The EPA Comes Clean

Increased wildfires is one of many dangers tied to climate change in the EPA"s new report.© Getty Images

Last week the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) released a report detailing how greenhouse gas emissions endanger human health. The controversial 149-page document, which languished in bureaucratic limbo since last December, was put together as part of the agency’s response to an April 2007 Supreme Court ruling that called on the federal government to regulate greenhouse gases as a pollutant under the nation’s landmark Clean Air Act. Agency scientists wrote in the report that "warming of the climate is unequivocal" and that potential health risks include heat waves, floods, droughts, insect outbreaks, wildfires, crop failure and a decline in livestock and fisheries productivity.

"This is a long-awaited EPA analysis that has been kept under wraps by the White House," said Vickie Patton of the nonprofit Environmental Defense. "It’s of critical importance because it looks at the extensive body of science demonstrating that global warming threatens Americans" health and well-being."

The finding is significant because it forces the federal government to take steps to limit greenhouse gas emissions like other known air pollutants, whether the Bush administration takes the threat of climate change seriously or not. While the report had been sent to the White House last December, officials there refused to open it as they knew it would force their hand on the controversial issue. The delay, however, means that it’s unlikely the Bush administration will have time to make good on passing laws to regulate greenhouse gas emissions. Nevertheless, environmentalists consider the finding a positive first step.

Sources: Planet Ark; Environmental Defense