Biodiversity Baking and Boiling: Endangered Species Act Turning Down the Heat
32 Pages Posted: 15 Jul 2014
Date Written: Fall 2008
Today the Earth faces an extinction event on a scale second only to Earth’s largest mass extinction, the Permian-Triassic event 250 million years ago. The driver is global warming, caused by anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions.
In this article, we begin by providing a brief overview of biodiversity, the threats global warming poses to it, and the economic and social costs that the loss of biodiversity will exact on human society. We then review four key examples of ways in which the Endangered Species Act operates or should operate to address global warming and greenhouse gas emissions and confer substantial benefits on species threatened by the climate crisis: (1) the listing process; (2) the section 7 consultation process required of federal agencies; (3) the designation of critical habitat; and (4) the preparation and implementation of recovery plans.
The ESA has been our strongest and most successful law for the protection of plants and animals on the brink of extinction for the past four decades, and if fully implemented to address both the impact of current warming and new greenhouse gas emissions, will remain strong and relevant in the future. The ESA is one of our most important rapid response mechanisms, and may be our best hope for preserving the rich biodiversity that we take for granted every day.
Keywords: biodiversity, endangered species act, habitat, ecosystems, administrative law, recovery plans, climate change, global warming
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