Playing Politics: If You Like Tomatoes, You’ll Love Global Warming!
Leighton Steward and our friends at CO2 Is Green are at it again. Funded by oil companies and other energy interests, the lobbying group has launched ads aimed at defeating the Kerry-Lieberman proposal, scheduled to be debated in the Senate next week, around a cap and trade mechanism to address the issue of U.S. greenhouse gas emissions and their effect on global climate change. The premise of the ads? Jobs are threatened, the bill would make no difference, and carbon dioxide is a good thing, anyway.
The New York Times reported last week that CO2 Is Green is running the half-page ad in The Washington Post, where wavering Senators are sure to see it. The Times quotes Ken Green, resident scholar at the conservative American Enterprise Institute think tank: “The purpose of their ad is obviously to try to show the Democrats there’s a large body of people who do not want climate controls and will punish them in the midterm elections.” The print ads are buttressed by TV spots like this one, taken from the Co2 Is Green site:
Us Versus Them…Who?
According to CO2 Is Green, passing cap and trade will cripple the economy and have no impact on the climate. The ad sets up an interesting version of “us vs. them”: Wall Street, “environmental extremists” and the media are in favor of action. Opposed? Average Americans. The ad implies that the cap and trade bill is riding the emotional coattails of the “BP tragedy” despite the fact that sponsors were drafting the framework of the bill months before the spill began. The ads claim the Kerry-Lieberman proposal would cost the taxpayer, though the Congressional Budget Office calculates that passage of the bill would reduce the federal deficit by $19 billion in the period 2011-2020.
What is CO2 Is Green? Spokesperson H. Leighton Steward is not a concerned independent scientist, daring to speak up. He is a geologist and a retired oil industry executive, member of the board of directors of EOG Resources (one of the U.S.’s largest independent oil and natural gas companies) and has an extensive career in the petroleum industry and its public promotion. The EOG site notes, “Mr. Steward is former Chairman of the U.S. Oil and Gas Association and the Natural Gas Supply Association, and is currently an honorary director of the American Petroleum Institute.”
More Salsa for All!
In this video, Mr. Steward makes an extraordinary leap. He describes a controlled lab experiment where a tomato plant given more CO2 grows better, from which he extrapolates to claim that obviously the world will be a much better place with more carbon dioxide in the air. Enhanced greenhouse gas effects, sea level rise, melting glaciers, desertification, ocean acidification…apparently all conspiratorial poppycock to Mr. Steward. Atmospheric CO2, he says, is “the elixir of life.”
While of course carbon dioxide is a naturally occuring gas, necessary for life as we know it, scientific consensus and evidence points overwhelmingly to the need to control human-caused CO2 emissions in order to prevent and mitigate the catastrophic effects of global warming that are happening now and are expected to increase in frequency and severity for decades.
Debate Needed, Not Grandstanding
The wide ranging climate and energy package (which is expected to include pared-down elements of the Kerry-Lieberman bill) that Senator Harry Reid will introduce for debate next week is still being put together, and the debate around carbon pricing in particular is sure to be contentious. But U.S. action on climate change is necessary; not only because we are one of the largest emitters of greenhouse gases in the world but also because we cannot apply credible pressure to major polluters like China if we do nothing to limit emissions at home. There are cogent arguments around how to mitigate global warming and particularly around cap and trade as a mechanism, but the argument ‘rising atmospheric CO2 levels make more tomatoes and a win/win for all’ is not and should not be part of a serious debate.
Photo: Lobbyist Leighton Steward, in favor of rising global temperatures and more tomatoes. Still from "Tomatoes Need CO2" via Youtube.