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President Obama
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President Obama

Carbon decree

Science | Obama will regulate CO2 as a pollutant, but to what effect?

Issue: "Effective compassion," July 27, 2013

On a sweltering summer day in Washington, President Obama stepped up to a sunlit lectern at Georgetown University, removed his suit jacket, rolled up his sleeves, mopped his forehead with a white handkerchief, and told the crowd it was time to fight climate change.

Obama announced he would bypass Congress and use his executive powers to rein in carbon dioxide emissions in the United States. Never mind that many scientists dispute the magnitude of man’s role in raising global temperatures, or dispute that the effects will be primarily harmful. “We don’t have time for a meeting of the Flat Earth Society,” the president scoffed.

Carbon dioxide is a naturally occurring gas, but the president called it “pollution” and complained—with moral indignation—that power plants today “dump” carbon into the air for free: “That’s not right, that’s not safe, and it needs to stop.”

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In the June 25 speech, Obama laid out a long-term plan to reduce America’s carbon footprint. As a major component, he has ordered the Environmental Protection Agency to draw up, within a year, a framework for regulating carbon emissions from existing power plants. Although Congress rejected the president’s “cap-and-trade” carbon taxing scheme in 2010, Obama is essentially giving the EPA a green light to set up a similar system anyway.

But taxing carbon is like taxing productivity: It will raise the price of energy and the cost of living. Foreign nations, without comparable rules, will grow unfettered while the U.S. economy suffers.

Studies have shown U.S. cutbacks will do little to alter the climate. In an April paper from the Virginia-based Science & Public Policy Institute, climatologist Paul Knappenberger noted even if the United States stopped all carbon emitting immediately, the growth of emissions in other parts of the world—such as China and India—would replace U.S. savings in just seven years. A complete shutdown of U.S. factories, power plants, and transportation would reduce global temperature by just one-third of a degree Fahrenheit by 2100—while reducing projected sea level rise by less than an inch.

Questionable care

TEEN TARGET: Metropolitan Pediatrics web banner.
Handout photo
TEEN TARGET: Metropolitan Pediatrics web banner.

The American Academy of Pediatrics, an influential organization representing 60,000 pediatricians, says that “insidious and damaging” societal attitudes are harming “lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and questioning” youth. In a new policy statement published in Pediatrics in June, the group warned doctors against “internalized homophobia and heterosexism in the office setting” that might prevent them from treating young LGBTQ patients in a “nonjudgmental” manner.

What’s heterosexism, you ask? According to the new policy, it’s “the societal expectation that heterosexuality is the expected norm and that, somehow, LGBTQ individuals are abnormal.” The pediatrics group recommended doctors use gender-neutral questions when asking teens about sexual health (“Tell me about your partner”), and display a rainbow decal to show their support for the LGBTQ community.

Michelle Cretella, vice president of the American College of Pediatricians, an alternative association, told me her organization disputes the idea that all nonheterosexual attractions are normal and unchangeable: “Homosexual attractions, particularly during adolescence, are not fixed.”

The politically charged policy from the American Academy of Pediatrics should perhaps come as no surprise. In March the group endorsed gay marriage, insisting children were no worse off with homosexual parents than traditional ones. —D.J.D.

Daniel James Devine
Daniel James Devine

Daniel is a reporter for WORLD who covers science, technology, and other topics in the Midwest from his home base in Indiana. Follow Daniel on Twitter @DanJamDevine.

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