After eight years of denial by the Bush administration and top congressional Republicans, the US government has finally decided that greenhouse gases, which cause global warming, create air pollution that endangers public health.
According to the newly released findings of an Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) study, six greenhouse gases that cause global warming pose a public health threat. These gases are carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous oxide, hydrofluorocarbons, perfluorocarbons and sulfur hexafluoride, the study revealed.
The EPA found that “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.”
The EPA study also explained that in 2007 the rise in levels of carbon dioxide contributed the most to increased levels overall of greenhouse gases. Some 7,000 metric tons of greenhouse gases were added to the atmosphere that year alone.
Using the best available scientific data and estimates, the EPA concluded that greenhouse gases cause global warming and a host of related problems with severe social consequences, such as 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.
The EPA findings also tied the rise in levels of greenhouse gases in 2007 in the US to the increased consumption of fossil fuels for home heating and electricity production.
The US Supreme Court ordered this landmark study in 2007 after resistance from the Bush administration.
“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 in a recent press statement. “This pollution problem has a solution – one that will create millions of green jobs and end our country’s dependence on foreign oil.”
To help reverse the trend, the Obama administration has proposed a set of inter-related solutions. First, the president wants to create a cap-and-trade system, not unlike the current EPA-administered system for acid rain-causing pollutants, that would impose limits on greenhouse gas emissions. Such a program would raise revenues for investments in renewable energy sources, such as wind, solar power and advanced battery technology, that do not emit greenhouse gases. In addition, the administration has proposed that a new cap-and-trade system could fund tax credits for working families to help weatherize homes and reduce energy usage, cover additional costs for energy bills for consumers and pay for education and training programs for the new energy economy