(Repeating to widen distribution)
By Deborah Zabarenko, Environment Correspondent
WASHINGTON, July 14 The U.S. Environmental
Protection Agency said on Monday that greenhouse gas emissions
endanger human health, a critical finding that has languished
in bureaucratic limbo since last December.
In a 149-page document, the agency's scientists said that
"warming of the climate system is unequivocal" and that
potential health risks include more heat waves, floods and
droughts, insect outbreaks and and wildfires, along with crop
failure and 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
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 document posted on EPA's Web site was part of the
environment agency's response to an April 2007 Supreme Court
ruling that for the first time found that greenhouse gases can
be regulated as a pollutant under the U.S. Clean Air Act.
The idea that climate-warming greenhouse emissions threaten
public health is an essential part of the Clean Air Act;
policymakers must find that a substance poses this kind of
threat to be designated as a pollutant, and EPA said in its
documents that greenhouse gases do this.
This information had been sent to the White House last
December by e-mail, but officials there refused to open it.
More than six months later, Stephen Johnson, the
environment agency's chief, declined to take immediate steps to
regulate planet-warming emissions, and on Friday called on
Congress to act.
Instead of laying out rules, Johnson asked for public
comments for a 120-day period on a nearly 1,000-page report on
the effects of climate change and the ramifications of the
Clean Air Act on greenhouse emissions.
Even after the initial comment period ends in November, a
rule will need to be written, followed by another comment
period of as much as 120 days, which makes any action during
the Bush administration unlikely.
The Bush administration has opposed economy-wide moves to
regulate greenhouse gas emissions. Both major presidential
candidates, Republican John McCain and Democrat Barack Obama,
have said they would act to stem climate change.
(Editing by Eric Walsh)