Environmentalists may use Endangered Species Act to pressure gov't on global warming
September 7, 2007

The addition of elkhorn and staghorn corals to the Endangered Species Act due to threats from climbing ocean temperatures, may be environmentalists' best weapon for levering the U.S. government into action on global warming, writes Mark Clayton of The Christian Science Monitor.

The May 2006 designation means that the federal government is bound by law to take steps to protect the species' from extinction. Since climate change is the greatest threat to coral-- warmer waters increase the likelihood of "bleaching" while acidic seas make it more difficult for corals to form calcium carbonate structures -- some believe government agencies will now need to take steps to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

"We think this victory on coral critical habitat actually moves the entire Endangered Species Act [ESA] onto a firm legal foundation for challenging global-warming pollution," says Kieran Suckling, policy director of the Center for Biological Diversity, an environmental group that filed both coral suits, told Clayton.

Climate threats to other species -- including polar bear, 12 species of penguin, and Kittlitz's Murrelet -- could provide further impetus for the government to reign in emissions blamed for global warming.

"It's pretty exciting to find that a lowly marine invertebrate might actually someday be the legal catalyst for rulings against greenhouse-gas emissions," Andrew Baker, a University of Miami marine biologist, told Clayton. "It's like getting Al Capone for tax evasion."

Still there are challenges ahead, namely proving that climate change is the main threat to a species. Political pressure will also be intense.

"The list of endangered species will in the future include many species threatened by global warming," Michael Bean, a senior attorney at Environmental Defense, a Washington-based environmental group, told Clayton. "But I'm skeptical that the [ESA] itself will be the source of any new restrictions on greenhouse-gas emissions. I think those will come from new legislation."

New tool to fight global warming: Endangered Species Act?

mongabay.com (September 07, 2007).

Environmentalists may use Endangered Species Act to pressure gov't on global warming.