23 May 2006

You say tomato

by Matt Rubinstein at 1:29 pm

puff.jpgContinuing our analysis of dopey advertisements for things that might kill us, we turn to the recent launch of two 60-second spots by the Competitive Enterprise Institute encouraging us to relax about global warming because carbon dioxide is, among other things, “natural”. Here is a transcript of the first one (italics very much implicit):

There’s something in these pictures you can’t see.
It’s essential for life.
We breathe it out. Plants breathe it in.
It comes from animal life, the ocean, the earth and the fuels we find in it.
It’s called carbon dioxide: CO2.
The fuels that produce CO2 have freed us from a world of back-breaking labour, lighting up our lives, allowing us to create and move the things we need—the people we love.
Now some politicians want to label carbon dioxide a pollutant.
Imagine if they succeed: what would our lives be like then?
Carbon dioxide. They call it pollution. We call it life.

The authoritative Urban Legend Reference Pages give no indication that these advertisements are any kind of hoax or hi-jink. CEI is a real institute with annual revenues of about $3 million; it describes itself as “a non-profit public policy organization dedicated to advancing the principles of free enterprise and limited government”. The ads were produced by Next Generation Advertising, who somewhat ominously claim to be “pioneers in non-traditional advertising” and earlier this year ran a controversial campaign pimping the Uniting and Strengthening America by Providing Appropriate Tools Required to Intercept and Obstruct Terrorism Act to viewers already half-terrorised by the explosive new season of 24. But the CO2 campaign was reportedly scripted by CEI’s lawyer Sam Kazman, who should know better.

The idea that everything that comes out of us must be good is, of course, very easily rebutted. We don’t need to resort to low-brow comparisons with other by-products of human life; we can consult Shakespeare on this very issue. He says:

And in some perfumes is there more delight
Than in the breath that from my mistress reeks.

This is just the kind of attitude adopted by the global-warming scaremongers who want to stop little girls blowing on dandelions—who might point out that CO2 is an asphyxiant, too much of which is always bad news. Even the ad’s image of a geyser spraying “natural” carbon dioxide very unfortunately recalls the sudden eruptions of CO2 from Lakes Monoun and Nyos in Cameroon that killed almost 2000 people in the 1980s. Of course, the big problem for us isn’t breathing in carbon dioxide; it’s global warming—which isn’t caused by the gases we personally exhale but by the ones we release by burning stuff to create the people we love (I’m not exactly sure how this works). Though only if you listen to scientists.