Earth Day action: comment on the EPA’s carbon finding

Speaking of citizen action, now is an excellent time to let the EPA know you feel about its recent endangerment finding for greenhouse gases. They’ve even set up a handy email address (GHG-Endangerment-Docket@epa.gov), so you can show your support for meaningful climate change legislation in less time than it takes to get to the bottom of this blog post.

Background in a nutshell: a few years ago, several states filed a lawsuit to force the federal government to classify carbon dioxide as a pollutant under the Clean Air Act. The Supreme Court eventually kicked the case back to the EPA, requiring the agency to make a formal determination on whether greenhouse gases compose a threat to human health and welfare. The EPA finally released that “endangerment finding” a few days ago, declaring to nobody’s surprise that carbon emissions are bad for people.

This is a big deal for two reasons. The first is that, with this endangerment finding, the federal government is actually required to regulate carbon dioxide emissions. The second is that the finding is a potential end run around the U.S. Congress. While senators grandstand, the EPA can just go ahead and start issuing regulations. Unfortunately, they have to do so within the framework of the Clean Air Act, which is a poor tool for regulating carbon dioxide. Nevertheless, many hope that just the threat of more aggressive regulation from the EPA will be enough to prod congress into action.

OK, deep breath. Now, how does this offer you the opportunity for citizen action? The EPA offers a 60-day public comment period on their endangerment finding. You can offer comment by fax, by mail, in person, or — best of all — by email.

Why should you bother chiming in? Well, if you want some inspiration, check out this rundown of the antics opposition lawmakers are pulling in the current round of congressional hearings on the comprehensive climate and energy bill. Rather than, you know, engaging with the issue in some kind of meaningful way, they’ve turned the mic over to the usual clown show. Did you know that the planet is “carbon-starved”? Did you know that “the idea that carbon dioxide is a carcinogen that is harmful to our environment is almost comical”? If these statements bother you in any way, you might want to let the government know that some citizens actually do support climate legislation.

What should you say to the EPA? Up to you, really, although my guess is that general messages of support are probably just as useful as detailed policy advice, given the legal complexities involved. For example, here’s the barebones minimum message:

> Yay!

Or how about this:

> I’m writing to express my support for the recent endangerment finding, and to urge the EPA to move swiftly to enact regulations that will put us on a path to stabilizing greenhouse gases at levels conducive to human well-being. Numerous scientific and economic studies have shown that the cost of inaction far outweighs the cost of action, and the EPA should lead the charge in promoting energy efficiency, clean energy, and energy demand reduction.

Or a more inside-baseball approach:

> I’m writing to express my support for the recent endangerment finding. Although the Clean Air Act may not be the ideal mechanism for regulating greenhouse gases, by moving swiftly and applying its technical expertise to the problem, the EPA will help to ensure a positive legislative outcome. Numerous scientific and economic studies have shown that the cost of inaction far outweighs the cost of action. It is important that we use the best means at our disposal to stabilize the climate system, but above all else, it is critical that we start now.

Do it. Click the link, cut and paste, press send. Or write your own. I think it’s nice to include your full name, city, and state at the bottom of such notes, just to show there’s a real citizen behind the message. And of course, feel free to leave a comment below.

(If for some reason you prefer mail or fax, Grist has the full details.)

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  1. Jack Partridge - April 22, 2009

    Thank you, EPA and Presient Obama. It’s great to see our government turning around on the whole global warming issue. But the big oil and coal forces and their friends in Congress won’t give up without a fignt. It’s incredible to think that all those people have children and grandchildren who will suffer from their actions and they either don’t get it or don’t care. Please go full steam ahead with regulations, and we’ll hope that that will help to spur good congressional action.
    Jack Partridge
    Cedar Crest, NM

  2. Mark - April 22, 2009

    The challenge is that there are numerous studies which show that global warming is not a man made problem. Spending billions to fix something which God has created a system for seems such a waste. I am all for keeping the environment clean and doing what we can but global warming is just a diversion.
    I work for an environmental company. We do clean up every day. Skip the frenzy of Global warming and just spend money cleaning up your own back yard, your town and neighborhood.
    Global warming is not a proven science, it is a political hot button. The challenge is getting the average person thinking clean without all the hoop a la. When the global warming gig is shown to be another “fanatical” overblown over exagerated problem, the average citizen will conclude all envionmental work is foolishness.
    Let’s work to make local, practical clean up a way of life.

  3. richard schumacher - April 22, 2009

    I just sent this:
    “Finally! The US comes to this party about ten years late. Now we must make up for lost time.
    Perhaps you could make all power plants subject to the same regulations governing the release of radioactivity from nuclear power plants? That would require most coal-fired plants to close immediately and permanently, so it should be phased in over several years.”
    (Psst, Mark: Denial of global warming is now on par with the Flat Earth theory. Give it up. Educate yourself. Try starting here:
    http://realclimate.org )

  4. RS - April 22, 2009

    One thing to keep in mind is that reducing GHG emissions need not be only energy-efficiency-based, though that might be the easiest option. If the auto companies come up with a small carbon sequestration attachment to the tail pipe, who’s to keep them from continuing to build 10 mpg trucks? [I'd say common sense, but that's not very common ;-) ]
    [An added bonus to the energy efficiency solution - national security!]
    @Mark: It’s folks who think there are “numerous studies” that are politicizing the issue. There are not. There may be a few “alternative explanations”, but the vast majority of phenomena observed and studies performed point to anthropogenic climate change – powered by CO2 and other GHGs – as a major culprit.
    Sometimes I think Al Gore’s involvement was a curse to climate efforts – folks who oppose him politically oppose anything he supports. Even if science says otherwise. Ugh.

  5. Patrick - April 22, 2009

    It’s good to see that there is support at the top for the efforts being made in many local communities. While it is fundamentally an issue of personal responsibility, it’s always easier to implement change when the government supports it.
    And call me silly, but I’ll take a document written by over 450 lead authors, 800 contributing authors, and 2,500 expert reviewers in over 130 countries more seriously than anything sponsored by the Competitive Enterprise Institute (whose affiliates brought you the “Broken CFL requires HAZMAT team in Maine” story and PSAs literally saying, “Carbon: you call it pollution, we call it life”) or Exxon Mobil (whose lobbying group offered a $10,000 reward to any scientist who would dispute the IPCC findings.)

  6. Edith - April 22, 2009

    We should all applaud this latest action by EPA and be thrilled that we once again live in a country that values science. We may have missed the boat on being a leader on the issue of climate change mitigation and adaptation, but at least we aren’t waiting passively for a life raft.
    For better or for worse, the American media has a policy of telling both sides of the story — often allotting equal time to the side that represents the majority of scientific consensus and the side that represents an infinitesimal minority of opinion and rhetoric. We saw this with the teaching of evolution, and we continue to see this (though with decreasing intensity) in the climate change “debate.”
    So here’s to ambivalently respecting that American media policy by trying to tip the ratio of the naysayers to the science-minded. I add my voice to that of millions and millions who can tell the difference between science and opinion.

  7. Anonymous - April 22, 2009

    I applaud this effort. We need to learn from civilizations that have completely destroyed themselves from unsustainable practices (think Easter Island). The trick is recognize the impacts early enough to make a change. Thank you.

  8. Fred Cross - April 22, 2009

    To the contrary, there are NOT numerous studies showing that global warming is not a man-made problem. There is an extraordinary degree of scientific consensus on this issue. As a scientist myself, I can assure you that there is nothing we like better than to find that popular ideas are wrong; therefore, the consensus view that anthropogenic carbon emissions are warming the planet is very strongly supported.
    You clearly take a religious view that God has arranged the climate in some way for reasons that only God knows. Perhaps the plan is for it to warm, perhaps another Ice Age, perhaps a flood – could be anything. Once you take this point of view, it really doesn’t matter what ANY scientific studies show, because God is completely calling the shots anyway. If God wants gravity to run up rather than down, then I suppose the view is that could happen as well. It is my opinion that we cannot make public scientific policy based on religious beliefs. You must recognize that your beliefs, however strongly held by you, are equally strongly disbelieved by many people – why are you right and they are wrong?
    Of course, you are entirely correct that keeping our local environment safe and clean is a strong responsibility that we all share.

  9. Debbie - April 23, 2009

    Personally, I think a good deal of the problem is with the term “global warming”. If the term “Accelerated Climate Change” had been used there might have been less argument about it.
    I’m sick to death of people saying “it’s warmer over (insert place) or “it’s colder in (insert place)then (insert time) and polar bears can swim very well. That sort of thing drives me nuts!

  10. wollff - June 5, 2009

    Look, dupes! you’re all dupes! The planet is carbon starved, look it up! If carbon is a poison that we are poison, did you know more than half of all life on earth is made of CARBON! Plants use carbon to breathe, shell fish absorb carbon to make their protective shells?! Keyword, Earth Carbon Starved!
    [Ed. -- We looked it up! It turns out that you're dumber than paint!]

  11. woof - June 5, 2009

    You call yourself a scientist? Wow! Look up, that big Yellow Ball we call the Sun is what warms the Earth. Call me silly. [Ed. -- ok, you're silly!] The Sun’s 10 to 11 year cycle is what determines the degree of temperature change on the Earth and the rest of the Solar System…Whatever happened to the proverbial skeptical scientists?
    [Ed. -- for those following along at home, this description of how the climate system works is totally untrue]
    How much money do you get from Corporations to come up your conclusions?
    [Ed. -- Riiiiight. All those corporations paying scientists to shill for Big Global Warming.]
    You’re unworthy of the title “Scientist”.
    [Ed. -- you are just painfully ignorant.]

  12. gop - June 5, 2009

    Yeah! The Government LOVES you! Sends you to WAR for the MILITARY INDUSTRIAL COMPLEX, BANKS, OIL COMPANIES KILLING MILLIONS AND MILLIONS…THE GOVERNMENT HAS BEEN RESPONSIBLE FOR MORE DEATH AND DESTRUCTION THAN ALL THE DISEASES AND NATURAL DISASTERS PUT TOGETHER…LOOK AT THE WHOLE OF THE 20TH CENTURY!

  13. Adam Stein - June 5, 2009

    Why is our blog suddenly getting hit with an avalanche of stupid? Time to close out this old thread, methinks…

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