Why Not to Regulate Carbon Dioxide Emissions

By Megan Toombs
November 13, 2013

In most of the Western world, it would be difficult to find someone who had not been told that carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions are bad. As a greenhouse gas, we are told, CO2 is bad because it causes global warming. Because of the dire predictions of environmentalists, regulations have been put in place to reduce our “carbon footprint.”

But what if CO2 were not harmful? What if it were beneficial?

CO2 is the building block of life. It is a key requirement for photosynthesis. Plants must have it to grow. The more CO2 in an environment, the healthier the plants.

According to a report published by the Science and Public Policy Institute, “Plant Productivity: Growth Response to CO2 When Coupled with Ozone,” CO2 actually reduces ozone absorption, which is harmful to plants, and so reduces damage to forests in locales with high levels of ozone pollution. The Austrian Forest Inventory Grid, for instance, registered seven times the “critical level of 10 ppm.h” of ozone. In an area with this level of ozone pollution, serious damage would be expected, but because of enhanced CO2 there was none.

According to the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization (CSIRO), Australia’s National Science Agency, foliage in desert areas studied in North America, Australia, the Middle East, and Africa increased eleven percent between 1982 and 2010 due to CO2 fertilization.

Under the Clean Air Act (CAA) the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has the authority to limit emissions that are considered pollution. The Supreme Court of the United States ruled in 2007 that the EPA could regulate CO2 as a pollutant if the EPA found it dangerous to humans. This led to stricter regulations on automobiles, and now the EPA has turned its sites on the coal industry. The EPA has created regulations so limiting that the ultimate consequence will be that no new coal power plants will be built, and existing plants will have to shut down. The consequences of such policy are devastating not just to those in the coal industry, and supporting industries, who need jobs, but also to those who rely on affordable electricity to live their lives and run their businesses.

Georgia is estimated to lose 480 jobs and Pennsylvania 380 jobs when coal plants are shut down. Eastern Kentucky alone has lost 6000 direct coal mining jobs. “For every one direct mining job lost, three other Kentuckians lose their livelihoods with the loss of indirect jobs.” Of course, this does not take into account the lost revenue of stores and other businesses in these areas that receive income from people employed, directly or indirectly, by the coal industry.

Studies show that CO2 fertilizes plants while blocking the negative impact of ozone pollution. Because of this, many scientists, like those at Principia Scientific, the Committee for a Constructive Tomorrow, and the Center for the Study of Carbon Dioxide and Global Change argue that CO2 is not a pollutant at all. Others, such as at the EPA, believe it is. In either case, reducing its emissions will cost jobs and higher electricity rates, reducing people’s prosperity and hence their health and longevity. Will the benefits exceed the costs? We think not.

CO2 is good for our world and should not be limited—certainly not at the price of jobs and economic prosperity.


Megan Toombs is an International Relations graduate of Houghton College and a contributing writer for the Cornwall Alliance.


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