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Environment

#25: EPA Searches Soul, Tries to Figure out If It's a Climate Cop

The agency moves toward acting on greenhouse gases, but change will probably wait for Obama.

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In July the EPA put out a substantive report—“SAP 4.6” in government lingo—evaluating future impacts of climate change on human health and communities. The report concludes that a warmer climate could affect U.S. residents both directly (through droughts, heat waves, and increasingly intense hurricanes) and indirectly (through greater incidence of disease transmitted by mosquitoes and other carriers, decreased air quality, and rising pollen counts).

The EPA has also prepared a draft of a report on whether human health is harmed by industrial emissions of carbon dioxide, a greenhouse gas that plays a substantial role in climate change. That report is a direct result of the 2007 Supreme Court decision that the Clean Air Act amendments of 1990 require the EPA to evaluate the impact of greenhouse gases and, if necessary, regulate them. By early November the agency had posted a heads-up that some enforcement was in the works, but the Bush administration continued to oppose the regulation of CO2 emissions, and any actual rulemaking was postponed until after the November elections. The EPA plans to publish a final report on mandatory regulation of greenhouse gases in the spring of 2009.

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