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Dana1981 asked in EnvironmentGlobal Warming · 10 years ago

Should the government stop regulating natural human sewage output?

A frequent argument put forth by global warming contrarians is that the government/EPA shouldn't be able to regulate CO2 because it's a natural byproduct of human breathing. The Texas Attorney General recently made this argument:

"It is almost the height of insanity of bureaucracy to have the EPA regulating something that is emitted by all living things."

Joseph Romm points out that based on this logic, the government shouldn't address sewage either. Paul Krugman points out that before London built a sewage system in the 1850s, 'The Economist' basically made this same argument - sh*t happens.

What do you think - should we follow the advice of the Texas AG, go back to the 1850s, and let people start crapping in the street?

14 Answers

  • 10 years ago
    Favorite Answer

    Not in the street, in the fields. Sewage is a fine fertilizer for plants just like CO2! Burn more coal, crap in the fields, and we'll have a lush, green, productive planet!

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  • 10 years ago

    The CO2 is natural argument fails because there really is no problem with carbon that is part of the carbon cycle and has been part of that cycle. So CO2 from respiration isn't an issue. No one is suggesting that it is. But CO2 from fossil fuels is carbon that has been excluded from that cycle for millions of years and we are rapidly putting it back into the cycle. This causes a new higher equilibrium position to be created with a new higher global temperature. Basic year one physics and chemistry...

    Same would be true for methane from digestion etc except that by sheer numbers ruminants are a problem, and since we are nurturing billions of them to feed our red meet habit, they are a substantial problem.

    By the way while common sense may be important, it can also be misleading and numbers do matter in this case. Without the numbers you can't really understand the argument.

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  • Seebob
    Lv 5
    10 years ago

    I've never seen that argument...maybe a few of the nut cases maybe but no-one would take that seriously.

    Your question seems to me to simple confirm that the Texan Attorney General is a bit of a nutter and he doesn't represent my view on regulating carbon emissions.

    As for your assertion that London of 1850 was against building a sewerage, that is incorrect.

    For many decades authorities were aware of the need to build the system, the problem was who was going to be responsible and who would fund it.

    Political infighting was alive and well in London of 1850.

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  • Marcia
    Lv 6
    10 years ago

    If needed, all we need to do is turn to India to understand the difficulties of unrestrained fecal matter. They have been addressing this problem for several years as they've gained enough economic strength to develop infrastructure, education, and implementation of assorted human sewage systems.

    But, in turning to even the pet dog.... In an increasing number of communities there are codes about the proper placement and handling of dog fecal matter. Many codes include the back yard, land-mine, variety of dog fecal matter. One of the very serious issues related to the placement and handling of dog fecal matter revolves around disease; parvo can hang around in the soil for at least 7 years as a potential infectant for other unvacinated dogs. Some dog diseases can affect other species as well. Another very real health threat for all critters, from dogs to humans, is the spread of intestinal worms as well as a number of different nasty bacterias.

    The Texas AG's argument could easily be applied to something like methane gas. Courtesy of Oprah, Dr OZ has told us that the "normal", "healthy" human releases/has eruptions of methane gas several times per day. Yet, we welcome regulation of methane gas concentrations both for our olfactory sensibilities and for our safety in the case of landfills, underground fires, and explosions. As with many things relating to the environment, methane release into the atmosphere is not purely an on-off, black-white, or zero tollerance policy type of thing.

    Rather, it takes some common sense to be able to make a rational decision. The same goes with CO2 production and release into the atmosphere. The carbon credit and carbon neutral types could probably tell you how to calculate how many human respirations are equivalent to a vehicle's output of CO2. But, common sense would tell us that the human produces considerably less than a vehicle per hour of operation, a vehicle less than most factories per hour of operation, and so on; also, which of the three can operate more sustainably..

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  • The Clean Water Act, which is how the government started regulating sewage treatment, improved the health of all Americans.

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  • 10 years ago

    Its worth money these days.

    "Paying Waste: Sewage Contains More Usable Energy Than Scientists Thought"

    "Household Sewage: Not Waste, but a Vast New Energy Resource"

    "Vancouver sewage-to-heat neighbourhood energy centre goes live"

    The $30 million False Creek Energy Centre located under the south end of the Cambie Bridge “would keep 2,800 athletes and officials warm during the Olympics.”

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  • 4 years ago

    they only require actuality in promotion, what's so incorrect approximately preserving the buyer from fake claims? edit: so why the heck have any regulatory businesses in any respect? merely permit massive business enterprise say in spite of they desire so we are able to purchase their products? ok, so what's the element? ought to Cheerios declare they treatment maximum cancers? Regrow hair? Make all human beings skinny? the place do you draw the line?

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  • 10 years ago

    You make the example as simple as possible, but science deniers like the "geologist" still don't get it. I've often thought that many deniers simply lack logic skills and that is the basis for their denial, and this just drives the point home.

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  • 10 years ago

    jim z is using logic almost as profound as the Texas Attorney General.

    If, as jim z imagines, the CO2 buildup were harmless, there would be no case for regulating it.

    The case for regulating CO2 depends on whether or not it is harmful, NOT on whether or not it is natural.

    But actually, the Texas AG's argument is even worse than you imply, because the problem is precisely the amount emitted by fuel burning *over and above* what is emitted naturally.

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  • 9 years ago

    So how many are there supposed to be left after the red herring swallows one? 3?

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  • 10 years ago


    Good question!

    This has me thinking of a new screen name regarding expelling crap every time I sit down.

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