What is the Endangerment Finding?
Following the Supreme Court decision in Massachusetts v. EPA, the EPA under section 202(a) of the CAA found that greenhouse gases in the atmosphere may reasonably be anticipated to endanger both public health and welfare. The greenhouse gases determined by the Administrator, collectively are called “well-mixed greenhouse gases”. They were found to make up 23% of the atmosphere over the U.S. and include: Carbon Dioxide, Methane, Nitrous Oxide, Hydrofluorocarbons, Perfluorocarbons, and Hexafluoride. These six greenhouse gases were determined from thousands of scientific reports compiled into three major assessments. The assessments were conducted by the U.S. Global Climate Research Program (USGCRP), the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) and the National Research Council (NRC). The assessments concluded discrete identifiable risks that the Administrator determined endanger public health and welfare.
Results of the finding
In the endangerment finding, the Administrator of the EPA conclusively finds that greenhouse gases can reasonably be anticipated to endanger the public health and public welfare of current and future generations. The administrator justified the use of the six greenhouse gases because they share common properties regarding climate effects, are produced by humans in large quantities, have been the past focus of research by the scientific community, and are consistent with the EPA’s past practices. The administrator separated the justification for finding a danger to public health and a danger to public welfare.
How does this affect public health and welfare?
On the health side, the administrator identified increased mortality from heatwaves, increased respiratory illnesses from poor air quality, increased deaths from extreme weather events, and an increase in the spread of pathogens as her justifications for finding climate change endangered public health.
On the welfare side, she found that climate change will likely adversely affect food production and agriculture, forestry, water quality, and sea level rise. The administrator also found climate change to pose a direct threat to the country’s infrastructure, by causing energy concerns and damages in coastal areas.