Capozzola: Carbon Emissions Save People, and Plants

October 24, 2015 along Skyline drive in Shenandoah National Park in Virginia.

One of the great ironies of the debate over global warming is the notion that carbon dioxide (CO2) is a “pollutant.”

Green activists like to talk of “carbon pollution,” and they lament the callous “carbon footprint” of those who dispute the theory of man-made climate change.

Environmental activists often suggest that adding more CO2 to the atmosphere is “anti-environment.” However, as NASA has reported, the minor increase in atmospheric CO2 concentrations seen over the past 35 years has led to a progressive “greening” of the earth—with increased plant growth and greater agricultural output.

By historical geologic standards, though, the earth currently exists in a CO2-starved world. And so, any small increase in atmospheric CO2 offers a global boon to plant life.

But just as plants have benefited from the burning of fossil fuels, countries with a higher carbon footprint also enjoy greater life expectancy rates.

This makes sense, since high-energy, fossil-fuel power (along with nuclear energy, in some countries) supports the necessities of safe, first world living—water and sewage treatment, high-tech medical facilities, refrigeration of food, etc.

The most recent United Nations data on per capita carbon emissions includes more than 200 countries. And when these carbon usage rates are compared with the 2015 life expectancy charts from the CIA World Factbook, some striking trends emerge.

Simply put, countries with the greatest carbon emissions enjoy much greater life expectancy.

For example, Chad, which emits only 0.045 metric tons of carbon per capita annually, suffers the world’s lowest life expectancy—just 49.81 years. Similarly, the bottom 25 countries for life expectancy all have per capita carbon emissions of less than 2.5 metric tons annually. In fact, 20 of the bottom 25 countries emit less than 1 metric ton of carbon per capita. And not one of these 25 countries enjoys an average life expectancy of 60 years or more.

Conversely, the top 25 countries for life expectancy enjoy an average lifespan of 81.6 years, and emit an annual average of 9.09 metric tons of carbon per capita. Overall, that’s a tremendous increase from the average of 0.49 metric tons emitted by the bottom 25 life expectancy countries.

The global warming debate continues to move along in contentious fashion. And climate alarmists often overlook the necessity of bountiful atmospheric carbon dioxide for the health of global plant life. And they often minimize the importance of high-energy power production for maintaining human health and safety.

Such facts should matter, however, when considering how to maximize human health and flourishing.


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