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Daryl Metcalfe on Facebook

In a hearing last week, Pennsylvania state Rep. Daryl Metcalfe explained why he opposed any efforts to reduce greenhouse gasses: he just really really loves plants and vegetables, which need carbon dioxide to grow, so take THAT, you crazy radicals who want to completely eliminate CO2 from our Earth's atmosphere! We suppose there is some irony in the fact that without a certain amount of CO2, you couldn't even grow yourself a straw man, either.


Metcalfe posted a Facebook video of his opening remarks to the state House Environmental Resources and Energy Committee, during a hearing on the beauties of fracking and natural gas. He bravely made clear he'll fight any attempt to reduce carbon pollution, because carbon dioxide is what plants crave:

Metcalfe is clearly a guy who knows science good!

Just to be on record, I enjoy my vegetables, and plants need CO2, so I want to make sure we have plenty of CO2 out there so we have green grass and green vegetables growing.

We need CO2, we can't eliminate all CO2. We are going to have an interesting debate for those that want to reduce something that is actually needed by our environment. And claiming that they are improving the environment.

Damn, where to start? Oh, hey, how about the straw man? Ain't nobody want to attempt to eliminate carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, because that would be UNPOSSIBLE. But since high concentrations of CO2 trap heat in the Earth's atmosphere, it would be a rather good thing (as in necessary for survival of large mammals like Rep. Daryl Metcalfe and others) to reduce the amount emitted by burning fossil fuels. Gosh, we wonder if Metcalfe actually knows this? It seems possible, but then we may underestimate how stupid he is.

Oh, and as the Pittsburgh City Paper points out, very scientifically, plants actually did pretty darn well before humans started pumping more CO2 into the atmosphere during the Industrial Revolution. You could look it up. Just search "agriculture before the industrial revolution."

Metcalfe is just the latest rightwing dipwad in the last few weeks to try to claim that since CO2 is necessary for plants to live, then obviously a lot more of the stuff would have to be a good thing. Trump administration pro-coal guy William Happer has made a career of that claim, as we noted last week, and says he's just heartsick to see an innocent gas demonized, just like the Jews under Hitler.

Needless to say, this is a load of wombat bollocks. Yes, plants need CO2 to live. They also need water. This does not mean flooding fields is good for corn crops. As to the supposed "benefits" of adding CO2 to the air, Scientific American has a nice little 'splainer on that: Yes, there is some small benefit to higher CO2 levels -- both natural and agricultural plants grow a little faster. But the effect is limited, and once CO2 levels get too high, that's actually bad for plants, because it limits the amount of nitrogen plants can absorb. Hey, plants need that, too! Richard Norby, a "corporate research fellow" at Oak Ridge National Laboratory's Environmental Sciences Division and Climate Change Science Institute, explains,

[Nitrogen] is often in short enough supply that it's the primary controller of how much biomass is produced" in an ecosystem, he says. "If nitrogen is limited, the benefit of the CO2increase is limited [...] You can't just look at CO2, because the overall context really matters."

Norby should also have added an apology for having an overly lengthy job title. That can't be good for the environment.

Also, there's the itty-bitty problem for plants posed by climate change itself: Higher temperatures mean changing growing seasons, worse droughts, and all around less-friendly conditions for plants. More yummy CO2 won't help plants if their leaves are all withered up.

Oh, and how about Metcalfe's much-loved vegetables? You know the ones not employed by the Heartland Institute. By golly, too much CO2 is actually even worse for the large mammals that consume plants. When CO2 increases, crops become less nutritious, says Samuel Myers, an environmental health researcher at Harvard:

"[Food crops] lose significant amounts of iron and zinc—and grains [also] lose protein." Myers and other researchers have found atmospheric CO2 levels predicted for mid-century—around 550 parts per million—could make food crops lose enough of those key nutrients to cause a protein deficiency in an estimated 150 million people and a zinc deficit in an additional 150 million to 200 million.

Gee, it's almost as if this Metcalfe guy is either deliberately uninformed or just plain lying. Mind you, it's the sort of thing you might expect from Metcalfe, who in 2013 set some sort of minor-league record when he blocked another member of the state House from speaking about the Supreme Court's ruling against DOMA:

I did not believe that as a member of that body that I should allow someone to make comments such as he was preparing to make that ultimately were just open rebellion against what the word of God has said, what God has said, and just open rebellion against God's law.

That's a good list! Open rebellion against not only the word of God, but also what God has said, and also open rebellion against God's law. Which God said and belongs to God. And is His. Ahem!

More recently, reports the City Paper, Metcalfe very loudly lost his shit at a hearing last year after another legislator briefly touched his elbow while talking to him, with obviously gay elbow-seducing intent:

Look, I'm a heterosexual. I have a wife. I love my wife. I don't like men, as you might. But stop touching me all the time. Like, keep your hands to yourself. If you want to touch somebody, you have people on your side of the aisle who might like it. I don't.

Oh, yes, and then there was the itty bitty issue where, after Metcalfe killed a bill that would stop Republican gerrymandering of congressional and state electoral districts, he essentially threatened to beat up a Democrat who objected. (His exact words: "We'd have a very different conversation on the street.")

Fine, ONE more: in 2008, Metcalfe blocked a completely symbolic resolution to recognize the 60th anniversary of a Muslim community because "The Muslims do not recognize Jesus Christ as God." He said the press had taken his words out of context. The Nation notes his principled stand won him some support from very nice people:

[The] White Christian Nation, a white-nationalist group, tried to give Metcalfe a "Christian National Soldier Award" for "standing up against the Islamic Muslims, illegal immigrates [sic] and gays that have taken over our country." Metcalfe refused to accept the award and denounced the group, though he is reported to have taken a $500 campaign contribution from them.

Gosh, we would hate to be accused of an ad hominem argument, but taken altogether, we can't help but think Mr. Metcalfe is not necessarily the sort of person whose pronouncement that people who think CO2 is bad are engaging in "flawed reasoning."

Then again, Metcalfe chairs the state's Environmental Resources & Energy Committee, and therefore decides what environmental legislation will advance or not. So we guess he gets to decide what's reasonable science and what isn't, at least in Pennsylvania.

Somebody ought to ask Metcalfe -- without touching his elbow, for chrissakes! -- how he thinks plants will respond when all the clouds are gone and the planet goes into out-of-control warming that kills off vast portions of life. Ha ha, that won't happen for another century, so it's not his problem!

[Pittsburgh City Paper / Daryl Metcalfe on Facebook / Scientific American / Nation / Quanta]

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Doktor Zoom

Doktor Zoom's real name is Marty Kelley, and he lives in the wilds of Boise, Idaho. He is not a medical doctor, but does have a real PhD in Rhetoric. You should definitely donate some money to this little mommyblog where he has finally found acceptance and cat pictures. He is on maternity leave until 2033. Here is his Twitter, also. His quest to avoid prolixity is not going so great.

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