Tuesday, December 8, 2009

EPA: There Is No Climategate

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency concludes that after a thorough examination of the scientific evidence that greenhouse gases (GHGs) threaten the public health and welfare of the American people. EPA also finds that GHG emissions from on-road vehicles contribute to that threat.

The EPA says GHGs are the primary driver of climate change, which can lead to hotter, longer heat waves that threaten the health of the sick, poor or elderly; increases in ground-level ozone pollution linked to asthma and other respiratory illnesses; as well as other threats to the health and welfare of Americans.

The findings come as leaders from around the world meet in Copenhagen to address the issue of global warming. They also come as polls indicate that an increasing number of Americans believe the issue of global warming has become politicized. Fewer Americans now buy into the threat.

Some people are calling leaked emails from scientists that question global warming Climategate. They argue that the emails constitute a smoking gun of sorts - proving, they believe, that the issue is a hoax.

Some doubters agree that the evidence shows that global warming is an issue. But believe that it is part of a natural pattern and not a result of the actions of humans. But others question whether it even exists. The EPA says - the scientific evidence proves otherwise.

“These long-overdue findings cement 2009’s place in history as the year when the United States government began addressing the challenge of greenhouse-gas pollution and seizing the opportunity of clean-energy reform,” said EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson. “Business leaders, security experts, government officials, concerned citizens and the United States Supreme Court have called for enduring, pragmatic solutions to reduce the greenhouse gas pollution that is causing climate change. This continues our work towards clean energy reform that will cut GHGs and reduce the dependence on foreign oil that threatens our national security and our economy.”

The EPA report seems to signal that the agency is ready to take actions to stem the tide of greenhouse gas emissions in the United States on its own - based on its mandate - rather than waiting for Congress to take specific actions.

The agency says the findings are the result of a 2007 U.S. Supreme Court decision that GHGs fit within the Clean Air Act definition of air pollutants. The findings do not in and of themselves impose any emission reduction requirements, the EPA says. BUt they do allow the agency to finalize the GHG standards proposed earlier this year for new light-duty vehicles as part of joint rule making with the Department of Transportation.

The EPA says vehicles on the nation's highways and streets contribute more than 23 percent of total U.S. GHG emissions. The proposed GHG standards for light-duty vehicles, a subset of on-road vehicles, would reduce GHG emissions by nearly 950 million metric tons and conserve 1.8 billion barrels of oil over the lifetime of model year 2012-2016 vehicles.

EPA’s endangerment finding covers emissions of six key greenhouse gases – carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous oxide, hydrofluorocarbons, perfluorocarbons and sulfur hexafluoride – that have been the subject of scrutiny and intense analysis for decades by scientists in the United States and around the world.

Despite the leaked emails, the EPA says that there is scientific consensus that, as a result of human activities, GHG concentrations in the atmosphere are at record high levels. It says that data show that the Earth has been warming over the past 100 years, with the steepest increase in warming in recent decades.

The evidence of human-induced climate change, the EPA says, goes beyond observed increases in average surface temperatures; it includes melting ice in the Arctic, melting glaciers around the world, increasing ocean temperatures, rising sea levels, acidification of the oceans due to excess carbon dioxide, changing precipitation patterns, and changing patterns of ecosystems and wildlife.

President Obama and the EPA's Jackson have publicly stated that they support a legislative solution to the problem of climate change and Congress’ efforts to pass comprehensive climate legislation. However, the EPA believes that climate change is threatening public health and welfare and it is critical that it fulfill its obligation to respond to the Supreme Court ruling that determined that greenhouse gases fit within the Clean Air Act definition of air pollutants.

The EPA says it reviewed more than 380,000 comments submitted during a 60-day period before issuing the findings.



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