So What Does the New Speaker of the House Think About Climate Change?

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So What Does the New Speaker of the House Think About Climate Change? So What Does the New Speaker of the House Think About Climate Change?
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So What Does the New Speaker of the House Think About Climate Change?

by Andrew Price

November 6, 2010

With Republicans winning a majority in the House of Representatives, the incoming speaker is presumed to be John Boehner of Ohio. Climate hawks among us might want to know: Will he be amenable to saving the planet?

This interview from 2009 may give some indication, and it's not particularly encouraging. The most not encouraging statements happen between 1:12 and 1:35.

Boehner managed to pack a lot of inaccuracies into a pretty short statement, as The New York Times details:

As some science writers quickly pointed out, Mr. Boehner’s statements did not hew to the basics of climate science. Human respiration, for instance, does produce carbon dioxide — about two pounds per person per day. But this carbon dioxide was originally taken out of the air by plants before being consumed by humans, either directly or in the form of meat, so no net addition of carbon dioxide to the atmosphere is created.

By contrast, the combustion of fossil fuels by humans since the Industrial Revolution has increased atmospheric carbon dioxide concentrations by about 40 percent, to a level substantially higher than at any other time in the last 800,000 years.

Climate scientists also do not claim that carbon dioxide is a carcinogen, or cancer-causing substance. Rather, their concern is that carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases will trap heat in the form of sunlight, raising global temperatures to potentially dangerous levels.

As for cows, their flatulence is composed mainly of methane (a greenhouse gas, to be sure), not carbon dioxide.

Scientific details aside, it's just astounding to me how simple-minded Boehner's logic is. He's saying that because carbon dioxide does have some appropriate role in the planet's ecosystem, it could never be harmful. That's like saying that because a spring rain is nice, we should never worry about destructive floods or tsunamis.

I just wish I knew whether this was a willful misrepresentation on his part or indicative of a real lack of understanding. What do you think?

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