Some Like It Hot

Posted on August 10, 2006 | Author: Robert Balling
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This summer treated us to the films "Too Hot Not To Handle" and Al Gore's "An Inconvenient Truth," as well as news that the Supreme Court will decide whether carbon dioxide (CO2) should be considered a pollutant under the Clean Air Act.

Reinforcing the idea that CO2 is a pollutant, Gore and others often speak of "CO2 pollution." Before you train yourself to add the "p" word to your vocabulary, consider that CO2 comes from the Earth itself and its levels have fluctuated greatly throughout history.

At one point, atmospheric CO2 levels dropped drastically and came perilously close to suffocating the global ecosystem. If someone is concerned about dangerous levels of atmospheric CO2, too low is far more dangerous than too high.

Experiments show that when CO2 levels increase, plants grow faster and bigger. In order to make CO2 more sinister, claims are made that ragweed and poison ivy will grow more vigorously in the future, and indeed they will. But so will every tree in the forest.

There is no doubt that CO2 is a greenhouse gas that when elevated will act to warm the Earth. However, its levels have fluctuated enormously over the history of the Earth, and the ecosystems of the planet have adjusted to cope with these variations. The Supreme Court ruling will be interesting, but Mother Earth has clearly ruled that CO2 is not a pollutant.

Dr. Robert C. Balling Jr. is a Goldwater Institute Senior Fellow and is a professor in the climatology program at Arizona State University, specializing in climate change and the greenhouse effect. A longer version of this article originally appeared on

Key Links:

-Goldwater Institute: "Gorey Details"
- Wall Street Journal: "Don't Be Very Worried" 'Give a Hoot, Don't (Call It) "Pollute"' 

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