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EPA Issues Proposed Endangerment Finding for Greenhouse Gases; Proposed Cause or Contribute Finding Identifies Motor Vehicles as Contributing Source

After a thorough scientific review ordered in 2007 by the US Supreme Court, the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) issued a proposal with two distinct findings regarding greenhouse gases. (Earlier post.) The endangerment finding proposes that the current and projected concentrations of the mix of six key greenhouse gases—carbon dioxide (CO2), methane (CH4), nitrous oxide (N2O), hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs), perfluorocarbons (PFCs), and sulfur hexafluoride (SF6)—in the atmosphere threaten the public health and welfare of current and future generations. The issuance of an endangerment finding enables the regulation of greenhouse gases under the Clean Air Act.

The proposed cause or contribute finding concludes that that the combined emissions of CO2, CH4, N2O, and HFCs from new motor vehicles and motor vehicle engines contribute to the atmospheric concentrations of these key greenhouse gases and hence to the threat of climate change. Combined with the endangerment finding, this enables the regulation of greenhouse gas emissions from motor vehicles under the Clean Air Act.

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.

—Proposed Endangerment Finding

The proposed findings now enter the public comment period, which is the next step in the deliberative process EPA must undertake before issuing final findings. The proposal does not include any proposed regulations. Before taking any steps to reduce greenhouse gases under the Clean Air Act, EPA would conduct an appropriate process and consider stakeholder input.

Notwithstanding this required regulatory process, both President Obama and Administrator Jackson have repeatedly indicated their preference for comprehensive legislation to address the issue.

There are two public hearings scheduled for this proposed finding: 18 May at the EPA Potomac Yard Conference Center, Arlington, VA; and 21 May at the Bell Harbor International Conference Center in Seattle, WA.

The scientific analysis also confirms that climate change impacts human health in several ways. Findings from a recent EPA study titled “Assessment of the Impacts of Global Change on Regional US Air Quality: A Synthesis of Climate Change Impacts on Ground-Level Ozone,” for example, suggest that climate change may lead to higher concentrations of ground-level ozone, a harmful pollutant.

Climate change has the potential to produce increases in ground-level ozone in many regions, according to the report. Ground-level ozone is formed in the presence of sunlight by a chemical reaction between oxides of nitrogen (NOx) and volatile organic compounds (VOCs), which are emitted from sources like motor vehicles and industrial facilities. Climate change also could increase the number of days with weather conditions conducive to forming ozone, potentially causing air quality alerts earlier in the spring and later in the fall.

Additional impacts of climate change include, but are not limited to:

  • 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.

In proposing the finding, EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson also took into account the disproportionate impact climate change has on the health of certain segments of the population, such as the poor, the very young, the elderly, those already in poor health, the disabled, those living alone and/or indigenous populations dependent on one or a few resources.

Resources

Comments

JosephT


Lawmakers will need to be very carefull. Alot of economic damage can be done with the stroke of the pen.

Account Deleted

It can sometimes be more damaging to do nothing. Global warming could lead to catastrophic consequences for the planets fresh water system and consequently for the global production of food. And rising sea levels caused by global warming could cost trillions of dollars in lost infrastructure in the flooded areas. On top of that add mass extinction of all kinds of species that may be needed to combat current and future diseases.

Apart from these economic costs there is the moral question about whether man has the right do as it pleases without any consideration for its consequences for other species or future generations of humans.

For both economic and moral reasons it is about time that we start to treat greenhouse gases as pollutants that must be regulated for every machine or process that are responsible for their production.

wintermane2000

If you think a hydrogen highway is spendy wait till you see the pricetag on this;/

Nick Lyons

I'm with Henrik--it's about time we did some reality-based planning and policy making.

The human species needs to start taking responsibility for overrunning and despoiling our fragile planet. I want my descendants to inherit something like the beautiful and bountiful Earth I grew up in.

JosephT


Nick "I want my descendants to inherit something like the beautiful and bountiful Earth I grew up in."

Then I suggest you start buying acreage. At least it's a good time to buy. My house is in the burbs, 25 miles from downtown. When I was a teen my neighborhood is where we used to hunt, It was scrub land in the middle of nowhere. Now it's considered in the inner loop, the new houses are 20 miles further out. We are adding a net 220,000 mouthes per day. Take a good look around, in 2 more decades, there will not be much open space left.

It really will not matter what North America does if China and India don't follow suit.

HarveyD

JosephT:

Make sure it's on higher grounds (at least +100 feet) before you buy. However, regardless of where you buy, you may need a good air purifier if the world do not change its ways and starts reducing pollution ever increasing rate.

There are better ways to maintain our high living standards.

GreenPlease

I like the idea of a "net-zero" emissions policy. It would go something like this:

-The amount of land in the United States would be calculated.
-Private firms would review satillite photos to determine what sort of folliage is on an individual's land holdings. These firms would be subject to outside review and harsh penalties.
-Whatever U.S. soil sequesters in a year would be our (eventual) limit for CO2 emissions.
-We would phase in to this: emit 4x,3x,2x...

The advantages of such a strategy are pretty clear:

People can argue global warming, cooling, or man's inability to have an impact on the climate. It is very difficult to argue that it's not a good idea to have zero impact on the planet's climate systems.

An enormous amount of new jobs would be created, and, more importantly, new feedback loops would be created in the economy. The name of the game is money velocity. How many hands touch a dollar before it returns... the more the merrier.

Land owners would finally get paid (albeit not much) to let their land just sit. It's about time! Coal fired plants have been using oxygen from my trees for free for decades! As an aside, national parks could probably pay for themselves as the government would recieve payments from emitters of CO2.

What do you guys think?

The Goracle

Government agency intent on gaining power, and having government run people's lives, announces that it must run people's lives based on the Globalwarmism religion. Predictable. Enjoy the doubling of your energy bills! The socialists are in power!

Will S

This is long overdue. Make it a rebate program, which rewards those that pollute the least.

Many strokes of the pen have happened in the previous 8 years which have resulted in economic chaos. This won't be one of those blunders.

Jer

As much as I believe it is prudent to assume that we need to optimize non-carbon sourced energy use and curtail activities which off-gas/emit whatever pollutant or disruptant (for lack of a better word)is deemed damaging, we must proceed thoughtfully. The key is to be balanced, well-planned, hopeful, and transitional - not the usual method of environmentalists, rigid laws, and special-interest groups. Fear is more of a disruptor than a promoter. Ends do not justify the means. There will be costs and trade-offs and growing/changing pains - we should accept these in the pursuit of a program with the least pain and longest-term benefit as possible. A saved world-wide ecosystem is not worth it if all else is in shambles (i.e. human safety and security from civil unrest, financial meltdown, resource-based conflict, etc.) If you think that eco collapse from non-carbon-reduction-effort will be catastrophic, wait until you see nuclear armed countries that don't have enough viable land, food, water, and energy. You will wish for the good old days of carbon-spewing peace and stability. Your cabin in the woods will easily be over-run - You , your family, and sacred community can't hide. The social system, interwoven economic system, and political system is at least as delicate as the ecological system. We cannot reasonably expect to return to pre-industrial lifestyles easily without tremendous upheaval. To think that short ruthless upheaval is worth it, is to be simple, sociopathic and unreasonable. Better to pull the band-aid off slow. We'll get through this - likely with engineering and technology and belief in humanity's ability to overcome adversity - maybe not in time of our lifetime or to give grandchildren the same level of healthy wilderness older generations enjoyed - but such is the unfortunate side effect of trying to develop culture so fast. This toil will make a future based on a sustainable foundation. We do now live in a Dark Age - believe it. Be content and hopeful in the fact that people are, in general, trying to aspire to a balanced world of ecology, economy, and social stability. Hope and effort in technology is more powerful and long-lasting than mongering in fear and catastrophe. If you want to actively contribute, get off the demonstration and activist circuit - and into a technically skilled education that will allow direct contribution and understanding of the underlying knowledge of the problem, not a hopeless, uneducated, media-saturated, politically-driven retreat to certain defeat and endless polarizing conflict.

Treehugger

Joseph

Regulations are not the end of the market, exactly the opposite, de-regulation is the suicide of the markets, regulations are stimulus that oblige us to innovate. There will no green jobs if there is no regulations to justify them. So welcome to regulations that intend to protect environment.

Msr Goracle don't talk about socialism, you have no idea what socialism is so you are just ridiculous, as always

ToppaTom

GreenPlease

Maybe I'm not up on the lingo.

I think you are saying:

The private firms that review satellite photos for land use would be subject to outside review and harsh penalties?

Our CO2 emissions per year limit would be equal to whatever our U.S. soil sequesters naturally (or artificially?)?

I am not sure it possible to have zero impact on the planet's climate systems without draconian measures.

What kind of new jobs would be created?

Why do you think land owners should let their land just sit?

What do I think?

I think this is simplistic.

GreenPlease

@ToppaTom

But simple works!

Trees naturally sequester CO2. So does prarie (to a much lesser degree) and we can speed this up through the use of bio-char.

-Yes, any of the private firms that audit land to assess how many CO2 credits are generated by said land would be subject to outside and/or government review.

-CO2 emissions would be limited to whatever our soils sequester naturally. Now, that still allows for carbon capture and sequestration (the CO2 is never "emitted") and it also allows for offests via reforestation.

-New jobs created: CO2 sequestration assesor (awkard title), support jobs for these people, along with an increase in demand for people in forest management, energy conservation specialists, and renewable energy generation as they would all be "economically viable."

I disagree with you that we cannot have zero impact on our climate without draconian measures. In fact I believe humans can thrive while having no impact on the earth. There are many technologies and agricultural techniques that could allow us to actually make the environment BETTER than it is naturally. Biochar is just one example.

The way I look about it, it's all about entropy. The universe as a whole must continually fall into dissaray (except for in some really exotic branches of physics)but fortunately, here on earth, we receive enough energy in the form of low entropy sunlight that we should be able to lower the entropy of out own planet (make things better).

Andrey Levin

Regulating GHG under umbrella of Clean Air Act could be very dangerous. Justice and law enforcement system in US follow letter of the law literally, however idiotic particular law could be. One little example:

“An under-the-radar provision in a House climate bill would give plaintiffs who claim to be victims of global warming a way to sue the federal government or businesses, according to a report Friday in The Washington Times.

The Times reported that Democratic Reps. Henry Waxman of California and Edward Markey of Massachusetts added it into a bill they authored.

The provision, which was just released, reportedly would set grounds for plaintiffs who has "suffered" or expect to suffer "harm" attributable at least in part to government inaction. The provision defines "harm" as "any effect of air pollution (including climate change)," according to the Times. Plaintiffs could seek up to $75,000 in damages a year from the government, with $1.5 million being the maximum total payout.

The Times reported that Waxman is trying to accelerate passage for the bill through his committee, as the Senate begins drafting its own version.”

http://www.foxnews.com/politics/2009/04 ... ctims-sue/

ToppaTom

Yes, simple is good. Tax on gas is simple. Unintended consequences (tough on truckers and taxi drivers) can be blunted. Tax on miles driven is more complex, with unknown consequences = bad.

Converting trees and grass to bio-char and expecting zero impact on the planet may be simplistic. But maybe it is close enough to zero.

CO2 sequestration assessor, support jobs for these assessors, along with an increase in demand for people in forest management, energy conservation specialists is all lost labor.
Without them you assume we lose the planet; OK. With them we save the planet but produce nothing new, that’s lost wages, just like all the airport security people, maybe necessary, but they produce no goods. If we could assume their is no threat and they make something, that is not lost wages.

If renewable energy generation is economically viable and we are smart enough to force it, are we not smart enough to do it willingly?

I hope we don't have to shift to conspiracy theories to complete this picture.

ai_vin

"If renewable energy generation is economically viable and we are smart enough to force it, are we not smart enough to do it willingly?"

But economic viability isn't enough for most investors, I know because I am one. The amount of money I can free up to invest is limited so I look not for investments that could make me a return but for investments that could make me THE MOST RETURN IN THE SHORTEST TIME.

Andrey Levin

Humankind alters the biosphere, for good or for worse for some species or ecosystems.

First came the fire, which employed by native tribes significantly alter the terrestrial ecosystems.

Second came agriculture, which diverted about 30% of habitable land into fields and pastures. If one wants to reverse it, Europe should be holocausted and reverted to pristine forests, as it was the case 2000 years ago. Any takers?

Next came artificial nitrogen fertilizers, which while consuming 3-5% of World natural gas production DOUBLED Earth global supply of nitrogen to biosphere. One could only wonder how all living creatures should praise Humankind for Huber process.

Next was combustion of fossil fuels, which put sorely needed by plants carbon dioxide (othervice known by biologists as “elixir of life”) into atmosphere.

Now human-hating losers want to destroy prosperous human civilization, and in process to choke the biosphere: stop emissions of elixir of life, stop application of nitrogen fertilizers, stop extremely beneficial extracontinental gene diversity transfer (also known as species invasion), stop biosphere genefond enrichment via genetic engineering, etc.

Luddites, genocidal nazis, nature haters, do you know what are you doing?

Will S

"You will wish for the good old days of carbon-spewing peace and stability."

"Now human-hating losers want to destroy prosperous human civilization, and in process to choke the biosphere: stop emissions of elixir of life"

"Luddites, genocidal nazis, nature haters, do you know what are you doing? "

Boy, it's easy to tell who the ideologues and vested interests are.

The Cap and Trade program is incremental, not one fast big bang. The economy will have time to gradually adjust. At least, the economy that's been left to us by the heavy polluter conservatives.

The good old days of carbon spewing stability are already over, for those who have a clue about Peak Oil; once the economy recovers (if it can), oil prices will rise again to even higher heights, and economic malaise will again permeate the globe. A new 'normal' will need to be realized; Business As Usual will no longer be possible, and will come to be realized by all as an embarrassing abandonment to greed and gluttony. The for those to whom oil is the "elixir of life" will discover the hard way that it's decreasing production will mean radical changes in priorities and lifestyles. Those that understand that will go on to lead fulfilling lives. Those that don't will pine away about the 'good old days' and lead lives of disappointment.

Jer

"... to whom oil is the "elixir of life" will discover the hard way that it's decreasing production will mean radical changes in priorities and lifestyles. Those that understand that will go on to lead fulfilling lives. Those that don't will pine away about the 'good old days' and lead lives of disappointment. ..."

Interesting. And so we are here at the nub of it.

As one who drives occasionally, transits now and again, and is increasingly biking as weather improves, I believe i represent the 'rational complex middle', the 'reasonable bringing-together of all lifestyles without unliveable compromise', indulgently with some shame: 'a bare attempt at the role model'. I believe that this is the 'inclusive' middle road we need to walk in order to embrace a more sustainable world but not lose our intense, dynamic, and fulfilling lives. As someone who works in the building industry as architect and engineer, I am constantly subject to the pressure from all sides. Regulatory, business, and special-interest - and.. as what seems to be little known or expressed (for some reason, perhaps the nature of this blog) actually very close to the main issues of what really is the main source of pollution, energy use, and environmental degradation - far more that vehicles, though they have a disproportionate amount of attention -- the building and building operations industry.

Now the response to Will S: I am not convinced that you know what a well-balanced and meaningful life really is. I'm not sure that you have the requisite experiences to make rational comments about what a fulfilling life could be. If I recall from the past (and I certainly may be wrong, for which I apologize), you almost never drive and haven't owned a car. In my opinion, that makes you unqualified to have an opinion on car issues. That is like saying you 'know' people but yet have never traveled and 'lived' within other foreign cultures. Though, every person has the 'right' to express opinions, it doesn't mean they hold equal weight or are valid to furthering of society. This is the rallying cry of the naive and dis-enfranchised - the teenagers or shut-ins or those others so unfortunate to have not traveled; lived both high and low levels of wealth; lived in city, country, and suburb; and had 'true friends' (as opposed to allies, cronies, or network 'friends)' who are environmentalist, business-oriented, AND utterly indifferent. Don't let your passion for some issue cloud your ability to see people that are happy despite having different value systems than yours. They all deserve to pursue their happiness (if it truly is happiness, of course). Though, i do laugh (without malice, just at the simple-mindedness) at one of those american legalisms: ".. That all men ... have certain inherent rights, ... namely, the enjoyment of life and liberty, with the means of acquiring and possessing property, and pursuing and obtaining happiness..." Noble at one level i am sure. Just so 'simple' (in a negative way).

The thing is, I have known very few strict 'environmentalists' (veg, no car, rabid demonstrator, etc.) who I would consider as well-rounded, happy, and positively contributing to the furthering of society. They are typically angry, emotionally-unbalanced, incapable of having rational debate, single-minded in their execution of every aspect of life, not community minded (out of their own circle of values), have dysfunctional kids and/or dependents. I would imagine that many psychologists would consider them as having a certain 'pathology'. Perhaps they consider themselves soldiers for the planet. But they just appear to be empty husks who have wasted their lives on an extreme form of lifestyle that I doubt they would do over if they could - especially if that same passion had been re-directed early enough toward environmental engineering or biology or some other rational pursuit. A shame. I think the same about strict ultra-capitalist business people (though, i don't pay attention to the meanings of all the 'isms', libertarian-, etc.). The bottom line is that the world needs happy balanced people in conjunction with 'reasonable' approaches to energy use and optimization. I think you are in for some serious disappointment and regret if you think we really have to work that super hard and sacrifice so much to pull the planet and its people through these crises. You may wake up one day and realize you could have had more experiences and lived more if you allowed yourself the 'belief' that people are inherently trying to optimize their behavior and given the right options (which business hasn't allowed them fast enough, in my opinion) will do the 'right' things and all will be well (enough). The key is to not buy into all the media hype and actually do some peer-reviewed research at the underlying assumptions and not just pick and choose what theories that happen to align with your knee-jerk reaction value system. Being well-balanced is hard and is very high maintenance, but once you get the momentum going it is easy and even boring, some might say.
Of course, if there was more data out there, we could actually measure our lifestyles and act with more confidence and independence (where are the energy meters at each outlet, mechanical system, building, car, and centralized, and recording over time?). But a simple but comprehensive metric is not out here. Carbon footprint is limited and the data is replete with general assumptions. Energy use is not accurate enough typically to detail source, etc. Life cycle assessment is the closest 'full picture' we have and that is still in its infancy as so many doctoral programs are intended on furthering it. The lack of data is likely leading to overly emotional debate as facts are scarce and passions high. Every Tom, Dick, and Harry think they are qualified to lead us out of this mess (like me hehe). No one wants to be told that they live either an unsustainable life or a wasted, ineffectual one. If you disabuse yourself of the media around you (somewhat) and pursue a behavior that makes you happy/ content/ empowered in the short AND middle AND long term - i think you'll find that you are more accepting of others, harbor no regrets, are moderate in attitude, and will find yourself having an optimism which is just as important to all our future successes as all the technology and expertise out there. Peace, acceptance, and moderation in all things (even occasionally moderation).

GreenPlease

@ToppaTom

I see your point about these "new jobs" not actually producing anything but I offer these counterpoints:

1. Lot's of existing jobs PRODUCE NOTHING! Just look at all the cashiers we have in the United States. The service industry, in general, is a joke. It produces essentially nothing. What is important is that it gets people to engage in commerce. The commerce that takes place the more efficient the market becomes. The more efficient the market becomes the better off we all are.

If you really look out into the future it is difficult to come up with ideas for millions of new jobs. Much of the "producing" work we humans now do is being increasingly relegated to machines. Whatever jobs we do create will increasingly be "non producing" or "service" oriented.

2. When a fuel tax is tough on truck drivers and taxi drivers that is the market sending messages:

Get a more efficient taxi!

Buy more of your stuff locally! It's too expensive to ship stuff long distance!

Reel$$

Newly proposed legislation to change the name of EPA to:

Extremely Pathetic Agency

Mark_BC

@Jer:

Very good points, but what I think the big problem is is that most people simply don't understand how ecology works. They don't understand ecosystem energetics and how intimately we are all tied to their productivity. They don't understand population dynamics. I think ecology should be a required discipline of study in any university program whose graduates impact ecology, especially economics. I am astounded at the lack of understanding of ecology exhibited by our economists and business leaders.

And then, who do the masses see as the people promoting environmental awareness? It's the out of touch extreme ecofreak hippies you refer to.

Just look at Andrey Levin for an example. I believe he lives in North America, Canada I think. Yet despite our supposedly higher levels of education he is continually spouting off rubbish that has no basis in any science or understanding of the issues.

Listen to what he says in regards to exotic species invasions:
"stop extremely beneficial extracontinental gene diversity transfer (also known as species invasion)"

He obviously has no experience in dealing with exotic species.

And:
"Now human-hating losers want to destroy prosperous human civilization, and in process to choke the biosphere: stop emissions of elixir of life, stop application of nitrogen fertilizers, stop extremely beneficial extracontinental gene diversity transfer (also known as species invasion), stop biosphere genefond enrichment via genetic engineering, etc.

Luddites, genocidal nazis, nature haters, do you know what are you doing? "

He's either a troll or a kook. But the problem is, these kinds of kooks have a tendency to become our leaders, and a good proportion of the world is under the belief that the world is doomed anyways because of prophecy and Jesus is going to come down to save all the true believers.

I'd be interested to see someone quizzing Stephen Harper on basic ecological principles, I'd predict that he'd fail miserably. Yet he is an economist, leading 30 million of us, and economics is really just another way of measuring human ecological productivity (or rather, how much we can sequester for ourselves). So you'd think ecology would be an important thing to learn about.

jimfromthefoothills

toppatom, josepht and reel$$ are against people working together to solve problems. Just abolish the government and let everyone act on their own best interest... is that how it goes?

With this thinking mankind can return to the stone age. Did you three enjoy the tea bag party in your town?

SJC

As far as I know, CO2 is in the atmosphere for more than 100 years, so some is still there from emissions 100 years ago. Oceans and plants are absorbing as much as possible, but the parts per million ratio is still rising every day. It may be about time that we looked at coal fired power plants and exhaust tail pipes on cars, trucks and buses.

The Goracle

.

I have known very few strict 'environmentalists' (veg, no car, rabid demonstrator, etc.) who I would consider as well-rounded, happy, and positively contributing to the furthering of society. They are typically angry, emotionally-unbalanced, incapable of having rational debate, single-minded in their execution of every aspect of life, not community minded (out of their own circle of values), have dysfunctional kids and/or dependents. I would imagine that many psychologists would consider them as having a certain 'pathology'.

Wow! A more true statement could not have been said.

.

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