Just recently, the Environmental Protection Agency ruled that carbon dioxide and five other greenhouse gases are “pollutants that threaten public health and welfare.” The “threat” comes from the effects of man-made global warming.
This ruling is the first step in regulating the very gas that makes life on Earth possible. If that sounds odd to you, it should. A lot of what is going on here has little, if anything, to do with public health.
The EPA’s “endangerment finding” classified CO2 under the Clean Air Act as a pollutant. EPA administrator Sheila Jackson said, “Greenhouse-gas pollution is a serious problem now and for future generations.”
There are many scientists who would disagree. The agency’s findings came at a time when the science surrounding man-made global warming is more hotly debated than ever.
For starters, there are good reasons to doubt whether, in fact, the globe is getting warmer. The data, as opposed to computer models, strongly suggests that the globe has been cooling for the better part of a decade. This inconvenient fact may be why the preferred expression has gone from “global warming” to “climate change.”
But history teaches us that climate is always changing. So the question becomes: What causes climate change? Again, many leading climate scientists insist, with ample evidence to back it up, that the warming that occurred during the 20th century resulted from natural causes and cycles.
Finally there are those, like the Danish researcher Bjorn Lomborg, who insist that even if human activity is contributing to a warming trend, trying to regulate CO2 is the wrong approach. Lomborg says that “cutting CO2 simply doesn’t matter much for most of the world’s important issues.” Lomborg says the goal should be “to do better for people and the environment.” Thus, we should emphasize developing technologies that mitigate the harmful effects of rising temperatures and developing alternative energy sources.
While these are all good points that are worthy of serious consideration, this issue isn’t principally about science and sound policy. It’s about reinventing the way people, especially Americans, live. The global warming crowd wants to change where we live, what we drive, and even what we eat.
The kind of coercion needed to pull that off can only come about by using what Britain's Hadley Center, itself a proponent of man-made global warming, calls “misleading ... apocalyptic rhetoric.” Rhetoric such as Congressman Harry Waxman telling NPR that the North Pole was in danger of evaporating.
Sadly, the biggest victims of this misleading rhetoric will be the world’s poor. As Lomborg points out, “Carbon remains the only way for developing countries to work their way out of poverty. ... No green energy source is inexpensive enough to replace coal now.” And as I’ve said often on BreakPoint, from a Christian point of view, morally sound approaches to the environment must consider the plight of the poor.
Calling CO2, a part of the natural ecosystem, a “threat” to public health brushes aside these concerns and lets the would-be social engineers get to work — work that may create serious problems now and for future generations.
Chuck Colson’s daily BreakPoint commentary airs each weekday on more than one thousand outlets with an estimated listening audience of one million people. BreakPoint provides a Christian perspective on today’s news and trends via radio, interactive media, and print.