Sen. Inhofe, environmental groups spar over whether carbon emissions actually pose health risk

Amanda Carey Contributor
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When Republican lawmakers introduced legislation this week to block efforts by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to regulate carbon, environmental groups pushed back hard. And this time, the groups stepped up their efforts by attempting to shift the argument from being about climate change science and green jobs to public health safety.

In a press release sent out Thursday, the National Resources Defense Council (NRDC) attacked the proposal as a “serious health setback.”

“This is unprecedented political interference with sound science and enforcement of clean air safeguards, which have improved our water and air for the past four decades,” said NRDC climate and air legislative director Franz Matzner.

“Politicians should not block EPA scientists from continuing to reduce carbon dioxide, mercury and other life-threatening pollution. Big polluters cannot be allowed to continue spewing unlimited amounts of carbon pollution into our air.”

When contacted by The Daily Caller, an NRDC spokesperson referred to a 2008 NRDC fact sheet that lists health risks from carbon dioxide that include a more intense “allergenic pollen season” and an increase in droughts and floods.

Even Democrats on the Hill have taken up the argument shift to public health.

“These attacks on the Clean Air Act will only take us backwards to a time when big polluters dirtied our air with impunity and hurt the health of our children,” said Democratic Sen. Ben Cardin of Maryland Thursday. “If Republicans want to tear down the progress we have made to make air cleaner in America, they’re going to get a fight from those of us who are committed to the public health of our communities.”

A spokesperson for the American Public Health Administration (APHA) also told TheDC that the organization supported “reducing carbon emissions to protect public health. In a response to the proposed legislation, the APHA called on Congress to defend the Clean Air Act and the EPA’s attempts to regulate carbon as a matter of public health.

But for some, the threat of carbon dioxide on public health is exaggerated. One scientist even described CO2 to TheDC as a “beneficial gas.”

In an interview with TheDC, Joe D’Aleo, a meteorologist and executive director of the International Climate and Environmental Change Assessment Project (ICECAP), called the public health argument “nonsense” and “absolutely ludicrous.”

“Since we emit 2.7 pounds of CO2 per person per day from respiration, it is clearly not harmful,” said D’Aleo.

He also pointed out that in classrooms, auditoriums, and especially submarines, carbon dioxide levels are always higher than they are in the open air. “And they don’t die in submarines from carbon dioxide,” said D’Aleo.

“The EPA has admitted that its cap-and-trade agenda won’t have any meaningful impact on climate,”  said Matt Dempsey, spokesperson for Sen. James Inhofe of Oklahoma, one of the co-sponsors of the legislation. “One wonders, then: how could stopping something with no impact have any impact on public health?”

“This has nothing to do with public health, and everything to do with saving jobs, protecting consumers, and keeping our manufacturing base here in America,” he added.

Moreover, in their study entitled “Carbon Dioxide and the Earth’s Future, Pursuing the Prudent Path,” authors Craig Idso and Sherwood Idso found that “what many people believe to be the cause of global warming, i.e. anthropogenic CO2 emissions, may actually be a powerful force for preserving land for nature.”

Idso and Idso note in their study that the current levels of carbon dioxide in the air make up only four-hundredths of one percent of the earth’s atmosphere. Even if the amount of CO2 is tripled, it would still only amount to a little over one tenth of the air humans breath.

“Nevertheless, a small increase in this minuscule amount of CO2 is frequently predicted to produce a suite of dire environmental consequences, including dangerous global warming,” they write.

The Energy Tax Prevention Act of 2011 was released Wednesday evening by Reps. Fred Upton of Michigan, chair of the Energy and Commerce Committee, and Ed Whitfield of Kentucky, chair of the Energy and Power Subcommittee, as well as Inhofe, ranking member of the Environment and Public Works Committee.

If passed, it would permanently stop the EPA from implementing regulations to prevent climate change and clarify the Clean Air Act to say it was not intended to address climate change at all. Other bills dealing with EPA regulations have been floated recently by Republican Sen. John Barrasso of Wyoming and Democratic Sen. Jay Rockefeller of West Virginia

Barrasso’s bill would block all federal agencies from passing regulations dealing with climate change without congressional authorization, while Rockefeller’s proposal would just delay implementation of the EPA’s regulations for two years.