On Monday, The Environmental Protection Agency confirmed what most have already suspected: greenhouse gases pose a danger to both human health and the environment. This ruling coincides with the Copenhagen Conference, thereby providing environmentalists with more ammunition. According to the NY Times' John M. Broder, the ruling will "[pave] the way for regulation of carbon dioxide emissions from vehicles, power plants, factories, refineries and other major sources." It's strange to think that the E.P.A. has just now officially declared its stance on greenhouse; it seems like something that should have been done long ago. In 2007, the Supreme Court finally ordered the agency "to weigh whether carbon dioxide and five other climate-altering gases threatened human health and welfare and, if so, to take steps to regulate them."
As you might expect, industry groups, primarily those of the auto-making industry, were quick to criticize and belittle the E.P.A.'s announcement. These groups condemned the ruling for the potential harm it may do to the economy. They fear it will lead to future legislation enforcing stricter regulation of emissions. Several Republican Congressman sought a delay in the announcement of the findings. The head of the E.P.A., Lisa P. Jackson, rejected their request, declaring the "overwhelming amounts of scientific study show that the threat is real.”
The author of the article (http://www.nytimes.com/2009/12/08/science/earth/08epa.html?_r=1&em) speculates that the E.P.A. may use this finding as an opportunity to apply some pressure to Congress, in order to spur action. While the White House prefers such action to be done through the legislative process, the E.P.A. will use its authority, if necessary, to limit harmful emissions.
The agency can expect some interest groups to file lawsuits with the hope of at least delaying any actions. The National Association of Manufacturer's Vice President, Keith McCoy, attacked the finding, invoking possible economic woes as a result of it. He says the decision will "put additional burdens on manufacturers", and that “It is doubtful that the endangerment finding will achieve its stated goal, but it is certain to come at a huge cost to the economy.”
There is certainly a possibility that the E.P.A.'s findings, and any subsequent regulations, will have negative economic consequences; America's floundering economy may face some further suffering. We should not forsake the long-term well-being of our environment merely so that we may alleviate a little pressure on the economy, however. The economy will always have its ups and downs; some years will be good, and some will be bad. If we continue to ignore the damage we are doing to the environment, however, we will eventually reach a point of no return. We need cooperation from every branch of the government, as well as agencies like the E.P.A., in order to find a way to reverse this destructive cycle. It's time we started taking responsibility for our effect on the environment. We are aware of the damage we can cause, and now we must take action to lessen, if not stop, it.