Best Comment of the Day

By Keith Kloor | January 11, 2011 7:29 am

Bart Verheggen points out one sentence in an interview that has won plaudits from all corners, including climate skeptics:

“There’s no place for plastic in our marine environment.”

To which Bart says:

Imagine a similarly worded and honest, clear, informative interview about AGW. And the scientist interviewed says right in the beginning: “There’s no place for unlimited amounts of CO2 to be emitted into our atmosphere.”

I dare say that it wouldn’t receive the same amount of praise as this article has. Because both are normative statements that people agree or disagree with. People in the latter category will be predisposed to dismiss what follows.

CATEGORIZED UNDER: climate change
MORE ABOUT: climate change
  • Roddy Campbell

    White also said:
    “I’ve gotten a few emails from people who have done work at Midway who say, “It doesn’t matter if it’s the size of Texas or the size of France or the size of your backyard, it’s still a problem.” Actually, I fundamentally disagree with that. The oceans cover 70% of our planet. If it’s only the size of my backyard then I really don’t care about it.”
    Which is more realistic; it’s all about quantity.
    The statement “There’s no place for plastic in our marine environment.” does not say anything about the harm it causes, only that it would be better if it didn’t end up there.  “There’s no place for litter in National Parks’ would be equivalent.
    Bart’s ‘equivalent’ statement also uses the word ‘unlimited’, whereas the interview was about the quantity of plastic in the oceans, so clearly not unlimited.
    I see little equivalence!

  • RickA

    I don’t exhale plastic.

    I think that is the difference between these two examples.

    It is hard to swallow that the product of respiration can be classified as a pollutant.

    On the other hand, I do recognize that even to much oxygen can kill – so there are definite limits to the amount of CO2 that can be in the atmosphere before it becomes dangerous to the health, as in toxic.

    I mean toxic directly, not indirectly through AGW.

    I think submarines require CO2 to be less than 8000 ppm.

    So I don’t think CO2 should be considered a pollutant unless it can be shown to be the direct and primary cause of harm to humans.

    Noise, if loud enough, can be considered pollution – but it has to be pretty loud before it reaches that level.

    Nobody wants to stop noise pollution by saying no one can make make a sound.

  • Bart Verheggen

    Well, I could have stayed closer to the source and said:

    “There’s no place for man-made CO2 in our atmospheric environment.”

    I just thought to make it a bit more specific, esp since CO2 is also naturally occurring, so the issue is of course not entirely analogous (as is the case with any analogy).

    These semantics aside, my point still stands.

  • Sashka

    I’m sorry, Bart. What point? There is no place for unlimited amount of anything anywhere. I do agree that such a “profundity” would go unnoticed. But there certainly is a place for limited amount of CO2 in the atmosphere. We already emitted a bunch and still doing fine. So, what is it that you are trying to say?

  • Bart Verheggen

    My point is that some people who praise the interview for its clarity and honesty would attack a very similarly worded interview on a topic that they’re predisposed to disagree with.

  • Sashka

    I think you set up our straw man very poorly but you are right regardless.

    Indeed, if you post this interview on the blog at Sierra Club or some such I’m afraid the clarity and honesty won’t be appreciated at all.

  • Shub

    But CO2 is a constituent of the earth’s atmosphere which occurs naturally. Plastic is a chemical byproduct of crude oil which occurs naturally. How can you call these things ‘pollutants’?

  • Francis

    <i>How can you call these things “˜pollutants’?</i>  Um, because that’s what the Clean Air Act calls them?  Sulfur dioxide, for example, is regulated at the level at which it causes harm to the environment (as acid rain), not at the level at which it directly harms human health.

  • Shub

    Sulfur dioxide occurs naturally as well. It cannot ‘harm’ the ‘environment’.

  • HugeDifference

    Welcome sulphur dioxide,
    Hello carbon monoxide
    The air, the air is everywhere
    Breathe deep, while you sleep, breathe deep

    Bless you alcohol bloodstream,
    Save me nicotine lungsteen
    Incense, incense is in the air
    Breathe deep, while you sleep, breathe deep

    Cataclysmic, cataplasm
    Fall out atomic orgasm
    Vapor and fume at the stone of my tomb
    Breathe like a solemn perfume
    Eating at the stone of my tomb

    Welcome sulphur dioxide,
    Hello carbon monoxide
    The air, the air is everywhere
    Breathe deep, while you sleep, breathe deep

  • Edim

    It makes as little sense as:

    “There’s no place for unlimited amounts of H2O to be emitted into our atmosphere.”


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About Keith Kloor

Keith Kloor is a NYC-based journalist, and an adjunct professor of journalism at New York University. His work has appeared in Slate, Science, Discover, and the Washington Post magazine, among other outlets. From 2000 to 2008, he was a senior editor at Audubon Magazine. In 2008-2009, he was a Fellow at the University of Colorado’s Center for Environmental Journalism, in Boulder, where he studied how a changing environment (including climate change) influenced prehistoric societies in the U.S. Southwest. He covers a wide range of topics, from conservation biology and biotechnology to urban planning and archaeology.


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