If carbon dioxide is a “pollutant,” then breathing is bad for the environment, U.S. Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito said last Saturday during his keynote address at the Claremont Institute’s 2017 annual dinner honoring Winston Churchill.
“All of us are exhaling carbon dioxide right now,” Alito said. “So if it’s a pollutant, we’re all polluting.”
Alito was referring to a 2007 court decision (Massachusetts v. EPA) finding that carbon dioxide is a pollutant subject to EPA regulation under the Clean Air Act.
The Clean Air Act defines “air pollutant” as “any air pollution agent or combination of such agents, including any physical [or] chemical . . . substance or matter which is emitted into or otherwise enters the ambient air” and “may reasonably be anticipated to endanger public health or welfare.”
The court ruled 5-4 (with Alito dissenting) that carbon dioxide emissions from new motor vehicles fall within that definition.
Ten years later, Alito still disagrees.
“Now, what is a pollutant? A pollutant is a subject that is harmful to human beings or to animals or to plants. Carbon dioxide is not a pollutant. Carbon dioxide is not harmful to ordinary things, to human beings, or to animals, or to plants. It’s actually needed for plant growth. All of us are exhaling carbon dioxide right now. So, if it’s a pollutant, we’re all polluting.”
It’s true that humans breathe in oxygen and breathe out carbon dioxide. But according to the McGill Office for Science and Society, “every atom of carbon in the exhaled carbon dioxide comes from food that was recently produced by photosynthesis.”
In other words, humans don’t produce new carbon dioxide. “Since all the carbon dioxide we exhale originated in carbon dioxide captured by plants during photosynthesis, we are not disturbing the carbon dioxide content of the atmosphere by breathing.”
Motor vehicles, on the other hand, don’t eat plants. So the carbon dioxide that they emit can’t easily be compared to the carbon dioxide exhaled by humans.
All Bloomberg BNA treatises are available on standing order, which ensures you will always receive the most current edition of the book or supplement of the title you have ordered from Bloomberg BNA’s book division. As soon as a new supplement or edition is published (usually annually) for a title you’ve previously purchased and requested to be placed on standing order, we’ll ship it to you to review for 30 days without any obligation. During this period, you can either (a) honor the invoice and receive a 5% discount (in addition to any other discounts you may qualify for) off the then-current price of the update, plus shipping and handling or (b) return the book(s), in which case, your invoice will be cancelled upon receipt of the book(s). Call us for a prepaid UPS label for your return. It’s as simple and easy as that. Most importantly, standing orders mean you will never have to worry about the timeliness of the information you’re relying on. And, you may discontinue standing orders at any time by contacting us at 1.800.960.1220 or by sending an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Put me on standing order at a 5% discount off list price of all future updates, in addition to any other discounts I may quality for. (Returnable within 30 days.)
Notify me when updates are available (No standing order will be created).
This Bloomberg BNA report is available on standing order, which ensures you will all receive the latest edition. This report is updated annually and we will send you the latest edition once it has been published. By signing up for standing order you will never have to worry about the timeliness of the information you need. And, you may discontinue standing orders at any time by contacting us at 1.800.372.1033, option 5, or by sending us an email to email@example.com.
Put me on standing order
Notify me when new releases are available (no standing order will be created)