Just Stop Breathing

Lisa Schiffren17 Dec, 2023 3 Min Read
Plants are better than people.

Sometimes you read something so preposterous that you can’t believe it isn’t satire. Rarely are they about science. But Britain's Daily Mail had one such this week: an article highlighting an apparently respectable study that argues that human breathing is bad for the environment: “Gases we exhale contribute to 0.1 percent of the U.K.’s greenhouse gas emissions." And, what's more, "that's not even accounting for the gas we release from burps and farts, or emissions that come from our skin without us noticing.” 

According to the author of the study, Dr. Nicholas Cowan, an atmospheric physicist at the U.K. Centre for Ecology and Hydrology in Edinburgh, “exhaled human breath can contain small, elevated concentrations of methane (CH4) and nitrous oxide (N20), both of which contribute to global warming,” Dr. Cowan said. “We would urge caution in the assumption that emissions from humans are negligible.”

But they are negligible. To be clear, 0.1 percent is such a minuscule amount of anything that it is hard to see why an editor decided to devote space to the study. Unless…. well, we’re back to satire. Not that satirizing the climate change scientific establishment is so hard. Why should we be panicked, or even concerned about human breathing? Because “human respiration has a net warming effect on the atmosphere.” Apparently human breath contains two greenhouse gases – “both more potent than CO2.” “One is methane which is famously also emitted from livestock such as cows.” 

The fact that cows emit methane is the usual rationale for "climate-change" fanatics wanting to kill them. Remember last spring when Ireland was commanded by its eco-betters to kill off 200,000 cows to reduce emissions of greenhouse gases? This is also the rationale for forcing us plebs to become vegetarians (bug-etarians?). No beef, no methane emissions from cows. I guess we’ll have to give up dairy, too, since those herds also breathe and fart. The thing is, you could theoretically do without beef. But you cannot do without breathing. Unless, of course, you are willing to do without humans. And it's hard not to notice the suicidal Malthusian tendencies of climate crowd poking through when they're putting out breathless reports like this.

Whatever you do, don't fart.

Furthermore, the experiment to determine the scale of greenhouse gases exhaled by humans has an interesting aspect. First, the breath of only 104 U.K. adults was used. “Participants were required to take in a deep breath and hold it for five seconds, then exhale into a sealable plastic bag.” Researchers apparently found that everyone emits nitrous oxide. But only 31 percent of participants emitted methane. Researchers surmised that the rest of the population emits methane by, um, farting. 

The study contends older people emitted more methane than younger ones. And also that women emitted more methane than men. And one particular disappointment -- “Researchers didn't manage to find any link between gases in the breath and diets," so on this score at least eating bugs isn't more environmentally friendly. But, they add helpfully, "meat eaters are known to fuel the climate crisis in other ways." Phew.

Of course, humans breathe in oxygen and predominantly breathe out carbon dioxide. Plants, meanwhile, do the opposite -- absorbing CO2 and releasing oxygen. So plants, apparently, are better than people. It would seem that Dr. Cowan and his whole team are excited for a future when the planet is well stocked with one and devoid of the other.

Lisa Schiffren has been an editorial writer, political reporter, war correspondent, (Afghanistan during the Soviet war, before there were roads), and GOP speechwriter. She wrote speeches for Vice President Dan Quayle, and worked in Counterterrorism/Special Operations policy at the Department of Defense. She writes these days from her native New York City.


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3 comments on “Just Stop Breathing”

  1. When I taught a class in energy and environmental policy at Metro State University in St. Paul, MN in the late 70s, I came across a novel I suggested to my students: "The Bridge", by D. Keith Mano. The premise was that in the world of 2035 over which the enviros had complete hegemony, they decided that all humans had to eliminate themselves because by breathing they were killing off airborne mircoorganisms whose right to survive was just as legitimate. In this world eating was obviously forbidden, and humans survived on an inorganic substance called "e-diet". One man decides not to participate, he and his spawn repopulate the earth, and six hundred years later he is regarded as the world's savior by the newly dominant religion.
    It was satire then. Now I'm not so sure.

  2. Yes the Deep Ecologists w ant Humans to go the way of the Dodo although i would like to see t he Dodo brought back along with the Passenger Pigeon Great Auk Heath Hen Carolina Parakeet and Labrador Duck I want to see the Eco-Freaks stranded in the Snow at home

  3. Any war on carbon is a war on life. These people who want to go "organic " and eliminate carbon, make my head spin. Gaining a basic understanding of what organic chemistry is, is a first step.

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