We’ve known for some months that the US Environmental Protection Agency considers carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases a danger to public health, and which could as such be subject to regulations similar to those that apply to commonly thought of toxins. Today we have a decision: the EPA has the authority to mandate greenhouse gas emissions cuts over and above those proposed by the US government, and which are currently being debated in Congress.
Good news for the environment? Possibly, but I have mixed feelings about the development, and am surprised to witness such an uncritical welcome for it from those assembled in Copenhagen for the UN climate conference. Not only are greenhouse gases in a completely different class to more immediately toxic substances such as can be found in vehicle exhausts, the EPA move is a risky political strategy which could provoke an already fractious Congress into further obstructing the Obama administration’s plans.
The American government should also be wary about continuing with the kind of political interference that so damaged the reputation of the EPA during the Bush years.