NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis


November 10, 2004

Carbon dioxide (CO2) is now the greenhouse gas du jour, grabbing attention from scientists, eco-activists and the media, says the Wall Street Journal. In fact, the fear over manmade CO2 has motivated the government to spend billions finding ways to reduce its presence in the atmosphere.

  • The federal government spends $6 billion a year in climate research, plus an additional $1 billion on clean coal projects and $1.2 billion on developing hydrogen cars.
  • The Department of Energy is researching the possibility of sending liquefied carbon dioxide to the bottom of the ocean, while Los Alamos National Laboratory is testing trees designed to absorb more CO2 from the air.
  • California's Air Resources Board wants auto manufacturers to reduce carbon dioxide emissions in their cars 30 percent by 2015.

While putting money into such projects might make politicians feel good and bring potential profits for investors in technology, the reasons for reducing CO2 are unclear:

  • Today's atmosphere concentration of CO2 is .036 percent, up from .028 percent during pre-industrialized society.
  • While the atmosphere has warmed about one degree Fahrenheit over the last century, climate change patterns may be more strongly associated with solar variations than with atmospheric changes in CO2.

But the fact that CO2 is easily measurable has made it a greenhouse gas in which "progress" can be monitored, making it an easy target for reductions, regardless of the reasons, or lack of, behind it, says the Journal.

Source: Holman W. Jenkins, Jr., "You Don't Need a Reason to Hate CO2," Wall Street Journal, November 3, 2004.

For WSJ text (subscription required):,,SB109944249448063053,00.html


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