Dangerous Denial

Images of purple mountains’ majesty, verdant meadows, and noshing elk and bison slide across my TV screen, as an announcer with a grandfatherly voice assures me that CO2 is not pollution. “In fact,” he says, “higher CO2 levels than we have today would help the Earth’s ecosystems and support more plant and animal life.”

This is an ad sponsored by a group called CO2 Is Green (it’s actually a colorless gas, but I trust they were going for symbolism). Their goal is to stop regulation or legislation that would attempt to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, including carbon dioxide. The fact that CO2 Is Green is a project of retired oil industry executive H. Leighton Steward and current coal executive Corbin J. Robertson Jr. is no doubt purely coincidental. I’m sure their real passion is photosynthesis.

Photosynthesis, as you may recall from fourth-grade science, is the genuinely wonderful process by which plants take water and carbon dioxide (produced by animal respiration, some bacteria, fungi, and Hyundais, among other sources) and transform them into leaves, shoots, prize-winning giant pumpkins, and, that sentimental favorite of many living things, oxygen.

So, according to some people—many of whom have ties to fossil fuel industries—more CO2 means more photosynthesis. By this logic, more coal-burning power plants equal more trees (except when the trees are on a mountaintop being removed to mine coal). As for global warming, if CO2 makes the earth hotter—great! Who wants ice anyway, except hockey players and bartenders?

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Sojourners Magazine January 2010
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