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Stumped By Science: Michele Bachmann Calls CO2 ‘Harmless,’ ‘Negligible,’ ‘Necessary,’ ‘Natural’

By Brad Johnson on April 24, 2009 at 10:59 am

"Stumped By Science: Michele Bachmann Calls CO2 ‘Harmless,’ ‘Negligible,’ ‘Necessary,’ ‘Natural’"

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On the House floor on Earth Day, April 22, 2009, Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-MN) argued that the threat of manmade global warming doesn’t make any sense because “carbon dioxide is a natural byproduct of nature”:

Carbon dioxide, Mister Speaker, is a natural byproduct of nature. Carbon dioxide is natural. It occurs in Earth. It is a part of the regular lifecycle of Earth. In fact, life on planet Earth can’t even exist without carbon dioxide. So necessary is it to human life, to animal life, to plant life, to the oceans, to the vegetation that’s on the Earth, to the, to the fowl that — that flies in the air, we need to have carbon dioxide as part of the fundamental lifecycle of Earth.

Watch it:

Rep. Blumenauer (D-OR), later in the evening, demolished Bachmann for “making things up on the floor of the House”:

My good friend, the gentlelady from Minnesota, doesn’t think there are any problems with the concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. It’s interesting to listen to her say that something that was naturally occurring simply couldn’t be harmful, ignoring the fact that we have the highest concentrations of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere for 2/3 of a million years.

The consensus of the scientific community — not people making things up on the floor of the House — is that this has been profoundly influenced by human activity, starting with the dawn of the Industrial Revolution, where we started consuming huge quantities of coal, burning fossil fuels, accelerating that over time. The consensus of the scientific community is that this is in fact a serious problem.

Furthermore, attempting to repeat the goofy denier talking point that carbon dioxide makes up only a fraction of the atmospheric content and thus isn’t of concern, Bachmann errs wildly. She claims that carbon dioxide makes up “three percent of the atmosphere,” when in fact it only comprises 0.04% — off by a factor of a hundred. As Blumenauer pointed out, CO2 levels are significantly higher than they’ve been throughout human history. Only a hundred years ago, CO2 concentrations were only 0.03%. Of course, when it comes to the greenhouse effect, only global warming gases are relevant. And carbon dioxide is the predominant greenhouse gas.

But Bachmann hasn’t ever been one to let her political rants be constrained by the facts.

Transcript:

BACHMANN: But people talk about cap and tax and they aren’t sure exactly what we’re talking about. Let’s get back to step one. What is the problem? Why do we have to have this tax in the first place?

It’s about carbon dioxide.

Well, what is carbon dioxide? Let’s just go to a fundamental question.

Carbon dioxide, Mister Speaker, is a natural byproduct of nature. Carbon dioxide is natural. It occurs in Earth. It is a part of the regular lifecycle of Earth. In fact, life on planet Earth can’t even exist without carbon dioxide. So necessary is it to human life, to animal life, to plant life, to the oceans, to the vegetation that’s on the Earth, to the, to the fowl that — that flies in the air, we need to have carbon dioxide as part of the fundamental lifecycle of Earth.

As a matter of fact, carbon dioxide is portrayed as harmful!

But there isn’t even one study that can be produced that shows carbon dioxide is a harmful gas. There isn’t one such study because carbon dioxide is not a harmful gas, it is a harmless gas. Carbon dioxide is natural. It is not harmful. It is part of Earth’s life cycle.

And yet we’re being told that we have to reduce this natural substance and reduce the American standard of living to create an arbitrary reduction in something that is naturally occuring in the earth. Well we’re told the crux of this problem is human activity. It’s humans that are creating more carbon dioxide!

Is that true, or is that false?

Well, carbon dioxide is a natural part of Earth’s atmosphere. The carbon dioxide is perhaps three percent of the total atmosphere that’s in the Earth. So if you take a pie chart, and you have all of Earth’s atmosphere, carbon dioxide is perhaps three percent of that total.

What part of human activity creates carbon dioxide? If carbon dioxide is a negligible gas and it’s only three percent of Earth’s atmosphere, what part is human activity?

Human activity contributes perhaps three percent of the three percent. In other words, human activity is maybe 3 percent contributing to the 3 percent of carbon dioxide that’s in Earth’s atmosphere. It’s so negligible — it’s a fraction of a fraction of a fraction of a percent — that it can hardly be — be quantified.

BLUMENAUER: My good friend, the gentlelady from Minnesota, doesn’t think there are any problems with the concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. It’s interesting to listen to her say that something that was naturally occurring simply couldn’t be harmful, ignoring the fact that we have the highest concentrations of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere for 2/3 of a million years.

The consensus of the scientific community — not people making things up on the floor of the House — is that this has been profoundly influenced by human activity, starting with the dawn of the Industrial Revolution, where we started consuming huge quantities of coal, burning fossil fuels, accelerating that over time. The consensus of the scientific community is that this is in fact a serious problem.

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