Home National Politics Can the Endangered Species Act Require Action on Climate Change?

Can the Endangered Species Act Require Action on Climate Change?


A recent article here reported that a federal court — the 4th Circuit Court of Appeals — has revoked a permit for a pipeline across Virginia because that permit had been issued through a process that failed “to protect four endangered species: the rusty patch bumble bee, clubshell, Indiana Bat and Madison Cove Isopod.”

The Endangered Species Act has been helpful in such ways in the past. (Who can forget the endangered snail darter in the Clinch River back in the 1970s?)

Meanwhile, a major scientific report was released in May of this year that warned that climate change is threatening upwards of one million species with extinction. (See here and here.)

Which has led me to wonder: If the ESA can provide the legal oomph to halt reckless enterprises when the potential extinctions number no more than can be counted on one hand, could the ESA be utilized to compel action to combat climate change when the extinctions are many orders of magnitude larger?

(And it should be noted that, besides that vastly greater number of species threatened, this latest scientific report also talks about how the magnitude of this disruption, this erosion of biodiversity, threatens to undermine the well-being of humankind and our civilization.

(The New York Times article says that this latest scientific report goes further than any predecessors in describing “how closely human well-being is intertwined with the fate of other species.”)

Is this an approach that would strengthen the legal hand of those who are trying to prevent — or at least mitigate — the self-inflicted catastrophe of humans destabilizing the climate system of the only planet we’ve got?


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