Donald Trump’s favorite pseudo-shrink claimed he was mentally fit without a psychology degree.
Now Gina Loudon is arguing carbon dioxide emissions are actually good for the environment—a statement that flies in the face of decades of climate science.
“The cars we have rented in Cali all shut off when you stop. This is the stupidest, most enviro-whacked thing I have ever seen,” Loudon tweeted Tuesday morning. “Does Cali require this? I have never seen this before. How can this even be fuel efficient?!”
Then, she took it a step further. “The same genuiuses (sic) who don’t understand the basic science of co2 emissions and how they feed trees and is therefore environmentally healthy must have come up with this regressive, virtue signal. Aren’t they embarrassed? #fakescience”
It’s unclear exactly what type of “enviro-whacked” car Loudon is referencing. She might have had a malfunctioning car, but more likely, Loudon was driving a stop-start car, whose engine shuts off when completely stopped to reduce idling and the resulting carbon dioxide emissions.
Contrary to Loudon’s claim, a 2014 report from the American Auto Association shows that stop-start cars are actually more efficient and better for the environment than traditional vehicles, improving fuel economy and cutting down emissions by about 5 to 7 percent.
“[If Loudon’s referencing stop-start cars], I would definitely not call this a ‘regressive virtue signal,’” Judi Greenwald, a visiting fellow at Princeton’s Andlinger Center for Energy and the Environment, told The Daily Beast. Greenwald previously served as the deputy director for climate, environment and energy efficiency in the Department of Energy’s policy office under Barack Obama, who championed fuel efficiency standards that Trump’s since attempted to dismantle. “It’s an effective way to reduce emissions and save money on fuel costs. Why would you want to continue to use and pay for fuel while standing still?”
Loudon did not respond to multiple requests for comment.
Her other claim, that carbon dioxide emissions are “environmentally healthy” because they feed trees, is also problematic.
“Yes, carbon dioxide is a plant food. But there’s a saying in toxicology that the dose makes the poison,” Greenwald said. “So the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere really matters. And we’re putting in too much carbon dioxide [into the atmosphere].”
Katharine Reich, an associate director with the UCLA Center for Climate Science, agrees. “No climate scientist would argue that some CO2 in the atmosphere isn't a good thing,” Reich told The Daily Beast via email. “As a heat-trapping gas, it's what allows the atmosphere to retain warmth and make our planet habitable. However, it is possible to have too much of a good thing, and that's what is happening. We have too much CO2 in the atmosphere, and it's trapping too much heat.”
While plants can suck up extra carbon dioxide—one 2016 report in Nature Communications showed that between 2002 and 2014, plant consumption of extra carbon dioxide slowed global warming even with the increase of man-made carbon dioxide emissions—Greenwald says there’s already a perfectly good balance between the amount of carbon dioxide humans exhale and what plants consume.
But all the extra car-created carbon dioxide that Loudon is championing as “environmentally healthy” is actually “throwing that balance out of whack,” Greenwald said, adding more carbon dioxide to the environment than plants can handle.
That’s bad news for the environment, Greenwald and Reich explained—the more carbon dioxide humans emit by burning fossil fuels, the more heat gets trapped. And according to 2016 data from the EPA, transportation is one of the primary sources of greenhouse gas emissions.
The resulting global warming causes a litany of well-documented problems for the environment and the humans who live in it: increased droughts, stronger hurricanes and wildfires, higher risks of mosquito-borne diseases like malaria and dengue fever, rising sea levels that threaten to drown entire cities—even beer might not be safe.
“Those effects have consequences for all life on earth,” Reich added, “including humans, animals, and yes, even plants that need CO2 to grow.”