When CO2 is Outlawed, Only Outlaws Will Have CO2

I know it’s almost impossible to have a rational conversation about climate change these days, but it’s getting pretty silly when a naturally occurring gas that is required for human life is declared a hazardous substance by the EPA.

Before people start the cycle of bombing me with comments claiming I’m some “insane climate change denouncer” or “tool of the socialist agenda to control our economy through global warming” you must understand one thing … I think both “sides” in today’s climate change debates are pretty much full of compost ready animal waste product.

This thought is too long for Twitter and may end up as a long-form rant. I’ll try and get my “side” of the argument out so people can understand there is an achievable middle ground when it comes to the environment.

Recent news about scientists tossing out raw temperature data don’t help the supposed consensus . Since science is never supposed to be about consensus but what one can critically prove, this does nothing but add fuel to the fire of global warming. Rather than approach the subject with a critical eye, factions have formed that rely on an almost religious attachment to a catch phrase in the hopes fervor works better than analysis.

In the 1970′s we talked about pollution. Crying American Indians … sorry, Casino Owner Americans … helped promote the idea of what your mom has told you since you were old enough to throw food on the floor: PICK UP AFTER YOURSELF! Don’t dump crap in the ocean, put your trash in a bin and don’t waste food. Then we got into the rainforest and animal preservation … actually, America’s has conservation movements that predate tie-dyed Phish phans dancing in mudpits, but there’s no public service announcement videos from the 1800′s to post on YouTube.

Anyway, this all leads up to global warming from a political standpoint … yeah, trust me …

Elections are ad campaigns, pure and simple. They are easily won when you have a consistent message and catch phrase. “A Thousand Points of Light” and “I Like Ike” are just “Where’s The Beef?” in suits. Explaining the complex interconnection of the world is too hard to do in 30 seconds, so a phrase like “global warming” makes life easier for people pushing a message.

So pollution, recycling, carbon footprint and all that jazz got pushed into one catchphrase … “global warming” tries to roll it all up into one nice bundle of 100% unbleached newsprint tied into a package with hemp twine. So it’s easy to sell, chant and print on bumper stickers.

This all works as long as the phrase can be defended … and this is where the breakdown happens. How many “family values” candidates have been taken down when they are found to have so many mistresses they have to buy their jewelry at Costco? Building a reputation on one central theme requires to the theme to be defensible.

No, I’m not saying there is no issue with the world’s climate … the weather we’re used to is changing. But changing how? For better, worse or just different? Without a consistent approach and open analysis, we’ll never know. If we use bad data and bad assumptions, then we’re not preparing for what really awaits us in the future.

Now we have this CO2 regulation, which is the President’s way of side-stepping Congress to get regulations passed. Don’t hold your breath … seriously, don’t … you won’t get fined by the EPA (I think). This just illustrates the political nonsense that we’ve resorted to.

This is the way I break it down …

  • There are people who think they can manipulate policy by using “global warming” as their stated motivations … even if they turn out to be total assholes you look like a baby seal hunter if you go after someone who’s “fighting for the planet.”  Then the catchphrase turns into a big green shield that must remain intact to protect their viewpoint. Defending the party line means backing the “consensus” on global warming at all costs.
  • There are people who don’t like the politics of using “global warming” as a policy catchphrase, but they also don’t want to look like they drive spikes into the heads of baby seals for fun and profit … so they attack “global warming” in the hopes the “consensus” shifts and the other party is taken off message.
  • There are people who can’t find out what’s really going on because the political guys dirty the waters with all of their mudslinging.

There are people in environmental studies that really want to fix the environment in an open and ethical way. I know these people, some of them I call friends. I hope they find out what’s really going on so we know how to respond. If the planet is changing and we can fix it, great. If the planet is changing and it’s not a man-made cycle, then we need to know that and adapt.

When the plague known as “the black death” hit Europe, it was tied to religious retribution. Since witches somehow got blamed for this, cats were killed off in an attempt to appease someone’s deity. Of course, rats spread the disease by carrying fleas, and they had free run of the village once the cats were gone … death by misunderstanding.

If you want to recycle, do it because it makes sense (see also “reduce” and “reuse”). If you want to lower pollution, do it because it makes perfect sense (I enjoy breathing, otherwise how will I generate the CO2 that plants can’t live with out). Don’t let politics and cultist behavior get in the way of actually dealing with the issue.

Alternative fuel, windmills, solar, composting … do them because they have their own benefit, and don’t do them if they don’t work. Do these things without attaching it to “global warming” or “climate change” or some other slogan. Each of these pieces fit into different planetary puzzles. Perfect for the socialist, democrat, republican or libertarian in your life.

No policy to change but your own.



  1. Teresa Powell says:

    Brian, this is excellent. Thanks!

  2. Joyous says:

    I’m fairly sure they’re talking about CO2 produced by fossil fuel consumption. So far every breath you take is safe from government regulation–which is good, blue is not your color. :)

  3. Charlene MacKay says:

    Oh, my gosh, You actually make sense. Do you know how long its been since I’ve heard anything remotely rational on this subject? Way too long.

  4. bedlamhouse says:

    Poop is a naturally occurring substance which also provides vital fertilizer for plants. However, I’m sure you’d agree that regulating where and how said poop can be processed and disposed of makes sense.

    It isn’t the nature of CO2 as a substance, it is the amount and how it is essentially being artificially produced that matters.

    However, your points about the political use of the “green” labels are spot on.

  5. abovenyquist says:

    I was initially inclined to be skeptical of your point when you quoted a Heritage Foundation study in your first paragraph (such things automatically raise my skepticism sensors), but overall this is a superbly well thought out post, and I generally concur. You can in many respects apply the same analysis to the health care “debate” – myriad interconnecting complex issues that get shredded into meaningless soundbites from both sides.

    I don’t think you’re quite on target on the CO2 issue, though. All the folks posting comments on blogs things like “Soooo, my breathing is bad for the planet?” (from “Elaine,” commenting on the Heritage Foundation article) are missing the point. People breathing and cows farting is one thing, vast quantities of CO2 being introduced to the atmosphere by power plants is another.

    Naturally occuring (and useful) substances can be dangerous when present in excessive quantities. You need water to live, but you can also drown in it.

  6. siliconchef says:

    abovenyquist: I get that the CO2/breathing “argument” is used more for comic relief, but then again I don’t want oxygen or nitrogen regulated in the same way.

    The classification of CO2 as a hazard is based on taking a shortcut around Congress to fast-track new EPA regulations (since they report to the President). It’s a symptom of how this whole mess got politicized.

    There are better ways to encourage businesses to cut pollution, assuming that’s the real motivation behind this move.

    And yes, the health care/coverage/insurance debate is headed in the same direction … which is sad …

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