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Tuesday, December 08, 2009

CO2 cannot (and should not) be regulated as a pollutant

The US EPA declared that CO2 and other greenhouse gasses are a danger to public health. This is a reckless and political decision that was timed to coincide with the start of the climate conference in Copenhagen. It clearly is meant to be a demonstration that the US government is leading the fight against dangerous global warming.

In reality, this is an end-run by the executive branch of the government around the legislature. Legislation will not be passed because there are enough representatives and Senators who recognize that the science behind climate change is not settled. The science really is still up for debate and with the release of the e-mails from East Anglia, the science may not be sound at all. So the EPA is just going to take matters into its own hands and push things forward anyway.

Carbon dioxide cannot be regulated. First of all carbon dioxide is an essential trace gas necessary for plant life to thrive. Secondly, carbon dioxide is exhaled by every animal on the planet. There is no point source to monitor and control. Every living animal is an emission source.

But the intent of this declaration is to attack industry and energy sources to force the usage of so-called clean fuels and green technologies. Well carbon dioxide is the natural product of all combustion processes and all degradation process. When a fuel burns completely to 100% conversion, the result is water and CO2. Burn gasoline - produce carbon dioxide. Burn ethanol - produce carbon dioxide. Burn bio-fuels - produce carbon dioxide. Exhale while doing any of this - produce carbon dioxide. Use biodegradable materials - produce carbon dioxide.

The other product of complete combustion is water vapor. Water vapor is the most abundant greenhouse gas in the atmosphere. The UN IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change) does not even recognize water vapor as a greenhouse gas. The IPCC Third Assessment Report lists as greenhouse gases CO2, CH4, N2O (do they also mean NO2 or N2O4??), several flouride compounds and then HFC's and CFC's refrigerants. They do not mention water.

Water vapor exists in our atmosphere at absolute humidity levels as high as several percent. Relative humidity of 100% means that there is so much water vapor in the air at that temperature and pressure that the moisture is about to precipitate out. The air cannot hold any more moisture.

It is the combination of water vapor and carbon dioxide in the atmosphere that creates the greenhouse effect that regulates the Earth's average temperature to the comfortable level it is at. Of course we would never attempt to regulate water vapor, would we? Who would think we would try to regulate the very air we breathe and claim that in doing so we could make significant changes in the atmosphere of an entire planet.

Some scientists point to Venus and claim that if we continue to burn fossil fuels that we will also experience the same runaway greenhouse effect. Venus's atmosphere is 96% carbon dioxide. Earth's atmosphere is 78% nitrogen/21% oxygen. It is not realistic to assume that we could pump enough carbon dioxide into the air to create the type of atmosphere that Venus has. Venus also has a much thicker atmosphere with much higher pressures and Venus is a lot closer to the Sun. All of these items combine to make Venus as hot as it is. Earth's atmosphere and it's position in the solar system are such temperatures are moderate and are generally self regulating through natural systems.

All of the gases on the IPCC list of greenhouse gases except carbon dioxide are regulated now because they are hydrocarbons. They are actual pollutants. Carbon dioxide is not a pollutant. Methane, fluorocarbons, nitrogen oxides are toxins and are rightly controlled. These chemicals are indeed hazardous to human health.

The human body must inhale a certain level of CO2 with every breath. Pure oxygen can make us lightheaded. Have you ever hyperventilated? - what is the solution? Breathe into a paper bag to increase the level of carbon dioxide in your lungs. What about artificial respiration? The rescuer exhales a stream of air that is slightly more rich in carbon dioxide directly into the lungs of the victim. If CO2 is a danger to public health, as the EPA now claims, how can it be that by breathing in CO2, the victim is revived?

Can it be that carbon dioxide is only a pollutant at certain times and is beneficial at other times? The dosage makes the poison? I do not subscribe to the precautionary principle which states that if a large concentration of a chemical is bad then any concentration, no matter how small, is also bad. I do recognize that the concentration makes a large difference in effect and toxicity.

The EPA is saying that the current 388 ppmv is bad but 300 ppmv was OK. Then at what concentration does carbon dioxide become toxic?

Information from the Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety shows that a very high concentration of CO2 is required before adverse effects occur.

Carbon dioxide (CO2) is naturally present in the atmosphere at levels of approximately 0.035%. Short-term exposure to CO2 at levels below 2% (20,000 parts per million or ppm) has not been reported to cause harmful effects. Higher concentrations can affect respiratory function and cause excitation followed by depression of the central nervous system. High concentrations of CO2 can displace oxygen in the air, resulting in lower oxygen concentrations for breathing. Therefore, effects of oxygen deficiency may be combined with effects of CO2 toxicity.

Volunteers exposed to 3.3% or 5.4% CO2 for 15 minutes experienced increased depth of breathing. At 7.5%, a feeling of an inability to breathe (dyspnea), increased pulse rate, headache, dizziness, sweating, restlessness, disorientation, and visual distortion developed. Twenty-minute exposures to 6.5 or 7.5% decreased mental performance. Irritability and discomfort were reported with exposure to 6.5% for approximately 70 minutes. Exposure to 6% for several minutes, or 30% for 20-30 seconds, has affected the heart, as evidenced by altered electrocardiograms.
Workers briefly exposed to very high concentrations showed damage to the retina, sensitivity to light (photophobia), abnormal eye movements, constriction of visual fields, and enlargement of blind spots. Exposure to up to 3.0% for over 15 hours, for six days, resulted in decreased night vision and colour sensitivity.

Exposure to 10% for 1.5 minutes has caused eye flickering, excitation and increased muscle activity and twitching. Concentrations greater than 10% have caused difficulty in breathing, impaired hearing, nausea, vomiting, a strangling sensation, sweating, stupor within several minutes and loss of consciousness within 15 minutes. Exposure to 30% has quickly resulted in unconsciousness and convulsions. Several deaths have been attributed to exposure to concentrations greater than 20%. Effects of CO2 can become more pronounced upon physical exertion, such as heavy work.

Carbon dioxide levels of 2% or less pose no health hazards. Current data shows that global temperatures have remained consistent over the past 10 years in spite of increasing carbon dioxide levels by a few ppm. E-mails indicate that the science behind global warming is suspect. It is clear that the US EPA not only jumoed the gun, but plowed ahead with total disregard for anything that threatened their agenda.

EPA Issues Greenhouse Gas Warning Despite Concerns Over Leaked E-Mails (Fox News)

The EPA signaled last April that it was inclined to view heat-trapping pollution as a threat to public health and welfare and began to take public comments under a formal rulemaking. The action marked a reversal from the Bush administration, which had declined to aggressively pursue the issue.

Business groups have strongly argued against tackling global warming through the regulatory process of the Clean Air Act. Any such regulations are likely to spawn lawsuits and lengthy legal fights.

Democrats, though, claimed that the announcement Monday only strengthens the argument for government action.

"It is now clear that if we take our responsibility seriously to protect and defend our people from this threat, the Senate has a duty to act on climate change legislation," Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., said in a statement.

"In light of the EPA endangerment finding, the president's appearance in Copenhagen will carry even more weight, because it shows that America is taking this issue very seriously and is moving forward."

Of course, if you create the crisis, then delare that the crisis exists, it is really easy to claim an moral imperative to solve the crisis. How convenient.

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