- The Washington Times - Sunday, March 29, 2009

ANALYSIS/OPINION:

ANALYSIS/OPINION:

One man’s meat may be another man’s poison, but the Environmental Protection Agency has taken the idea to an absurdity. EPA has just sent a proposal to the White House that would classify carbon dioxide as a health hazard.

But if there wasn’t carbon dioxide around, there would be no plants. And, for that matter, neither would there be any people or pets if we weren’t allowed to exhale. The claimed “health hazard” from carbon dioxide is, of course, global warming, yet the data we have seen, such as Stanford economist Thomas Gale Moore’s work, show that warmer temperatures and higher incomes are associated with healthier, longer-living people. In case environmentalists haven’t noticed, bio-diversity is also much greater when temperatures are higher.

Over history, human civilizations have expanded during warmer periods but declined when it got cold. For a history lesson, we recommend University of California Professor Brian Fagan’s excellent book, “The Little Ice Age: How Climate Made History.”

Obviously, higher temperatures support more plant life, and that in turn supplies the food for more animals. If you want more plants, animals, and healthier people, more carbon dioxide and higher temperatures are beneficial and certainly not “hazardous to health.”

All sorts of bizarre regulations already are devoted to “protecting” us from warmer temperatures - regulations that do endanger health and safety. Take mile per gallon regulation rules for cars. These rules directly endanger health and life because smaller cars are simply inherently less able to protect their passengers. Then there are mandates for compact fluorescent light bulbs that contain mercury. The EPA itself has extremely detailed and scary instructions about requiring people to leave the area once a bulb is broken. You can’t vacuum the spot, and if the spill occurs on a carpet the EPA claims that you should cut out that portion of the carpet and dispose of it properly.

There is little rational discussion on global warming these days. Consider the following questions. A “no” to any of them should logically imply that we should not restrict carbon dioxide.

(1) Are global temperatures rising? They were clearly rising from the late 1970s to 1998, but temperatures just as clearly have not gone up in the last 11 years. Indeed, the more recent numbers show evidence of cooling.

(2) Is mankind responsible for a significant and noticeable portion of an increase in temperatures? Mankind is responsible for just a few percent of greenhouse gases, and changes in greenhouse gases are responsible for just a tiny fraction of changes in global temperatures. The big factor is variations in the sun’s energy output. Last December, the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works released a list of 400 prominent scientists who questioned the general notion of significant manmade global warming.

(3) Are increased temperatures “bad”? That answer is hardly obvious. Higher temperatures could increase ocean levels by between 7 inches and 2 feet over the next 100 years. On the other hand, massive areas from Canada to Europe to Russia would be much more habitable than now. We have already noted the other benefits to life.

(4) Finally, let’s assume that the answer to all three previous questions is “yes.” Does that mean we need more regulations and taxes? No, that is still not clear.

If we believe that man-made global warming is “bad,” we still don’t want to eliminate all carbon emissions. Having no cars, no air conditioning, or no electricity would presumably be much worse than anything people claim results from global warming. We would want to balance the benefits with any costs of additional carbon dioxide emissions.

One can see government do stupid things daily; the staggeringly harmful course it is already on is breathtaking. But hold on to the gunwales, for the ship of state in President Obama’s new environmental era will leave the United States pitching and yawing, with the world much poorer and less healthy because of it.

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