Green Watch

Carbon Dioxide Scare

On June 4, the American Lung Association (ALA) began running an ad against carbon pollution on major television channels. This ad, called a “Mother’s Instinct,” is in support of the Environmental Protection Agency’s new Clean Air Act regulations, proposed just two days prior on June 2. The ALA’s ad provides misinformation that confuses listeners regarding current air pollution regulations and about the prevailing left-wing myth that carbon dioxide emissions somehow pose a danger to human health.

The ALA ad features a child who is breathing heavily as he sleeps in his crib. Halfway, the ad switches to a scene of huge smokestacks emitting gray clouds of “carbon pollution” which are said to poison the air the child breathes.

Mike Kolleng, manager of ALA’s Healthy Air Campaign in Chicago, told me in a phone interview that the “carbon pollution” referenced in the ad refers to carbon dioxide, specifically.

Here is a transcript from the ad:

The Clean Air Act stops polluters from poisoning his air with arsenic, lead and mercury. Now the loophole that lets them pump unlimited carbon pollution into his air is closing, too, if polluters and their friends in Washington don’t interfere. Don’t let polluters weaken our clean air protections.

According to the ad, there is a “loophole that lets [polluters] pump unlimited carbon pollution” into the air (emphasis added). This is misinformation about current air pollution regulations. Since carbon pollution refers specifically to carbon dioxide, the ad suggests that someone has evaded previous carbon dioxide regulations.

And yet, there has been no previous regulation on carbon dioxide emissions. The first case of carbon dioxide regulation, if it is enacted, will take place as a result of a new Clean Air Act proposal the EPA unveiled June 2.

But this is fundamentally dishonest. Everyone knows that to create a loophole, there must first be a law to evade. Therefore, there is no way that “polluters and their friends in Washington” could have created a carbon dioxide loophole.

The American Lung Association’s ad also misinforms the viewer by propagating the myth that carbon dioxide emissions endanger air quality. Shelly Kiser, Directory of Advocacy at ALA in Ohio, explains that “the ad is referring to carbon, a potent greenhouse gas.”

The term “greenhouse gas” is used often enough, but is misunderstood. “Greenhouse gas” refers to five different gases: water vapor, carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous oxide, and ozone. The most abundant greenhouse gas is water vapor (H2O) and the function of all greenhouse gases is to mitigate the effect of the sun’s radiation so that life can continue on earth. Greenhouse gases, they never seem to point out, are good things.

The only two greenhouse gases which are carbon-based are carbon dioxide and methane. Methane (natural gas) is a non-toxic hydrocarbon and is unregulated by the EPA at this time. Carbon dioxide, therefore, has to be the “potent greenhouse gas” referred to by Kiser.

Regardless of whether carbon dioxide contributes to man-made global warming, calling carbon dioxide a danger to human health is absurd. Every human being produces carbon dioxide each time he exhales. The “Mother’s Instinct” ad asserts that the Clean Air Act prevents polluters from poisoning the baby’s air with arsenic, lead and mercury. Since 1967, the Clean Air Act has been regulating those real-life air pollutants. Adding carbon dioxide to that list of dangerous toxins, however, is ridiculous.

The ad claims that carbon dioxide will “weaken our clean air protections.” One reason this claim is foolish is because at any given time there is a greater concentration of carbon dioxide in someone’s lungs (12,500 per parts million) than is found in the air surrounding him (400 ppm). Clearly, carbon dioxide is not poisonous if it naturally exists in humans in such high concentrations.

The EPA’s goal with the new proposed regulation is that “Nationwide, by 2030, this rule would achieve CO 2 emission reductions from the power sector of approximately 30 percent from CO 2 emission levels in 2005.”

Even if the EPA succeeds in reaching this goal by 2030 (which itself is doubtful), carbon dioxide emissions will still have no effect on air quality. If these regulations were to be extended throughout the next century (far beyond the proposed sunset year of 2030), the atmospheric concentration of CO2 would be reduced by only a few parts per million.

Such a decline in CO2 emissions would have absolutely no effect on air quality. An atmospheric carbon dioxide concentration of 397 ppm would differ little from today’s concentration of 400 ppm. Furthermore, such a reduction would have no health benefits because carbon dioxide is not poisonous to humans at such levels.

If carbon dioxide emissions do not cause health problems, why has the American Lung Association released this ad?

Because this non-profit charity is working in tandem with EPA to further the reach of government.

According to EPA’s records, the American Lung Association has received over $20 million from the EPA in taxpayer dollars over the past 10 years. James Bennet of George Mason University writes in Pandering for Profit: The Transformation of Health Charities to Lobbyists that “the ALA has responded by using every possible means to advance the agency’s regulatory authority by advocating tougher air quality standards.”

Further evidence of this close relationship is that on June 2 (the day of the Clean Air Act proposal) the American Lung Association held a joint press conference (conducted as a conference call) with President Barack Obama and the EPA Administrator, Gina McCarthy.

So, one can see that through a “Mother’s Instinct” the American Lung Association promotes irrational fears regarding air quality to further its benefactor’s political agenda.