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Donald F. Boesch
President, University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science

Donald F. Boesch

Donald F. Boesch, an oceanographer, is president of the University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science and Vice Chancellor for Environmental Sustainability for the University System of Maryland. ALL POSTS

The legal responsibility to address danger

Given the gridlock in Congress over the climate bill, is the Obama administration's fallback strategy to let EPA regulate greenhouse gas emissions a good idea?

The current proposals by EPA to regulate greenhouse gas emissions result directly from the U.S. Supreme Court's decision in 2007 that greenhouse gases are a form of air pollution subject to regulation under the Clean Air Act. The Court directed EPA to determine whether these emissions pose a threat to public health and welfare and, if so, to develop regulations under the Act to limit this threat. Last December, EPA issued its endangerment finding,
based on extensive analysis that affirmed a significant risk of climate change
resulting in substantial effects on public health and welfare. Therefore, EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson is taking action to fulfill her responsibilities under the law by proposing a series of graduated steps to phase in permit requirements and regulation of greenhouse
gases, initially from large stationary sources.

There are now several legal efforts being pursued to stop the promulgation of these regulations. These include legal petitions that challenge the endangerment finding by raising doubts about the reliability of the underlying science because of the CRU email
and IPPC report controversies on which I commented last week. I will only add here that the
climate scientists in both Texas and Virginia have spoken out against these attacks on science included in the petitions of their attorneys general.

Legislation is also under consideration in Congress that would disapprove of EPA's endangerment finding and block the implementation of Clean Air Act regulations of greenhouse gas emissions. As the Post's Juliet Eilperin informs us in the accompanying Post Carbon blog, these could undo the recent agreement among the federal government, states and the auto industry to reduce emissions from mobile sources and prevent EPA from issuing greenhouse gas standards for light-duty vehicles. This legislation is receiving push back from health, environmental and transportation interests and states like California that are already making commitments to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

While most experts agree with my fellow Planet Panelists that this regulatory approach would be less
or sub-optimal in contrast to comprehensive legislation to transform the nation's energy systems and reduce greenhouse gas emissions, such legislation is currently stalled in Congress. Many of the Congressional opponents of Clean Air Act regulation profess also to prefer such a
comprehensive approach, but do not yet seem fully prepared to craft or support such legislation. Until such time, it strikes me that EPA is correct in exercising its responsibilities under the law and this should not be impeded. The reductions from large stationary sources will have to be accomplished anyway, so this should begin while our political system struggles to catch up in addressing the undeniable risks of climate change in a more comprehensive manner.

By Donald F. Boesch  |  February 26, 2010; 10:42 AM ET Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   StumbleUpon   Technorati  
Previous: A potentially costly pathway forward | Next: It's a good idea for EPA to act


Please report offensive comments below.

The EPA is a failure at regulating about everything they're responsible for...(air quality) NOX, COX, SOX, photochemical name it...particulates...on and on. They are also a failure at regulating waste water discharges through the NPDES permitting process. The EPA has the opposite of the midas touch.

And anyway, to what end will U.S.EPA regulation help? How will it stop a massive high pressure system - say 800 miles plus is diameter - drifting over the U.S. chuck full of industrial residues and stack gas emissions...what are the regional and global impacts of China's emissions? And everyone else's?

"I am you and you are me, and we are together...I am the walrus...ku, ku, cha boob!" (Beatles)

Human beings, those in our nation and the world, are playing defensive ball now. You
just don't know it yet!

No more is there a battle to "save the environment"; the battle we need to win is identifying the probable impacts of global warming and other potential calamadies, and minmizing the impacts.

It will happen! Our congress, our governmental agencies and our friends and neighbors worship paper printed with images of dead presidents over everything else. We have caused the problem and our greed is the problem. We will soon learn the errors of our ways.

Believe me when I state this, I could choose to debate the ecological and technical basis for every projection I have made, but in the final analysis it means nothing.

IT'S TOO LATE, WE ARE IN A DAMAGE CONTROL MODE...most of you just don't realize it yet...but you will eventually. It won't take that long...give it a decade or so...

Posted by: Vunderlutz | March 4, 2010 4:22 PM
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The US Military “is spending lots of defense dollars trying to figure out how to best protect our national security in the face of climate change. The effects from storm intensity, sea level rise, and temperature fluctuations present a number of very expensive challenges and complications to our men and women in uniform. . . .

“Exxon Mobil has stated ‘we have discontinued contributions to several public policy research groups whose position on climate change diverted attention from the important discussion on how the world will secure the energy required for economic growth in an environmentally responsible manner.’ Additionally, they claim to be committed to reducing greenhouse gas emissions. Shell has also acknowledged that the science is correct and that ‘[e]fforts to manage greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions must be speeded up despite the recession.’ Finally, B.P. states that ‘BP accepts the findings of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change that global warming is unequivocal and ‘very likely’ due to human activity.’ They have also committed to reducing the greenhouse gas emissions by focusing more on biofuels and solar.

“Greenwashing or not, they ALL acknowledge the reality.”

Posted by: jsco | February 28, 2010 4:08 PM
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The average mass balance of the glaciers with available long-term observation series around the world continues to decrease, with tentative figures indicating a further thickness reduction of 0.5 metres water equivalent (m w.e.) during the hydrological year 2007/08. The new data continues the global trend in strong ice loss over the past few decades and brings the cumulative average thickness loss of the reference glaciers since 1980 at about 12 m w.e. (see Figures 1 and 2). All so far reported mass balance values, given in Table 3, are tentative.

Posted by: mike_midwest | February 27, 2010 9:26 PM
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Maybe china will force us?

Have you been taking your medication?

Global warming is a scam people. Wake up!

The sea isn't rising, the glaciers aren't melting, the Amazon rainforest is not in danger, and "Hide the decline" really means hide the decline.

This is beginning to be ridiculous.

Posted by: Senator_Salesman | February 27, 2010 7:16 PM
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Maybe china will force us?

Have you been taking your medication?

Global warming is a scam people. Wake up!

The sea isn't rising, the glaciers aren't melting, the Amazon rainforest is not in danger, and "Hide the decline" really means hide the decline.

This is beginning to be ridiculous.

Posted by: Senator_Salesman | February 27, 2010 7:15 PM
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It is unlikely the U.S. will act until we experience a great deal of suffering from the effects of climate change. Our population has a merger education, our mass media is &^%*, and corporate lobbyists reign supreme.

But maybe, China will force us to cut GHG emissions by threatening to cutoff our credit.

Posted by: mike_midwest | February 27, 2010 10:41 AM
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