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FILE -- The American Electric Power Company FILE -- The American Electric Power Company's cooling tower at their Mountaineer plant is shown in New Haven, W.Va., Oct. 27, 2009. (REUTERS/Ayesha Rascoe)  

Utah lawmaker: We should emit more CO2 into the atmosphere

While the Obama administration is focused on cutting carbon dioxide emissions to fight global warming, one Utah state lawmaker argues that the U.S. should emit more carbon into the atmosphere.

Utah Republican state Rep. Jerry Anderson says there’s not enough carbon in the atmosphere and that levels “really could be much higher and give us a lot of benefit for growing plants.”

“We are short of carbon dioxide for the needs of the plants,” Anderson, who’s a retired science teacher, told state lawmakers. “Concentrations reached 600 parts per million at the time of the dinosaurs and they did quite well. I think we could double the carbon dioxide and not have any adverse effects.”

Anderson proposed legislation that would limit the state’s ability to regulate carbon emissions, reports the Salt Lake Tribune. The bill narrows the definition of the term “air contaminants” by adding that “natural components of the atmosphere”, like carbon, were not pollutants.

Anderson’s argument runs up against the contention of many climate scientists that releasing carbon dioxide into the atmosphere causes the planet to warm. Current carbon concentration levels are at about 400 parts per million (ppm), which scientists have warned is troubling.

“Passing the 400 mark reminds me that we are on an inexorable march to 450 ppm and much higher levels,” said NASA climate scientist Dr. Michael Gunson. “These were the targets for ‘stabilization’ suggested not too long ago. The world is quickening the rate of accumulation of CO2, and has shown no signs of slowing this down. It should be a psychological tripwire for everyone.”

Retired University of Utah engineering professor Joe Andrade warned that carbon levels of 500 ppm greatly acidify the oceans and harm the Earth.

“We are on a path to double the amount of carbon dioxide in our atmosphere since we started burning fossil fuels. We can all see the chaotic weather that it has already produced,” Andrade said.

“It’s not toxic to you and me below concentrations of 1,000 or 2,000 [parts per million], but it’s toxic to this planet,” Andrade added. “Setting an arbitrary upper limit, that is out of the bounds of anything related to planetary stability, is simply bad government.”

Carbon dioxide only makes up less than one-half of one percent of the Earth’s atmosphere while nitrogen makes up 78 percent of the atmosphere. Oxygen, argon, water vapor and other trace gases make up the rest.

“I’ve been around long enough to know that we cycle between possible ice ages coming on or the ice caps are going to melt and we’re all gonna drown,” Anderson told the Tribune.

Anderson’s bill would prevent the state from regulating carbon dioxide when concentration levels are below 500 parts per million — far above current levels. The bill is currently on hold, however, as lawmakers got hung up on what to do with the noble gas radon, which is abundant in Utah but also harms human health.

Anderson also noted the harsh winter storms pounding much of the country as some evidence of why we needed more carbon.

“I’m glad we had some global warming so it didn’t get any colder than that,” he said.

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