March 24, 2009

Greenhouse Gases Threaten Public Health

In a draft proposal sent to the White House on Friday, the United States Environmental Protection Agency said greenhouse gas emissions pose a significant threat to public health and welfare.

The proposal outlined what it calls an "Endangerment Finding for Greenhouse Gases under the Clean Air Act," which could shape the future regulation of greenhouse gas emissions.

"I think it's historic news," Frank O'Donnell of the environmental group Clean Air Watch told Reuters.

"It is going to set the stage for the first-ever national limits on global warming pollution."

"This finding will officially end the era of denial on global warming," said Rep Ed Markey in a statement.

"Instead of allowing political interference in scientific and legal decisions, as was the case in the previous administration, the Obama administration is letting the sun shine in on the dangerous realities of global warming."

John Walke, a senior attorney at the National Resources Defense Council, told AFP that "the language of the Clean Air Act that triggers the need to regulate emissions from vehicles."

"They make findings that greenhouse gas emissions not only endanger public welfare -- ecosystems, the environment and the planet at large -- but also make the important link between global warming emissions and how they will affect smog pollution, malaria and other public health problems," he said.

In April 2007, five of nine Supreme Court justices ruled that carbon dioxide was a pollutant under the Clean Air Act. However, the Bush administration refused to acknowledge the decision and no regulations were put into action.

The proposal could initiate a cap on carbon emissions by Congress, said Eileen Claussen of the Pew Center on Global Climate Change.

Congressional Democrats support a cap-and-trade plan to cut emissions.

"The Bush administration refused for eight years to take action over the greatest crisis of our time and manipulated and ignored science in order to pursue inaction at all costs," said Walke.

"Now, within the first three months of the Obama administration, you have this announcement that they will take global warming seriously and take action to reduce C02 emissions," he said.


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