HEALTH WARNING: Despite releasing a slew of reports on the negative health impacts of global warming, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency will not regulate the greenhouse gas emissions causing it. Image: ©UGUR EVIRGEN
Global warming is bad for your health, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). The agency last week warned in a report that more people will die during heat waves, freshwater supplies will shrink, and diseases will spread in coming years, among other impacts of increasing global temperatures. Just weeks ago, it cautioned that a warming climate will also spawn more smog, which is linked to heart disease and respiratory ills.
The findings confirm earlier ones by international bodies, including the U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).
But do not expect the EPA to do anything to stave off the potential consequences—at least not under the current administration. The agency has no plans to adopt regulations to stem global warming until President Bush, who has routinely clashed with environmentalists, vacates the White House. Instead, the agency earlier this month released a draft proposal of guidelines for dealing with climate change–causing greenhouse gases under the Clean Air Act, even though EPA Administrator Stephen Johnson expressed skepticism that they would do any good.
"There is a very distressing disconnect between the research and the policy," says Kim Knowlton, a scientist at the Natural Resources Defense Council, who studies the health impacts of global warming. "This administration has spent eight years studying the science and now it needs to act."
The EPA did take one tiny step—among the Bush administration's only ones to date—toward tackling global warming last week when it released regs governing how companies may pump and store carbon dioxide underground (to limit climate change) without violating the Safe Drinking Water Act. This "paves the way for technologies that would protect public health and help reduce the effects of climate change," Johnson said in a statement, although the Bush administration canceled the largest planned demonstration of the technology, the so-called FutureGen power plant in Mattoon, Ill.