Well, that depends on what your definition of pollution is.
As Senators Boxer and Kerry unveil their cap and trade bill, John Kerry’s recent pitch to the American public is yet another example of how mainstream environmentalists have sought to change the definition of pollution. As Kerry explained last week, the bill is not a “‘cap and trade’ proposal but a ‘pollution reduction’ bill. I don’t know what ‘cap and trade’ means. I don’t think the average American does,’ Kerry said. ‘This is not a cap-and-trade bill, it’s a pollution reduction bill.’” To make this point clear, in the summary of the bill, Kerry and Boxer removed the phrase “cap and trade” and replaced it with “Pollution Reduction and Investment.”
Kerry’s statement points to the recent shift in environmental rhetoric which is less concerned about pollution being linked to smog and toxins in the air and water, and more concerned with what they believe to be the biggest problem: carbon. This new-found definition of pollution has permeated environmental rhetoric and has been heavily employed by the Obama administration.
In his speech to the UN last week, Obama mentioned the disastrous consequences that will ensue from “greenhouse gas pollution” and “carbon pollution.” Furthermore, after the Waxman-Markey bill was passed in the House, Obama praised the effort saying that we have seen our reliance on fossil fuels “pollute the air we breathe and endanger our planet” and argued that “There is no longer a debate about whether carbon pollution is placing our planet in jeopardy. It’s happening.”
No longer a debate? Contrary to Obama’s statements, there is a very vigorous debate among scientists as to whether Co2—an invisible component of the human respiratory cycle—can be classified as a pollutant. What is abundantly clear is that the Senate climate change bill is less interested in pollution that is visible or proven to be harmful to human health and almost completely focused on a new-found definition of “carbon pollution.” This is most apparent in the opening sentence of the bill, which repeats the opening of the Waxman-Markey bill: “To create clean energy jobs, achieve energy independence, reduce global warming pollution, and transition to a clean energy economy.” The bill includes four titles that tackle greenhouse gas “pollution” and pushes for a 20 percent reduction in carbon emission by 2020, compared to the 17 percent reduction in the House bill.
With most of the emphasis being on Co2 and with very little being on proven harmful pollutants, Kerry’s claim that the bill is a “pollution reduction” bill is highly dubious; but there is no doubt that it is a cap and trade bill that will cause massive damage to the economy. As the United States begins to recover from a recession, is the country going to sacrifice the economy for these sudden amendments to the dictionary? Let’s hope not.
Katie Brown contributed to this post.