Creative with Carbon

The way to get the government to limit CO2 emissions may be a little creativity, and a cutthroat environmental lawyer.

Yesterday the Center for Biological Diversity, a conservation non-profit, petitioned the state of California to regulate carbon dioxide pollution under the Clean Water Act.  We know what you’re thinking: “Hey, wait a minute slick, isn’t carbon dioxide a gas?”  Why yes, though it is a gas, it can still be limited under the Clean Water Act because carbon emission affects the health of our oceans. 

When ocean water absorbs CO2, the water’s acidity increases (a process known as acidification).  According to a press release from the Center for Biological Diversity, carbon dioxide pollution has lowered ocean pH by 0.11 already, and is expected to result in a change of 0.5 units by the end of the century if emissions continue at current rates.

From the organization’s press release:

The primary known impact of acidification is impairment of calcification, the process whereby animals such as corals, crabs, abalone, oysters, and sea urchins make shells and skeletons. Many species of phytoplankton and zooplankton, which form the basis of the marine food web, are also particularly vulnerable to ocean acidification.  Laboratory studies have shown that at carbon dioxide concentration likely to occur in the ocean in the next few decades, the shells of many marine species dissolve, killing the organisms. Absent significant reductions in carbon dioxide emissions, ocean acidification will accelerate, likely ultimately leading to the collapse of oceanic food webs and catastrophic impacts on the global environment.

We’re no Supreme Court justices, but it seems that the Center for Biological Diversity is doing more than just making some waves, it's making an excellent case.

While the Environmental Protection Agency under the Bush administration has taken the position that carbon dioxide cannot be regulated as a “pollutant” under the Clean Air Act, the Environmental Protection Agency already lists pH as a “pollutant” in its Clean Water Act regulations.  Because CO2 is absorbed by the ocean, lowering the pH of seawater, carbon dioxide emissions therefore can and must be regulated under the Act.

The Goliath-like Bush administration may hold the power now (the Kyoto Protocol, anyone?), but in the fight to curb CO2 emissions, we hope brains will beat brawn.




Brilliant. Thank God for lawyers. Praying it works...