climate change, a phenomenon many on the far right continue to deny is real.

But climate change is very real, its effects already evident in melting glaciers, disappearing ice caps, and several species being driven from their habitat due to changing conditions. Glenn Beck and other talking heads like him can "huff-and-puff" all they want, but they're wrong to assume CO2 from humans is anything like CO2 from industry.

When lawmakers like Rep. Joe Barton (R-Texas) compare our CO2 usage with cars to that of our breathing or soda drinking, it's a sign of how ignorant (or perhaps stubborn) people can be on the subject of global climate change. When Barton says that a marathon full of runners exhaling CO2 could conceivably be regulated, he ignores that industrial CO2 emissions are several times more than what runners "emit," and that the industrial CO2 emissions are continuous, day after day. When he says that CO2 isn't a poison, he forgets how a cloud of carbon dioxide gas has killed people near Lake Nyos in Cameroon, or that a simple Wikipedia search would show that prolonged exposure can cause dizziness, difficulty in breathing, an increased heart rate, and in some cases unconsciousness.

But besides missing the point that carbon dioxide is bad for humans, conservatives like Barton forget that it isn't even THAT fact that matters -- it's the fact that CO2 in our atmosphere is responsible for the hole in our ozone layer, effectively heating the planet up more than is naturally sustainable. The toxicity of carbon dioxide is one thing -- but the destruction of our planet should be enough to cause concern among anyone who wants to continue living on this planet of ours.

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