The Environmental Protection Agency's expected announcement this afternoon that it is declaring carbon dioxide a health hazard allows it to limit emissions from sources such as power plants and factories, even without congressional action.
But on the opening day of an international climate summit in Copenhagen, the declaration is also rekindling the political fight over emails that, according to skeptics, show that scientists have massaged data to show that global warming is real.
Republican Representative Darrell Issa of California called on EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson to conduct a “thorough and transparent investigation into the questions raised by the disclosure of emails from Climatic Research Unit of the University of East Anglia” and to withdraw the "endangerment" finding, as well as previous rules covering cars and light trucks.
"The very integrity of the report that the Obama Administration has predicated much of its climate change policy upon has been called into question and it is unconscionable that this Administration and Congress is willing to abdicate responsibility of uncovering the truth to the United Nations. The administration’s 'Climategate' denials and refusal to acknowledge the need for a congressional investigation are a sad abdication of their responsibility to ensure that U.S. policies are not driven by corrupted science and data,” Issa said in a statement.
But Representative Edward J. Markey, a Massachusetts Democrat and key author of the climate change bill passed by the House, slammed what he and other supporters call global warming "deniers."
“Now that the U.S. government has officially ended its era of climate denial, the real endangerment to our planet comes from those who continue to deny the science and delay taking any action," Markey said in a statement.
“The finding that global warming pollution poses a threat to human health and our environment is based on mountains of data accumulated from thousands of scientists over the course of decades. The molehill recently manufactured by a few climate deniers does not change that. President Obama and the United States Congress can now travel to Copenhagen armed with regulatory credibility and emission reduction targets from the Waxman-Markey legislation. The world is watching, and the United States is acting.”
Senator John F. Kerry, who is leading the congressional delegation to Copenhagen, said Congress should heed the EPA and pass a bill.
“This is a clear message to Copenhagen of the Obama Administration’s commitment to address global climate change and a clear signal to Congress of the importance of passing comprehensive climate and energy legislation,” the Massachusetts Democrat, who is a main sponsor of the Senate bill, said in a statement. “The EPA has acted on the Supreme Court’s decision and made it clear that greenhouse gas emissions are a threat to public health in the United States and can be addressed under the Clean Air Act.
“The message to Congress is crystal clear: get moving. If Congress does not pass legislation dealing with climate change, the administration is more than justified to use the EPA to impose new regulations. Imposed regulations by definition will not include the job protections and investment incentives we are proposing in the Senate today. Given the potential for agency regulation, those who now aim to grind the legislative process to a halt would later come running to Congress to secure the kinds of incentives we can pass today. Industry needs the certainty that comes with Congressional action on this vital issue.”
UPDATE: A new poll released this afternoon found Americans more skeptical about global warming and about the US taking major steps to cut carbon emissions.
In the CNN/Opinion Research Corp. survey, 45 percent agreed that "global warming is a proven fact and is mostly caused by emissions from cars and industrial facilities such as power plants and factories" -- down from 54 percent in the same poll in June 2008.
Also in the poll, 58 percent said the "United States should reduce emissions of carbon dioxide and other gases that may contribute to global warming even if it does so by itself" -- down from 66 percent in October 2007.
About Political Intelligence
Glen Johnson is Politics Editor at boston.com and lead blogger for "Political Intelligence." He moved to Massachusetts in the fourth grade, and has covered local, state, and national politics for over 25 years. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @globeglen.