The EPA finds that the six GHGs under investigation, namely carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous oxide, hydrofluorocarbons, perfluorocarbons and sulfur hexafluoride, threaten the public health and welfare of the American people. The ruling follows the issuance of the EPA’s proposed findings back in April 2009, after which time the agency received more than 380 000 comments.
In a statement on its website, the EPA states: ‘Scientific consensus shows that as a result of human activities, GHG concentrations in the atmosphere are at record high levels and data shows that the Earth has been warming over the past 100 years, with the steepest increase in warming in recent decades. The evidence of human-induced climate change goes beyond observed increases in average surface temperatures; it includes melting ice in the Arctic, melting glaciers around the world, increasing ocean temperatures, rising sea levels, acidification of the oceans due to excess carbon dioxide, changing precipitation patterns, and changing patterns of ecosystems and wildlife.’
In itself, the ruling does not impose any legislation on industry. In fact, the greater emphasis was on emissions by on-road vehicles such as cars and trucks, for which legislation is anticipated. However, the ruling does pave the way for further regulation of polluting industries, and this has many concerned about the potential costs involved in complying with emission reduction targets.