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Carbon Dioxide is Green, Smoking is Good for You & Soda Strengthens Tooth Enamel

by Jamie Trowbridge

September 23, 2009

Sorry, folks, the Supreme Court must have been wrong about CO2 being an air pollutant.  I stumbled upon the Truth in the form of this half-page ad in Monday’s Washington Post:

Not only is there no scientific evidence that CO2 is a pollutant, higher CO2 concentrations actually help ecosystems support more plant and animal life… Higher levels of CO2 result in more plant growth as well as less water being required for plants to grow faster and larger.  In fact, we all exhale CO2 and enjoy it in our carbonated beverages.

This blows my mind.  I don’t even know how to categorize this latest piece of big-oil-funded misdirection. Junk science? Botany for third graders? Blatant untruthiness? 

CO2isgreen, Inc., the non-profit “with questionable parentage” that funded the ad, has already been called out twice in the blogosphere – once by Grist.org and again by Scienceblogs.com.  Miles Grant correctly points out H. Leighton Steward’s position as an honorary director at the American Petroleum Institute, recently in the news for staging astroturf campaigns, as well as his connection to numerous big oil companies:

He’s also a director at EOG Resources, an oil and gas company, a position in which he earned a whopping $617,151 last year. Steward is formerly head of Burlington Resources, now a part of ConocoPhillips) and former Chairman of the U.S. Oil and Gas Association and the Natural Gas Supply Association. Not a word about any of that in his bio on the site.

The one connection that Grant missed is that Steward is currently Chairman of the Board of The Institute for the Study of Earth and Man at SMU, which has received $76,500 since 1998 from everybody’s favorite greenhouse gangster, ExxonMobil.

James Hrynyshyn paints a softer picture of Steward after talking to him on the phone, describing him as “earnest,” and insisting:

…he’s not a dupe of Big Oil trying to pull the wool over our eyes. At least, not consciously… He simply doesn’t doesn’t accept the mountains of evidence that carbon dioxide is a significant greenhouse gas, and that small changes in its atmospheric concentration can have a big impact on climate.

Forgive my cynicism, but if it looks like big oil, works for big oil and gets paid by big oil, then it must be an earnest Joe with a penchant for taking out half-page ads in major news publications.

If we are going to base our science on experiments carried out by 8-year-olds, let us discuss these carbonated beverages that we so much enjoy.  It has long been known that carbonated beverages rot your teeth, due primarily to the carbonic acid, which forms when CO2 is dissolved in water. More CO2 in the air means more CO2 in the water.  The resulting acidification is rotting our oceans:

Almost half of all the carbon dioxide emitted since industrialization has been absorbed by the ocean. [Acidification] deprives animals like hard corals and certain mollusks and plankton of the raw material for their calcium carbonate shells and skeletons. This may ultimately cause the world’s oceans to become corrosive to such animals, and coral reefs to dissolve.

The science of our carbon burden is clear.  What is unclear is whether world leaders gathered in New York for a UN summit on climate change can be convinced to act in the interest of the many and the future rather than the few and the now.

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