So analogies aside, is carbon dioxide a pollutant? President Obama clearly thought so. In his Earth Day proclamation he stated:
“We cannot afford to ignore what the overwhelming judgment of science tells us: that climate change is real and that it poses an urgent threat to our people and our planet. That is why my Administration set historic fuel efficiency standards that will nearly double how far our cars go on a gallon of gas while reducing harmful carbon pollution. …
“Today, America is sending less carbon pollution into the environment than we have in nearly 20 years. But we owe it to our children to do more. That is why I have called on the Congress to pursue a bipartisan, market-based solution to climate change. In the meantime, I will direct my Cabinet to come up with executive actions to reduce pollution”.”
President Obama’s reference to carbon dioxide as pollution is in accord with a 2007 judgment of the U.S. Supreme Court. In that judgment the Court decided that the word “pollutant” in the statute under consideration applied to automobile exhaust. As a result the Court directed the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to reconsider whether auto exhaust may reasonably be anticipated to endanger public health or welfare.
On further study the EPA decided that Greenhouse Gases such as carbon dioxide did endanger public health and were likely responsible for the global warming experienced over the past half century. On further challenge to this conclusion, a three-judge panel of the Supreme Court unanimously upheld the EPA’s central finding.
So the issue is settled for the U.S. The President is correct that carbon dioxide is a pollutant both legally and factually.
It is interesting to speculate whether the issue “Is Carbon Dioxide a pollutant?” will come up before the Canadian courts. Canadian environmental legislation is not nearly as comprehensive and not nearly as directive as U.S. environmental laws. There is no Canadian equivalent of the Environmental Protection Agency at our Federal level. If the issue does come up, our Federal Government would oppose any such conclusion.
Only a change of Government might result in the issue being favourably resolved by a Canadian Court.