The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has added dozens of scientific accounts about global warming threats to a key document that is expected to help drive federal regulations for curbing U.S. emissions of greenhouse gases, according to an agency draft [PDF] obtained by Greenwire.
Twenty-eight EPA scientists, engineers and other career employees are now working on a nearly 2-year-old "technical support document" that synthesizes climate research on everything from melting sea ice to forest fires and air pollution.
In the latest 161-page document, dated March 9, EPA officials include several new studies highlighting how a warming planet is likely to mean more intense U.S. heat waves and hurricanes, shifting migration patterns for plants and wildlife, and the possibility of up to a foot of global sea level rise in the next century.
The draft also warns of storm surges and flooding around the planet, especially in vulnerable regions with limited abilities to adapt, including sub-Saharan Africa and Asian mega-deltas in India, Bangladesh and China. "Climate change impacts in certain regions of the world may exacerbate problems that raise humanitarian, trade and national security issues for the U.S.," the draft says.
Notably, the draft includes no authors from the Obama administration. A Bush administration draft [PDF], written last June, listed acting EPA air chief Robert Meyers, a political appointee, among its authors and contributors.
Vickie Patton, a senior attorney at the Environmental Defense Fund, highlighted the lack of Obama administration appointees among the new draft's authors as an illustration of President Obama's commitment to restoring scientific integrity in the government. Environmentalists constantly criticized the Bush administration's handling of federal science. "The leaked document ... pointedly separates policy and politics from the scientific synthesis," Patton said in an e-mail.
Patton also noticed a disclaimer added to the top of the new report's executive summary that she said underscores the separation between policy and science. It states, "This document itself does not convey any judgment or conclusion regarding the question of whether GHGs may be reasonably anticipated to endanger public health or welfare, as this decision is ultimately left to the judgment of the Administrator."
EPA did not conduct any of its own research for the report. It relied on a raft of published materials, including work by the Nobel Peace Prize-winning Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change and a series of 21 studies from the U.S. Climate Change Science Program.
"It stands at the top of a pyramid where a lot of the bricks were laid previously, not only internationally, but by the previous administration that had a different policy view of climate change," said Michael Oppenheimer, a Princeton University professor who served as a lead co-author of the 2007 IPCC report. "It's the kind of document you produce if you were trying to establish a national policy."
In Supreme Court ruling's wake
Indeed, the leaked document marks the seventh draft since EPA began compiling information on the welfare and public health effects from global warming in response to a April 2007 Supreme Court decision on global warming.
The court's 5-4 ruling said the Bush administration did not adequately assess the threats from global warming when it rejected a petition from environmental groups and 12 states that sought to force federal greenhouse gas limits on motor vehicles.