Surveys show the U.S. public is fleeing like Tiger Woods sponsors from belief in man-made climate change. In fact, according to results of a recent study commissioned by the Nature Conservancy and other leading conservation and climate-action groups, only 18% of survey respondents strongly believe that climate change is real, human-caused and harmful.

A trove of hacked emails seem to indicate scientists at one of the world’s most prestigious climate-change research institutions – the UK’s East Anglia University – were conspiring to squelch data contrary to their cause. That and a teetering world economy are making it tougher to muster the resolve for legislative action on climate change.

Into the breach last month, however, rode the cavalry in the form of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Releasing an “endangerment finding,” EPA formally declared that carbon dioxide (CO2) – that substance we all exhale and which plants convert to oxygen – and five other greenhouse gases (GHG) are pollutants that threaten public health and welfare. The finding means EPA has a responsibility under the Clean Air Act (CAA) to address the damage caused by GHGs, possibly by direct regulation.

The EPA finding was interpreted by many as a shot over the bow of Congress, a “you do it, or we will” proposition. But, despite a hurriedly passed cap-and-trade measure by the House of Representatives, Congress has shown little compunction to venture into that arena and risk the prospect of hordes of pitchfork-wielding taxpayers.

Such a regulatory move by EPA, however, would give it unprecedented control over every sector of the U.S. economy, something most Americans don’t want. In fact, a Rasmussen poll released in December indicates that 53% of Americans say EPA shouldn’t implement GHG regulations without congressional approval.

The National Cattlemen’s Beef Association says such a grab by EPA under the CAA would impose massive regulatory compliance costs on ranchers, feeders, dairies and farmers, forcing some out of business.

“It’s premature to issue this kind of finding, especially given the recent controversy surrounding the scientific validity of alleged human contributions to climate change," says Tamara Thies, chief environmental counsel.

The thing that’s puzzled me is why the rush to the cliff? In the 1970s, the scientific “consensus” was that the earth was cooling. A couple of decades later, today the consensus is that the earth is warming. If the consensus was wrong 25 years ago, why place so much stock in the doomsayers of today? And if CO2 is so dangerous, perhaps the climate-change folks could do their part by not exhaling for a 24-hour period. Then perhaps the rest of us could get on with really studying the issue in an unbiased manner.

For an interesting video presentation on global warming, watch John Coleman, meteorologist and founder of the Weather Channel, at www.kusi.com/home/.