The Conversation

Obama Team: Carbon Dioxide is a 'Carcinogen'

President Barack Obama's campaign-turned-pressure group, Organizing for Action (OFA), has sent out a number of emails recently attacking Republicans on global warming. One of their top targets on the issue, amusingly, is Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL), whose support for immigration reform is crucial to the success of Obama's second term agenda. It shows how poorly Obama rewards those who reach across the aisle.

The latest target of the email campaign is Republican Speaker of the House John Boehner. The subject of the email is "Tin foil hat alert," and the email hits Boehner for a comment he made four years ago

"The idea that carbon dioxide is a carcinogen that is harmful to our environment is almost comical. Every time we exhale, we exhale carbon dioxide. Every cow in the world, you know, when they do what they do, you've got more carbon dioxide." - John Boehner, April 2009 

This is an odd quote to choose. It is reasonable to believe that carbon dioxide, in excessive amounts, is harmful in a broader sense to the environment because of its impact as a greenhouse gas on global surface temperature. But it is not a direct, toxic pollutant in the same way that carbon monoxide is, and it is certainly not a "carcinogen," or we'd all be dead. Saying so ought not be controversial. It's scientifically true.

Implying the opposite--that carbon dioxide is a carcinogen--qualifies OFA to wear that tin foil hat.

Boehner's point seemed to be that the left had overstated the negative effect of carbon dioxide. That may be debatable, but it is certainly not crazy. The OFA email could have found other, actual examples of Republicans making scientifically dubious claims. But OFA chose this one because Boehner is unpopular--and perhaps because it has low regard for the intelligence of its readers, or is pretty stupid itself. 


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