The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is finally acknowledging what environmentalists have long known: greenhouse gases in the atmosphere contribute to air pollution which in turn poses a health threat. Last Friday, the EPA issued a finding that identified six greenhouse gases in the atmosphere “endanger the public health and welfare of current and future generations.”
The six GHGs are carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous oxide, hydrofluorocarbons, perfluorocarbons and sulfur hexafluoride. In 2007, the U.S. Supreme Court ordered the EPA to conduct a thorough review of greenhouse gases pollution and air pollution.
The finding is now in the public comment stage, which is part of EPA’s deliberative process. Two public hearings will be held, the first one in Arlington, Virginia on May 18, 2009, and the other in Seattle, Washington on May 21, 2009. The public can register to speak at the hearings. The EPA is also accepting written comments about the finding.
The finding acknowledged that the high concentrations of GHGs in the atmosphere is the “unambiguous result of human emissions.” The finding also listed ten effects of climate change that are currently being observed and are projected to occur in the future:
- The increased likelihood of more frequent and intense heat waves
- More wildfires
- Degraded air quality
- More heavy downpours and flooding
- Increased drought
- Greater sea level rise
- More intense storms
- Harm to water resources
- Harm to agriculture
- Harm to wildlife and ecosystems
EPA Administrator Lisa P. Jackson said, “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.”
The EPA’s finding could likely spur the Congress to take action to regulate GHG emissions. Senator Barbara Boxer (D-CA) called the finding a “wake-up call for Congress.” Boxer chairs the Senate committee that deals with climate legislation.
Rep. Ed Markey (D-MA) said the EPA’s finding “now changes the playing field with respect to legislation. It’s now no longer doing a bill or doing nothing. It is now a choice between regulation and legislation.”