Friday, November 20, 2009

Conservation & Politics: climate bill and species protection lagging

Getting caught up on my backlog of environmental and conservation email, I ran across some interesting and disturbing items from the Center of Biological Diversity, one of the most proactive organizations in wielding the power of the law to effect change. According to CBD:

Senate Climate Bill Spells Disaster

The Senate took a disastrous step backward on climate legislation last week, passing a loophole-ridden global warming bill with unacceptably low pollution-reduction goals that would also work against our most effective existing law to fight global warming. First, the bill has no target for atmospheric CO2 levels; in fact, it would let CO2 increase to about 600 parts per million -- while science shows we must reduce levels to 350 ppm to avoid climate catastrophe. Second, the bill eliminates the Clean Air Act's requirement for federal scientists to determine the safe level of greenhouse gas concentrations. Third, the bill's carbon-offset provisions are so many and poor that they undermine its own pathetic emissions-reduction goals.

The second point CBD lists is one that concerns me because it is the scientists - not the political or commercial interests - who should be the objective source for determining greenhouse gas limits. Industry may not like what they have to say and it may involve considerable financial cost - but nature is not interested in what is financially expedient and further delay will only guarantee greater financial and human costs later.

Read more from CBD/New York Times.

Obama Trailing Bush on Species Protection

Late last week, the Obama administration released its first review of animals and plants deemed deserving of federal protection that are still languishing without it -- and there are a whopping 249. On average, these candidates for Endangered Species Act protection have been waiting for safeguards for 20 years; at least 24 candidate species have gone extinct due to delays in protection. The Center for Biological Diversity and allies have a lawsuit pending in D.C. to stop the illegal and fatal stall in protecting all 249 candidate species, from the Oregon spotted frog to the Florida semaphore cactus.

After 10 months in office, the Obama administration has granted federal protection to only two species, including the Hawaiian plant Phyllostegia hispida, which had been on the candidate list for more than a decade. The Bush administration -- with the worst species-protection record in history -- put an average of about eight species per year on the endangered list. Obama administration, you'd better get cracking.

Many of us welcomed this new administration with hopeful expectations but were fully aware of the enormity of the problems it faced. Expectations were high and maybe, to an extant, unreasonable. But with such a backlog of candidate species and only two granted protection so far, CBD is right on target. Even with health care and foreign policy issues capturing so much attention, those within the administration in charge of federal protection of species to need to get cracking.

Read CBD press release.

No comments: