Hartnett White and Pals Twist Science for Sake of Fossil Fuel Interests

power-plant-pixabayEarlier this year, I wrote about how Kathleen Hartnett White, director of the Center for Energy and Environment at the Texas Public Policy Foundation, was confused about the basic science related to carbon dioxide (CO2) and just how much of it is good for us. She mistakenly asserted the more CO2 the better, while nearly all climate scientists agree high CO2 emissions are wreaking havoc on our planet. Time and again science indicates we are looking at irreversible, catastrophic effects if we don’t do something about it.

Apparently Hartnett White hasn’t gone back to class – she’s at it again and she’s brought her friends. We recently saw the launch of the CO2 Coalition, a new group aiming to paint CO2 as a nutrient rather than a pollutant, of which she is a member. The real purpose of the coalition is to debunk Environmental Protection Agency’s Clean Power Plan, the nation’s first-ever limits on carbon pollution from existing power plants, using “science based facts” (as opposed to emotion-based?).

Similar to the Texas Public Policy Foundation, Hartnett-White’s other fossil fuel-funded alliance, the CO2 Coalition is just another front-group pretending to use science in order to protect their corporate interests.

Carbon dioxide, science, and human life: Too much of a good thing

The CO2 Coalition bases its main argument on the following: “CO2 is a nutrient that is essential to life. CO2 at current levels and higher enables plants, trees, and crops to grow faster and more efficiently. It is essential for life.”

This is a clear misunderstanding of how chemistry and biology work. Yes, CO2 is essential to life – but not at current levels, and certainly not at higher levels. Magnesium, for example, is an essential mineral for humans too, but too much is toxic.

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Let’s see what real science says about CO2 levels in the atmosphere, which passed 400 parts per million (ppm) earlier this year for the first time since record-keeping began – well above the 350 ppm most scientists believe to be a safe level. Such an ominous milestone led to NASA asking experts to provide their take on what it means, and here is a sample of what the real scientists say about rising CO2 levels:

  • “CO2 concentrations haven’t been this high in millions of years. […] This milestone is a wake up call that our actions in response to climate change need to match the persistent rise in CO2. Climate change is a threat to life on Earth and we can no longer afford to be spectators.” – Dr. Erika Podest, carbon and water cycle research scientist
  • “Scary scorecard: catastrophic climate change 400, humanity zero. Listen to the scientists, vote wisely, beat carbon addiction and put humanity into the game.” – Dr. William Patzert, research oceanographer
  • “These increases in atmospheric CO2 are causing real, significant changes in the Earth system now, not in some distant future climate, and will continue to be felt for centuries to come. […] Unless serious actions are taken immediately, we risk the next threshold being a point of no return in mankind’s unintended global-scale geoengineering experiment.” – Dr. Charles Miller, researcher specializing in the remote sensing of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases

I could go on and provide numerous other examples. The point is CO2 has reached dangerous levels. Sugar is necessary to create energy in the human body, but no self-respecting parent would let their children gorge themselves on Pixie Sticks.

Kathleen Hartnett White is not a scientist, nor has she ever been. She is, on the other hand, the director of Texas Public Policy Foundation, a group notorious for representing the interests of its fossil-fuel funders.

The real scientists have spoken, and increasing levels of CO2 are a threat to our homes, communities, and businesses. Fortunately, the Clean Power Plan is addressing carbon emissions from the power sector head-on for the first time in our nation’s history. Thankfully our country is finally beginning to move beyond debating whether or not climate change is real and working on solutions to lessen and deal with its effects. And we will not let “profit protecting” fossil fuel industry groups stand in the way of a safer climate and healthier air.

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