‘Smokey’ Joe Barton: Regulating CO2 Could ‘Close Down The New York And Boston Marathons’

Rep. Joe Barton (R-TX), known as “Smokey Joe” for his efforts on behalf of big polluters, is one of Congress’s most aggressive deniers of man-made climate change. For instance, in March, he said that the climate is changing “for natural variation reasons” and that to deal with it, humans should just “get shade.”

In a new interview with Newsmax, Barton continued his nonsensical approach to the issue, claiming that the Obama administration’s efforts to regulate carbon dioxide would potentially “close down the New York and Boston marathons”:

Barton says the average healthy adult exhales between four-tenths of a ton and seven-tenths of a ton of CO2 a year.

“So if you put 20,000 marathoners into a confined area, you could consider that a single source of pollution, and you could regulate it,” Barton says. “The key would be whether the EPA said that 20,000 people running the same route was one source or not.”

One indication that the EPA likely would consider 20,000 runners a single source of pollution is that the agency is trying to regulate waste-water runoff and emissions of drilling rigs in oil fields by attempting to define entire areas as a single source of pollution, Barton says.

A common conservative attack against addressing greenhouse gas emissions is to say that there are natural sources of CO2, so if we regulate industry we would have to regulate those sources as well. But this is straw man argument. As the the EPA notes, it is industrial sources of CO2, not natural sources, that “have increased CO2 concentrations in the atmosphere”:

Natural sources of CO2 occur within the carbon cycle where billions of tons of atmospheric CO2 are removed from the atmosphere by oceans and growing plants, also known as ‘sinks,’ and are emitted back into the atmosphere annually through natural processes also known as ‘sources.’ When in balance, the total carbon dioxide emissions and removals from the entire carbon cycle are roughly equal.

Since the Industrial Revolution in the 1700’s, human activities, such as the burning of oil, coal and gas, and deforestation, have increased CO2 concentrations in the atmosphere. In 2005, global atmospheric concentrations of CO2 were 35% higher than they were before the Industrial Revolution.

In the interview, Barton mocked the EPA’s recent declaration that carbon dioxide was a pollutant that endangers public health and welfare. “There’s never been anybody who’s been treated in an emergency room for CO2 poisoning. It doesn’t cause asthma; it doesn’t cause your eyes to water; it doesn’t cause cancer.”


Of course, the EPA declared CO2 a threat to public health because of the catastrophic consequences of climate change, not because it is a carcinogen.