Government scientists detailed a rising death toll from heat waves, wildfires, disease and smog caused by global warming in an analysis the White House buried so it could avoid regulating greenhouse gases. In a 149-page document released on July 14th, the experts laid out for the first time the scientific case for the grave risks that global warming poses to people, and to the food, energy and water on which society depends. Scientists at the Environmental Protection Agency made this assessment:
Risk (to human health, society and the environment) increases with increases in both the rate and magnitude of climate change. Global warming is “unequivocal” and humans are to blame.
The EPA document suggests that extreme weather events and diseases carried by ticks and other organisms could kill more people as temperatures rise. Allergies could worsen because climate change could produce more pollen. Smog, a leading cause of respiratory illness and lung disease, could become more severe in many parts of the country. At the same time, global warming could mean fewer illnesses and deaths due to cold. Vickie Patton, deputy general counsel for the Environmental Defense Fund, observed:
This document inescapably, unmistakably shows that global warming pollution not only threatens human health and welfare, but it is adversely impacting human health and welfare today. What this document demonstrates is that the imperative for action is now.
While the science pointed to a link between public health and climate change, the Bush Administration has worked overtime to discourage such a connection. To acknowledge such a connection would compel the government to regulate greenhouse gases. The Bush Administration on July 11th dismissed the scientists’ findings when it made clear that the Clean Air Act was the wrong tool to control global warming pollution. Instead, the Administration asked for public comment on a range of ways to reduce greenhouse gases from cars, airplanes, trains and smokestacks under the 1970 law. A better solution, the EPA said, would have Congress writing a law aimed just at global warming.
In December, the White House refused to open an e-mail from the EPA that included the finding that climate change endangered public welfare. The determination was based on an earlier and similar version of the document recently released. At the time, the White House insisted on removing all references to the science, according to Jason K. Burnett, the former adviser on climate issues at the EPA.
Source: Associated Press
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