THE US Environment Protection Agency (EPA) yesterday issued its much anticipated ‘Endangerment Finding’ which makes six gases — carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous oxide, hydrofluorocarbons, perfluorocarbons and sulfur hexafluoride — officially recognised as a danger to the public.
Many see this as the first formal action by the Obama administration toward the regulation of carbon dioxide emissions as part of his administrations commitment to fighting global warming.
The announcement is likely to now bring pressure on the US Congress to back emissions trading legislation which would require polluters to get permits for emissions, rather than letting the EPA set the rules.
“There is no longer a question of if or even when the U.S. will act on global warming: We are doing so now,” said a spokesperson for the Sierra Club.
U.S. Senator Barbara Boxer, Chairman of the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works, said: “The release of EPA’s proposed finding that global warming is a threat to public health and welfare is long overdue — we have lost eight years in this fight. The Clean Air Act provides EPA with an effective toolbox for cutting greenhouse gas emissions right now.”
“However, the best and most flexible way to deal with this serious problem is to enact a market based cap and trade system which will help us make the transition to clean energy and will bring us innovation and strong economic growth.”
According to physicist Fred Singer: “The train was set in motion by the Supreme Court ruling that EPA has the authority under the Clean Air Act (CAA) to issue such a finding — if it determines that greenhouse gases gases affect human health and welfare. A train wreck would seem to be just around the corner.
“But not so fast: Even after the Endangerment Finding (EF) has been issued, there will be a 60-day period for comments. Then EPA will be beset with lawsuits – principally, that it has not demonstrated the claimed adverse effects. Then EPA will have to draft regulations to limit emissions of CO2. The CAA specifies a lower limit of 250 tons per year; that would affect 1.2 million establishments, including apartment buildings, hospitals, and maybe even Al Gore’s mansion.
“If the EPA tries to raise the limit to a more manageable value, they would violate the law and usurp the authority of Congress.
“EPA would also have to regulate the emission of methane from farms, feedlots, sewage treatment plants, etc. Finally, EPA would have to set National Ambient Air Quality Standards (NAAQS), again according to law, and demonstrate how these could be achieved.”
According to blogger, Anthony Watts: “In a stunning act of political kowtowing, the EPA has caved to special interest groups and politics and declared CO2 a ‘dangerous pollutant’, even though it is part of the natural cycle of life. Now the gloves come off and the real fight begins during the 60 day public comment period. If you’ve never stood up to ‘consensus’ before, now is the time for all good men to come to the aid of their country.
Notes and Links
US Government Media Release: EPA Finds Greenhouse Gases Pose Threat to Public Health, Welfare / Proposed Finding Comes in Response to 2007 Supreme Court Ruling
(Washington, D.C. – April 17, 2009) After a thorough scientific review ordered in 2007 by the U.S. Supreme Court, the Environmental Protection Agency issued a proposed finding Friday that greenhouse gases contribute to air pollution that may endanger public health or welfare.
The proposed finding, which now moves to a public comment period, identified six greenhouse gases that pose a potential threat.
“This finding confirms that greenhouse gas pollution is a serious problem now and for future generations. Fortunately, it follows President Obama’s call for a low carbon economy and strong leadership in Congress on clean energy and climate legislation,” said Administrator Lisa P. Jackson. “This pollution problem has a solution – one that will create millions of green jobs and end our country’s dependence on foreign oil.”
As the proposed endangerment finding states, “In both magnitude and probability, climate change is an enormous problem. The greenhouse gases that are responsible for it endanger public health and welfare within the meaning of the Clean Air Act.”
EPA’s proposed endangerment finding is based on rigorous, peer-reviewed scientific analysis of six gases – carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous oxide, hydrofluorocarbons, perfluorocarbons and sulfur hexafluoride – that have been the subject of intensive analysis by scientists around the world. The science clearly shows that concentrations of these gases are at unprecedented levels as a result of human emissions, and these high levels are very likely the cause of the increase in average temperatures and other changes in our climate.
The scientific analysis also confirms that climate change impacts human health in several ways. Findings from a recent EPA study titled “Assessment of the Impacts of Global Change on Regional U.S. Air Quality: A Synthesis of Climate Change Impacts on Ground-Level Ozone,” for example, suggest that climate change may lead to higher concentrations of ground-level ozone, a harmful pollutant. Additional impacts of climate change include, but are not limited to:
• increased drought;
• more heavy downpours and flooding;
• more frequent and intense heat waves and wildfires;
• greater sea level rise;
• more intense storms; and
• harm to water resources, agriculture, wildlife and ecosystems.
In proposing the finding, Administrator Jackson also took into account the disproportionate impact climate change has on the health of certain segments of the population, such as the poor, the very young, the elderly, those already in poor health, the disabled, those living alone and/or indigenous populations dependent on one or a few resources.
In addition to threatening human health, the analysis finds that climate change also has serious national security implications. Consistent with this proposed finding, in 2007, 11 retired U.S. generals and admirals signed a report from the Center for a New American Security stating that climate change “presents significant national security challenges for the United States.” Escalating violence in destabilized regions can be incited and fomented by an increasing scarcity of resources – including water. This lack of resources, driven by climate change patterns, then drives massive migration to more stabilized regions of the world.
The proposed endangerment finding now enters the public comment period, which is the next step in the deliberative process EPA must undertake before issuing final findings. Today’s proposed finding does not include any proposed regulations. Before taking any steps to reduce greenhouse gases under the Clean Air Act, EPA would conduct an appropriate process and consider stakeholder input. Notwithstanding this required regulatory process, both President Obama and Administrator Jackson have repeatedly indicated their preference for comprehensive legislation to address this issue and create the framework for a clean energy economy.
More information: http://epa.gov/climatechange/endangerment.html