Using Endangered Species to Toughen Climage Change Legislation

endangered american pika photo

Migrated Image / Donald Quintana / Flickr / All rights reserved

The American Pika was denied status as an endangered species as of February, but despite its lack of protection by the Endangered Species Act, it could serve as a perfect example for how endangered species can be used as a tool for stronger regulations around greenhouse gas emissions and climate change. The pika is one of the many animals who rely on particular temperatures in its habitat for survival. As the globe warms, the pika has been moving higher up in elevation to escape warmer temperatures. But it only has so high it can go before it runs out of room and is faced with either a rapid (and unlikely) evolution or extinction. This is a plight faced by many species, and requiring acknowledgment of this factor when determining the endangered status of species could change the way climate legislation is viewed. Yale 360 has an excellent piece on how endangered species can be enlisted as part of the artillery in the battle for climate change action.

The effort to put a furry face on the abstract phenomenon of climate change is bringing to a head a simmering issue: As scientific evidence accumulates about global warming's impact on wildlife, how effective can the Endangered Species Act be in cushioning the blow of climate change on various species? But beyond this issue, an even thornier question looms: Can conservation groups use the act to force the U.S. government to use the legislation's powerful provisions to mandate greenhouse gas reductions to protect wildlife and their habitat?

While the Obama Administration has so far been reluctant to list species based on their reaction to or impending threat of climate change, that could become a more convincing factor as various endangered species hit a tipping point and tumble over into oblivion... all because of a collapsed ecosystem courtesy of a warmer climate.

The article elaborates on how the Endangered Species Act and its regulations can be, and are, intertwined in climate legislation, and the ways in which protecting endangered species could be a direct line to stricter regulations around carbon emissions, pollution, the creation and protection of wildlife reserves and sanctuaries, and other factors tied climate change.