WASHINGTON -- The debate on global warming is set to heat up again with the Obama administration's release on Friday of an EPA proposed finding that carbon dioxide and five other greenhouse gases are a danger to public health and welfare.
The finding is the first step to regulating pollution linked to climate change.
The agency said, "in both magnitude and probability, climate change is an enormous problem" and that the greenhouse gases listed "endanger public health and welfare within the meaning of the Clean Air Act."
The EPA concluded that the science pointing to man-made pollution as a cause of global warming is "compelling and overwhelming." It also said tailpipe emissions from motor vehicles contribute to climate change.
The Environmental Protection Agency announced its proposal Friday, beginning a 60-day comment period before issuing a final ruling. The EPA also said tailpipe emissions from motor vehicles contribute to climate change.
The finding "confirms that greenhouse gas pollution is a serious problem now and for future generations," EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson said.
Friday's finding was prompted by a Supreme Court ruling two years that said greenhouse gases are pollutants under the Clean Air Act and must be regulated if found to be a human health danger.
"The president has made clear his strong preference that Congress act to pass comprehensive legislation rather than address the climate challenge through administrative action," said White House spokesman Ben LaBolt.
"That's why the president has repeatedly called for a bill to provide for market-based solutions to reduce carbon pollution and transition to a clean energy economy that creates millions of green jobs," he said.
Democrats praised the EPA's conclusions.
"I welcome the decision by the Obama administration to recognize the Supreme Court's decision allowing EPA to use the Clean Air Act to regulate air pollution from vehicles," House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said in a statement.
"For too many years under President Bush, the EPA ignored the science of global warming and had to be forced by the Supreme Court to consider taking action," she said.
"The Congress is working on a comprehensive solution to global warming, and I am committed to moving clean energy legislation this year that will include perspectives from across our nation to create jobs, improve our national security, and reduce global warming," she added.
But Republicans, led by Sen. James Inhofe of Oklahoma, say the EPA conclusions will destroy jobs and harm consumers. Inhofe, the ranking Republican on the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, also accused the president of using the EPA ruling to intimidate Congress to pass his cap-and-trade legislation by saying pass it or face new, onerous regulations.
"As bad as the $700 billion bank bailout was and as bad as the $789 billion stimulus was, at least that was just a one time deal. This will be a tax every year somewhere in the neighborhood of $400 billion," he told FOX News Radio.
Inhofe, who also issued a statement saying EPA should be stopped in its tracks, added that Congress is much more informed about climate change issues these days and it's unlikely a tax hike of that size would pass.
"Even if you believe that man-made gases are causing global warming, does it make any sense us to unilaterally tax ourselves when all that will do is send our manufacturing jobs to areas where they don't have any emissions standards like China and Mexico?" Inhofe asked.
Boxer responded that if Congress "does not act to pass legislation, then I will call on EPA to take all steps authorized by law to protect our families."
In addition to carbon dioxide, a product of burning fossil fuels, the EPA finding covers five other emissions that scientists believe are warming the earth when they concentrate in the atmosphere: Methane (CH4), nitrous oxide (N2O), hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs), perfluorocarbons (PFCs), and sulfur hexafluoride (SF6).
The Associated Press contributed to this report.