The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has declared carbon dioxide (CO2) to be a public health threat, and thus subject to administrative action by the agency. If you buy into the argument that human activity is causing ‘global warming’ or ‘global climate change,’ this sounds really good. After all, these terrible carbon emissions are messing everything up and need to be reined-in, right?
There’s a problem though. You see, most chemicals regulated by the EPA as public health threats are . . . you know . . . dangerous. They’re poisons, pollutants, and toxins. CO2 is not; it is a natural byproduct of animals breathing. You produce CO2 every time you exhale. CO2 is also very important for plants, which take it in and produce oxygen. Plants thrive in CO2-rich environments.
So let us accept, for a moment, the argument that CO2 is a ‘greenhouse gas,’ is causing a rise in global temperatures, and that all this is a bad thing. There are all kinds of problems with this argument (which I will get into some other time), but let’s accept it as fact for a moment. Even if this is true, the idea that CO2—a naturally occurring chemical essential for life on this planet—is a grave public health threat is just insane. Why don’t we declare oxygen to be a threat too, since it’s explosive in its pure form. How about water; people can drown in water. I think it’s time that the EPA stepped in and did something about water.
Even if a reduction in CO2 emissions from artificial sources like internal combustion engines is a worthwhile goal (which, despite claims to the contrary, has not been conclusively proven), the chemical itself cannot be called a public health threat with a straight face. We need CO2. Maybe we need less of it, but CO2 in-and-of itself isn’t a danger and should not be treated as such by the EPA.
The political reality here is that the EPA has made this declaration, likely having been ordered to do so by President Barack Obama (D), so that Obama can put new environmental policies in place without direct Congressional approval. As a largely-harmless byproduct of humans and animals breathing, CO2 can’t be regulated without Congressional action. As a dangerous public health threat, however, EPA can regulate it unilaterally under preexisting environmental law.
If CO2 is so dangerous, then maybe the EPA should limit our exhalations. They might want to start in Washington, DC, (at the Capitol and White House, specifically); lots of hot air around here.