EDITORIAL: It’s getting hot in here

It is happening again: the current administration is acting against everything we have been taught, and treats the subject as a minor change in the status quo. Following the notorious Clean Air Act exemption for industry, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) this past week rejected a petition that carbon dioxide be categorized and regulated as an air pollutant.
This recent EPA decision on the deregulation, yes, that is NO regulation, of carbon dioxide, a proven greenhouse gas, goes against what our environmental and earth scientists have taught us in class for years: increasing amounts of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases trap sunlight and heat and therefore cause gradual escalations in the atmospheric temperature and damage entire ecosystems. We’re talking tenths of a degree in temperature change over many years, yes, but it doesn’t take much heat to melt an ice cap, and flood the world.
“Why would you regulate a pollutant that is an inert gas that is vital to plant photosynthesis and that people exhale when they breath?” said Eron Schosteck, spokesman for, guess who, the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers. It is simple, Eron: true, natural cycles of CO2 and other greenhouse gases penetrate many aspects of the environment, and even penetrate our lungs. But anthropogenic sources of CO2-our man-made cars and power plants, mostly-contribute far more concentrated amounts of pollutants into our one and only atmosphere. The rejection is a big win for automakers and utilities that operate coal-burning power plants. Vehicles emit 20 percent of industrial emissions in the United States, power plants 40 percent. This anthropogenic degradation of the environment, for our descendents’ sake, cannot and must not be ignored or doubted.
What’s the problem? “Congress has not granted EPA authority under the Clean Air Act to regulate CO2 and other greenhouse gases for climate change purposes,” said Jeff Holmstead, an EPA assistant administrator. Under the Clinton administration, the EPA argued that it had the necessary authority to regulate CO2 as a global warming pollutant. But the EPA is whining that it needs “clear legal authority,” granted by Congress, to address something as fundamental as climate change. If you need your precious Congressional authority to prevent eventual destruction of the global ecosystem, then get it, but do it before CO2 levels rise to irreparable levels.
There had better be a clearing up of this matter soon, as environmentalists should sue the EPA any day now. Several states plan on bringing the Bush administration to court over this violation of the Clean Air Act. Senators Joe Lieberman, D-Conn., and John McCain, R-Ariz., are trying to pass legislation to regulate CO2, but haven’t gotten enough support from colleagues. David Doniger, the policy director of the Natural Resources Defense Center’s climate center, labeled the CO2 decision “another huge favor for the Bush administration’s big polluter contributors.” “It is indeed a pollutant,” said European Commission spokeswoman Ewa Hedlund, adding that EU legislation states that “it contributes to climate change.”
Shortly after taking office, President Bush withdrew a campaign promise to impose limits on carbon dioxide from power plants. During the campaign he also had said CO2 was a pollutant. The president later withdrew the United States from the U.N. treaty that aims to reduce emissions, saying he worried that mandatory reductions would hobble the U.S. economy.
Let’s not turn over control of our atmosphere without a fight.