Congressman Upton's Hyperbolic Rant Against Hyperbole

Upton connect dots.png

If you are going to write an opinion piece complaining that your detractors are soiling the political debate with hyperbole and misleading statements, it is a blunder to use hyperbole and misleading statements to make your case.

Case in point: Chairman Fred Upton’s (R-MI) piece at “Politicizing the Green Debate.”

Colleagues at the NRDC Action Fund and other organizations have weighed in on Upton’s rant already, so I’ll just focus on one key point: carbon pollution and health.

Upton is annoyed that health groups are pointing out that continuing to allow virtually unlimited carbon pollution will harm the health of Americans, saying

Even though the Environmental Protection Agency has said carbon and other greenhouse gases (GHGs) do not have any direct health effects on illnesses like asthma, lobbying groups like the American Lung Association charge that failing to regulate GHGs will cause a cascade of sickness.

Bzzzt! Hyperbole alert!

Actually, ALA's charge is clearly written in this fact sheet on climate change and ozone which clearly connects the dots between carbon pollution and health:

Scientists warn that the buildup of greenhouse gases and the climate changes caused by it will create conditions, including warmer temperatures, which will increase the risk of unhealthful ambient ozone levels. Higher temperatures can enhance the conditions for ozone formation.

Ok, warming is expected to make smog pollution worse. Dots 1 through 2 connected.

The fact sheet goes on to explain why ozone makes people sick:

When a person inhales ozone, it reacts chemically with the body’s internal tissues causing inflammation, like a “sunburn,” of the lung.  Ozone acts as a powerful respiratory irritant at the levels found frequently across the nation. Breathing ozone may lead to serious harm to health…

Ok, smog is bad for your health. Dots 2 to 3 are now connected.

ALA continues by outlining the wide range of health harms smog causes, including:

• premature death;

• shortness of breath and chest pain;

• wheezing and coughing;

• inflammation of the lining of the lungs;

• increased susceptibility to respiratory infections;

• increased risk of asthma attacks;


• increased need for medical treatment and hospitalization for people with lung diseases, such as asthma or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).

Children who regularly breathe high levels of ozone may face reduced lung function in adulthood. Reduced lung function increases the risk of lung disease later in life.

Well, that is a cascade. Dots 3 to 4 connected.

Let’s review the dots (nice and big now, so everyone can follow along!)

Apparently, however, Mr. Upton didn’t actually read ALA’s fact sheet or he would have realized that calling it hyperbolic and misleading was way off the mark.

Not to mention that after reading about what carbon pollution does to smog and what smog does to kids (and the rest of us), Mr. Upton should be spending his time protecting kids from dangerous air pollution, not attacking the organizations working to make sure Congress lets the EPA do its job.

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