The progressive movement is in a weird place on climate change because the steps necessary to forestall catastrophic climate change are not steps that seem especially likely to win approval in congress. The conservative movement, conversely, is in a weird place on climate change because they’re eager to attack cap-and-trade as bad for the economy, but they don’t have any alternative ideas about how to fend off disaster. Consequently, there’s a boom market in goofy rationalizations for inaction. Thus, via DDay we get this remarkable performance from Rep. John Shimkus:
SHIMKUS: It’s plant food … So if we decrease the use of carbon dioxide, are we not taking away plant food from the atmosphere? … So all our good intentions could be for naught. In fact, we could be doing just the opposite of what the people who want to save the world are saying.
It would be strange indeed if environmentalists and the world’s scientists had never considered this issue during their years of advocacy and research around this issue. And, of course, if there was no carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, that would have dire implications for the world’s plants. But even if there were no carbon dioxide emissions in 2010, that would still leave plenty of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. The point about our CO2 emissions is that the rate at which fossil fuel use puts new carbon into the atmosphere greatly exceeds the rate at which plants remove it. The aim is not to eliminate the CO2 from the atmosphere but to stabilize the amount of CO2, which means curtailing emissions to a level much closer to the rate at which plants consume it. It also means minimizing the extent to which we destroy the plankton, rain forests, and other plant life that take carbon out of the air.