Often Wrong, Never in Doubt

Posted on Monday, April 20, 2009

Rep. John Boehner, the top-ranking Republican in the House of Representatives, was on ABC’s This Week on Sunday and managed to say so many factually wrong things in the course of a single minute that I was kinda stunned.

Here’s the video:

… and the transcript:

STEPHANOPOULOS: So what is the responsible way? That’s my question. What is the Republican plan to deal with carbon emissions, which every major scientific organization has said is contributing to climate change?

BOEHNER: George, the idea that carbon dioxide is a carcinogen that is harmful to our environment is almost comical. Every time we exhale, we exhale carbon dioxide. Every cow in the world, you know, when they do what they do, you’ve got more carbon dioxide. And so I think it’s clear…

STEPHANOPOULOS: So you don’t believe that greenhouse gases are a problem in creating climate change?

BOEHNER: … we’ve had climate change over the last 100 years — listen, it’s clear we’ve had change in our climate. The question is how much does man have to do with it, and what is the proper way to deal with this?

Where to begin?

  1. Boehner indicates that the problem people have with carbon dioxide emissions is that they fear CO2 is a “carcinogen”. Boehner appears not to understand what “carcinogen” means — a carcinogen is something that causes cancer, which nobody claims CO2 does. The reason people are worried about CO2 emissions is because they’re afraid those emissions will raise the global temperature level by trapping heat inside the atmosphere — which is why CO2 is called a “greenhouse gas“. Cancer has nothing to do with it.
  2. Next, he argues that CO2 isn’t bad because we’ve lived with it for as long as humans have been breathing: “every time we exhale, we exhale carbon dioxide”. It’s true that CO2 isn’t inherently bad, but nobody’s suggesting that; what they’re suggesting is that excessive amounts of CO2 in the atmosphere — amounts far higher than those we’ve lived with in the past, thanks to massive industrial emissions — are bad, which is a different question altogether. Think of it like this — is water bad? If you’re drinking a glass of it, no; but if I pour gallons of it straight down your throat, you’ll die. Water in and of itself is not bad, but too much water is very bad indeed.
  3. Finally, he suggests that cow flatulence is a source of carbon dioxide, which it isn’t; cows fart methane, not CO2. Methane is also a greenhouse gas, so it’s almost understandable why you would mention cow flatulence in this discussion, but Boehner directly and specifically attributes increased CO2 levels (not general greenhouse-gas levels) to said flatulence, which is not correct.

All these weird assertions would be easier to take if they were being spouted by some random person on the street, but John Boehner is the Republican leader in the House of Representatives, which means his opinions have a direct bearing on climate policy in this country.

And yet, he appears to not even understand the most basic facts on the subject — stuff that we routinely expect junior high school kids to grasp.

This entry (and everything else on this blog) was written by Jason A. Lefkowitz. Did you like it? Subscribe to this blog's feed to get new stuff the moment it's posted. Want to read more like this? Hit the archives for more than ten years' worth of essays, or jump right to The Best of Just Well Mixed. Angry and wanting to know who to punch? Here's more information about me, including how to get in touch by email and various social networks.

Sound Off, Loudmouth!

Noelle says:

He’s so SMRT!!!
And a WINNNER!!!

…”which every major scientific organization has said is contributing to climate change.”
Which scientific organizations do they refer to? IPCC? A bunch of other political organizations? Social scientists? Al Gore?
There is so much politics and truth twisting in Global Warming discourse, that you can’t take anything that is said on its face value. IPCC reports are the worst: a bunch of scientist writing papers saying “we are not sure”, and the final report that gives politically correct statement: humans are warming the planet, and if we don’t stop, we will boil.
Please look at Bjorne Lomborg’s TED talk http://www.ted.com/index.php/talks/bjorn_lomborg_sets_global_priorities.html, or browse through http://www.climate-skeptic.com/ before deciding whether we should dump all our money into this one problem.

Ginger says:

Actually, after today’s news, it seems Republicans, top ranking or not, may have less and less to do with the country’s climate change policies.
Now, if you’ll excuse me, I need to go enjoy this 100 degree April day. What global warming?

Sandy says:

Think of it like this — is water bad? If you’re drinking a glass of it, no; but if I pour gallons of it straight down your throat, you’ll die. Water in and of itself is not bad, but too much water is very bad indeed.
And yet the Obama administration actually puts policies in place to promote dihydrogen monoxide, actually bringing it into our homes on purpose!!!! Won’t someone ban this terrible substance!?!?

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