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EPA rejects challenge to 'credible, compelling' climate science

July 29, 2010 |  5:30 pm

The Environmental Protection Agency unleashed a full-throated defense on Thursday of scientific evidence that mankind is dangerously warming the planet, and of the Obama administration's unilateral moves to curb the heat-trapping gas emissions scientists blame for climate change.

Rejecting a series of critiques lodged by groups seeking to block federal regulation of greenhouse gas emissions -- including allegations linked to the so-called "Climategate" e-mail scandal and a pair of errors in a high-profile United Nations climate report -- EPA officials declared that "climate science is credible, compelling and growing stronger."

In a press release, EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson said the climate science critiques were rooted in "selectively edited, out-of-context data and a manufactured controversy" and that they "provide no evidence to undermine our determination" that greenhouse gases endanger human health and are thus subject to regulation under the Clean Air Act.

Ten groups had petitioned to challenge that determination, which is known as the "endangerment finding," including the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, coal giant Peabody and the states of Texas and Virginia.

Several of those petitions challenged the foundations of climate science, alleging, among other complaints, that the leaked "Climategate" e-mails from prominent climate scientists demonstrated a widespread conspiracy to manipulate global temperature data; that new studies refute the notion that emissions from burnt fossil fuels are warming the planet; and that the report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, the U.N. climate report that is the gold standard of climate science, was unreliable due to recently discovered errors including a misstatement of projected melting periods for Himalayan glaciers.

The EPA rejected each claim in a three-volume decision that spanned several hundred pages.

The petitioners vowed to appeal. The Chamber said its efforts were based on economics -- the cost of regulating greenhouse gases -- and not climate science. "The Chamber’s petition challenged the wisdom of regulating greenhouse gases under the Clean Air Act," it said in a press release, "which simply was never intended to regulate something as complex as the problem of climate change."

Even though emissions limits appear dead in the Senate, this has been an emboldening week for environmentalists and climate scientists. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration released data Wednesday showing that the last decade was the hottest on record, along with a report declaring that a host of climate indicators "all tell the same story: Global warming is undeniable."

-- Jim Tankersley in Washington

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