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Greenhouse Gases Endanger Public Health: EPA

Rising greenhouse gas emissions contributes to air pollution that could endanger public health and well-being, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency said Friday.

The finding, a response to the scientific review ordered by the U.S. Supreme Court two years ago, clears the way for the agency to regulate greenhouse gases under the Clean Air Act.

"The EPA today officially acknowledged the massive body of scientific research that shows that climate change is harming our health and environment," Eli Hopson, a Washington representative of the Union of Concerned Scientists, said in a statement Friday morning. "Heat waves, the spread of tropical diseases, and worsening air quality are all climate-related threats the EPA can help address."

The EPA analyzed six gases -- carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous oxide, hydrofluorocarbons, perfluorocarbons and sulfur hexafluoride -- and concluded their concentrations are at historic levels because of human activity.

Climate change impacts include an increase in average temperatures, higher levels of ground-level ozone, increased drought, and harm to water resources, ecosystems and wildlife. And aside from threatening national security because of diminished resources, climate change also poses health risks to the old, very young and poor, the EPA found.

"This finding confirms that greenhouse gas pollution is a serious problem now and for future generations.  Fortunately, it follows President Obama's call for a low carbon economy and strong leadership in Congress on clean energy and climate legislation," EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson said in a statement. "This pollution problem has a solution – one that will create millions of green jobs and end our country's dependence on foreign oil."

The proposed finding now heads to the public comment phase and will likely lead to the establishment of national emissions standards for heavy emitters such as cars and power plants. Meanwhile in Congress, the House Energy and Commerce Committee will soon begin hearings on the Waxman-Markey bill, also known as the American Clean Energy and Security Act.

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