Greenhouse gases threaten public health, EPA says

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Updated Jan 4, 2010

After examining scientific evidence and considering public comments, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency today, Dec. 7, announced its finding that greenhouse gases threaten the public health and welfare of the American people. EPA also announced its finding that GHG emissions from onroad vehicles contribute to that threat.

According to EPA, 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; and other threats to the health and welfare of Americans.

“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,” said EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson. “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.”

EPA’s final findings respond to the 2007 U.S. Supreme Court decision and EPA’s subsequent Advance Notice of Proposed Rulemaking that GHGs fit within the Clean Air Act definition of air pollutants. The findings do not in and of themselves impose any emissions reduction requirements, but rather allow EPA to finalize the GHG standards proposed earlier this year for new light-duty vehicles as part of a joint rulemaking with the U.S. Department of Transportation.

On-road vehicles contribute more than 23 percent of total U.S. GHG emissions, according to EPA. The agency’s proposed GHG standards for light-duty vehicles, a subset of on-road vehicles, would seek to 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. Scientific consensus shows that as a result of human activities, GHG concentrations in the atmosphere are at record high levels, and data shows that the Earth has been warming over the past 100 years, with the steepest increase in warming in recent decades, resulting in 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 Jackson have stated publicly that they support a legislative solution to the problem of climate change and Congress’ efforts to pass comprehensive climate legislation. EPA issued the proposed findings in April and held a 60-day public comment period. The agency received more than 380,000 comments, which the agency says were reviewed carefully and considered during the development of the final findings. For more information, go to