EPA Chief: 'No More Urgent Threat to Public Health Than Climate Change'

By Susan Jones | December 3, 2013 | 5:17 AM EST

EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy (AP File Photo)

(CNSNews.com) - Ahead of her upcoming trip to China, Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Gina McCarthy told a liberal advocacy group in Washington on Monday that she has dedicated her life to protecting the environment: "And I really see no greater issue and no more urgent threat to public health than climate change."

McCarthy said the goal of her trip is to support the Chinese "in meeting their air pollution challenges," and she said China has much to learn from the United States.

"Climate change is not just a public health and safety issue," McCarthy told the Center for American Progress. "I consider it to be one of the greatest economic challenges of our time as well, which is why I'm really looking forward to the trip and why I was very excited back this summer when President Obama spoke so eloquently and so comprehensively about the urgency to act on climate change when he spoke at Georgetown University."

McCarthy said Obama "showed enormous courage and he showed enormous strength as well as he challenged us all to not just acknowledge the science of climate change, to understand that it's real and it's happening, but to also charge the Cabinet to take immediate action."

To help the EPA "acknowledge the science of climate change," McCarthy last week appointed a "scientific integrity official." Dr. Francesca Grifo will help the EPA communicate scientific information "with the highest degree of integrity and transparency to the American public," McCarthy said on Nov. 25.

Grifo comes to EPA from the Union of Concerned Scientists, where she helped to expose political interference in science -- threats to the liberal climate change agenda, in other words. At the EPA, Dr. Grifo will help to implement "strong scientific integrity standards in a way that will persist through various presidential administrations," the Union of Concerned Scientists blogged.

In her remarks on Monday, McCarthy said one of her main concerns is EPA funding: "You know, one of the concerns I have is resources just continue to be challenged and challenged, and Congress continues to challenge us, especially on the House (Republican) side. And I really want EPA to maintain its stature that it has internationally and it has with the American people of being THE best science agency that knows how to do the science and turn it into real-life improvements for American families. We are not telling that story effectively. And I -- we need to do that."

McCarthy said the EPA will continue to take the lead in implementing President Obama's Climate Action Plan, including additional regulations to curb pollution from existing power plants. Those regulations are expected in June, and they follow rules issued in September for new power plants.

"We have authority to do it. We are charged with responsibility to do it," McCarthy said about implementing President Obama's Climate Action Plan. "And we will meet that challenge to address the action items in the report and the plan, as well as continue to engage our international partners, because it's all about reducing carbon pollution, it's all about adapting to a changing climate, and it is all about the United States playing a leadership role in international discussions. Climate change is a global issue. We need global action."

McCarthy said she's "really excited" about her trip to China next week: "The U.S. and China represent the world's largest economies, the world's largest energy consumers and the world's largest emitters of carbon pollution. One out of three isn't that good. I'd rather not be the largest energy consumers or the largest emitter of carbon pollution, but since we are, we're going to get together and we're going to talk."

McCarthy said pollution from China makes its way to the West Coast of the United States, and mercury emitted in China goes into the atmosphere, and is "redeposited" in U.S. rivers and streams.

She said can learn from the U.S. experience, where "public outcry" in the 1950s and 60s "led to significant laws being enacted."

"China also is facing significant public outcry and they have significant challenges that they need to address, but the good news is that we have been there before," McCarthy said. "The U.S. has faced these challenges. We have faced them well. We have faced them over time. We know the technologies that are available. We know what planning can do. We know that there are many ways in which you can engage your states, and in China's case, provinces, to bring a sense of urgency to this issue. And we are going to be working with them on these air quality challenges moving forward."