WASHINGTON - The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced that, after a thorough examination of the scientific evidence and careful consideration of public comments, it has determined that greenhouse gases threaten the public health and welfare of the American people.

EPA stated that greenhouse gases 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; as well as other threats to the health and welfare of Americans.

EPA’s endangerment finding covers emissions of six greenhouse gases - carbon dioxide (CO2), methane, nitrous oxide, hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs), perfluorocarbons, and sulfur hexafluoride - that have been the subject of scrutiny and analysis by scientists in the United States and around the world.

According to the EPA, scientific consensus shows that as a result of human activities, greenhouse gas 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. The evidence of human-induced climate change goes beyond observed increases in average surface temperatures; it includes 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 EPA Administrator Lisa P. Jackson have stated that they support a legislative solution to the problem of climate change and Congress’ efforts to pass climate legislation. However, EPA said that climate change is threatening public health and welfare, and it is critical that the agency fulfill its obligation to respond to the 2007 U.S. Supreme Court ruling that determined that greenhouse gases fit within the Clean Air Act definition of air pollutants.

EPA issued proposed findings in April 2009 and held a 60-day public comment period. The agency received more than 380,000 comments, which were reviewed and considered during the development of the final findings.

For more information on EPA’s findings, visit www.epa.gov/climatechange/endangerment.html.

Publication date:12/14/2009