Global warming is projected to commit over one-third of the Earth’s animal and plant species to extinction by 2050 if current greenhouse gas emissions trajectories continue — a catastrophic loss that would irreversibly reduce biodiversity and alter both ecosystems and human societies across the globe. In fact, more than a million species may be at risk of future extinction due to global warming, and we’re already seeing the first extinctions.

The Center’s Global Warming and Endangered Species Initiative is aimed at minimizing species loss from climate change.

On February 1, 2007, the Center filed a legal petition under the Administrative Procedure Act. This petition, the first step in our Global Warming and Endangered Species Initiative, was filed with six cabinet secretaries at the departments of the interior, commerce, agriculture, energy, transportation, and defense, as well as with the Environmental Protection Agency. The petition asks the administration to adopt new regulations to take all possible legally authorized action to counteract global warming and other powerful forces driving species extinct — including improving habitat protections, addressing climate change, and safeguarding scientific decisions from political interference. We were joined in the initiative by a diverse group of conservation, scientific, and sportsmen’s groups from around the country who share our concern that global warming and habitat loss constitute a critical danger to our natural heritage. Almost two years later, just before the Bush administration left office, none of the petitioned agencies had responded to our 2007 action, so the Center filed suit.

Specific requests made by our petition include:

1) Ensure federal agencies consider the impact of global warming in decisions affecting imperiled species and their recovery;

2) Require agencies to implement recovery plans and build recovery programs around them;

3) Ensure that federal actions contribute to, and do not undermine, species recovery;

4) Increase the utility and scientific basis of federal recovery plans;

5) Adopt timely recovery plans and revisions based on the best available science for all listed species;

6) Enhance the role of states, counties, and non-federal agencies in cooperative recovery efforts;

7) Increase cooperation and collaboration with private landowners in recovery efforts;

8) Simplify and strengthen the designation and protection of critical habitat areas to achieve recovery and account for economic benefits of conservation;

9) Ensure all imperiled species are considered for Endangered Species Act protection in a timely manner in order to efficiently effectuate recovery;

10) Improve public access to information concerning recovery efforts and increase funding of endangered species recovery programs.

The Global Warming and Endangered Species Initiative also supports the adoption of regulations that would protect the habitat species need to recover. Loss of habitat is the primary threat to the vast majority of imperiled species, and protection and conservation of habitat is one of the most important factors in their recovery. The Endangered Species Act requires the protection of habitat that species need to survive and recover, but recent politically motivated decisions have left species without any critical habitat or with habitat that’s inadequate for recovery. The Initiative also requests full funding to list species that scientists tell us are in danger of extinction, funding for effective incentives for landowners who are actively doing the right thing, and funding to implement and enforce endangered species recovery plans.

Polar bear photo via Pixabay.