The Global Warming Wildlife Survival

The Global Warming Wildlife Survival Act provides a national approach to manage the impacts of climate change on wildlife. It was introduced by Representatives Norm Dicks, (D-WA), Jay Inslee, (D-WA), and James Saxton, (R-N.J.), and was included in H.R. 2337—a comprehensive energy and global warming bill sponsored by Rep. Nick Rahall, (D-W.V.), who chairs the House Natural Resources Committee. The legislation was included in the multicommittee New Direction for Energy Independence Act (H.R. 3221), passed by the House of Representatives on August 4, 2007, by a vote of 241 to 172.

The purpose of this act is to prepare for the current and future effects of global warming on ecosystems and wildlife. Because of the longevity of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, the negative impacts to ecosystems and wildlife will persist for at least the next 100 years because of what has already been put into the atmosphere.

The major goals of the Survival Act include:

• Ensuring that federal and state government agencies develop sound plans to reduce the effects of global warming on wildlife and its habitat.

• Establishing a national scientific advisory council to determine the impacts of global warming on wildlife.

• Developing and coordinating a national plan to provide a way for wildlife to adapt to both the current and future impacts that global warming will have on their environment over the next century as plans are put into action to reduce emissions from energy sources.

• To structure a federal-level plan of funding that will best serve the sustainable survival of wildlife during the global warming process.

One of the strongest points of this act is that it focuses on bringing management agencies together from multiple scales of jurisdiction: local, state, and federal government, as well as private entities. It is geared toward the management of land on a "whole-habitat" basis, not on one defined by political jurisdictional boundaries—a recurrent problem of past management regimes. Instead of developing different conservation and planning programs for individual tracts of land based on what agency manages it, its management will be conducted as a comprehensive ecological system. Because global warming is such a complex problem, future management plans and strategies will be developed through a coordinated national strategy to ensure that wildlife impacts spanning governmental jurisdictions are effectively addressed and appropriately funded. It will also focus on making sure that the necessary scientific expertise is available to make educated, effective, forward-looking decisions.

To date, each state has already completed a wildlife action plan that addresses global warming impacts on wildlife, has identified at-risk habitats and species that need special conservation attention, and coordinated these plans with a national strategy.

The next focus has been identified as creating a new national inter-agency global warming scientific support center in order to coordinate and focus scientific efforts. The center would have several objectives:

• research coordination;

• federal land management support;

• creation of a comprehensive scientific inventory;

• development of effective monitoring programs within each federal land management agency.

The Global Warming Wildlife Survival Act is also important because it provides the authorization for federal funding needed to implement the act.

According to Defenders of Wildlife: "Congress must pass meaningful, aggressive legislation to immediately reduce greenhouse gas emissions." This includes legislation that moves the United States away from high dependency on fossil fuels—by far the largest source of greenhouse gas pollution. They believe that in order to accomplish this, the country must achieve greater energy efficiency, use more renewable energy resources (such as solar, wind, geothermal, and ocean energy), and design cars that run cleaner and get much better gas mileage.

Global warming is already having a significant impact on the world's wildlife. Defenders of Wildlife warns that unless action is taken now to cut the emissions of heat-trapping greenhouse gases, the consequences will be enormous. Their scientists warn that up to 37 percent of the Earth's plants and animals could be extinct by 2050. Human communities and industries will lose the healthy ecosystems that enhance humans' quality of life, produce valuable natural resources, help purify the air and water, and perform other life-sustaining services. They also warn that cutting greenhouse gas emissions alone is not enough. The delayed impact of the gases already in the atmosphere guarantees additional warming and its consequences for decades to come. The effort must be global to reduce the impacts of the global warming already set in motion and make addressing these impacts on ecosystems and wildlife a top global priority.

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