Skip to main content

Sign up for our newsletter.

Quality journalism. Progressive values. Direct to your inbox.

The North Atlantic right whale was among the 458 endangered species which the U.S. federal government is currently failing to protect from the effects of the climate crisis. (Photo: FWC Fish and Wildlife Research Institute/Flickr/cc)

Driven by Anti-Science Agenda, Trump Agencies Defying Mandate to Save Endangered Species From Climate Risk

"The window to act is narrowing."

Julia Conley

A new study exposes serious gaps in the U.S. government's commitment to fighting the effects of the climate crisis on endangered species, which federal agencies are required by law to protect.

"While climate change is a pressing threat to imperiled species, agencies that manage federally protected species have not given enough attention to this threat," said Aimee Delach, study co-author and a researcher at Defenders of Wildlife.

Researchers at the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS) and Defenders of Wildlife examined the sensitivities of the country's 459 endangered species to a number of global changes brought about by the climate crisis, and found all but one of them—the Hawaiian goose—have traits that make it challenging for them to adapt to those effects.

"The biggest roadblock is likely the repeated denial of the latest science by the current administration, members of Congress, and those who stand to gain from the continued use of damaging fossil fuels. Since 2016, agencies have given scant attention to the climate crisis more broadly."
—Astrid Caldas, Union of Concerned Scientists

While the authors of the study, which was published in Nature Climate Change on Monday, found that 99.8 percent of the country's endangered species are threatened by the climate crisis, government agencies consider the rapidly changing climate to be a risk for only 64 percent of them. Just 18 percent of the species are currently protected under specific plans, but the federal government is bound to protect all of them under the Endangered Species Act.

"The current administration produced only one species' document in 2017-18 that included management actions to address climate impacts," said Delach.

Dr. Gretchen Goldman, a research director at UCS, tweeted that the report identified "a big gap in our endangered species protections."

Astrid Caldas, a climate scientist at UCS who co-authored the report, suggested that the Trump administration has in less than three years greatly reduced the government's efforts to protect endangered species from melting ice, habitat destruction, and other climate changes.

"While underfunding and the lack of tools to plan and implement needed actions could be partially to blame for the lack of action, the biggest roadblock is likely the repeated denial of the latest science by the current administration, members of Congress, and those who stand to gain from the continued use of damaging fossil fuels," Caldas said in a statement. "Since 2016, agencies have given scant attention to the climate crisis more broadly."

The report comes days after documents revealed that President Donald Trump's Interior Secretary, David Bernhardt, is gutting endangered species protections to help the same companies Bernhardt was a lobbyist for before entering government.

Nearly three-quarters of the species were shown to be sensitive to three or more factors of the changing climate, increasing the danger of extinction. 

A number of amphibians, mollusks, and arthropods were the most sensitive to climate changes, including the Sonoran tiger salamander and the Florida leafwing butterfly.

"We still have time to safeguard many of the endangered species we treasure, but the window to act is narrowing," Caldas said.

Our work is licensed under Creative Commons (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0). Feel free to republish and share widely.

We've had enough. The 1% own and operate the corporate media. They are doing everything they can to defend the status quo, squash dissent and protect the wealthy and the powerful. The Common Dreams media model is different. We cover the news that matters to the 99%. Our mission? To inform. To inspire. To ignite change for the common good. How? Nonprofit. Independent. Reader-supported. Free to read. Free to republish. Free to share. With no advertising. No paywalls. No selling of your data. Thousands of small donations fund our newsroom and allow us to continue publishing. Can you chip in? We can't do it without you. Thank you.

Indignation as Michigan Judge Drops Flint Water Charges Against GOP Ex-Gov Snyder

"The people of Flint deserve justice—and it's unacceptable that the people responsible for Flint's water crisis aren't being held accountable," said Food & Water Watch in response to the development.

Brett Wilkins ·

70+ Lawmakers Tell Biden 'You Can and You Must' Provide Rail Workers Paid Sick Leave

"As president, you and your administration have a number of tools at your disposal to make sure rail workers are guaranteed paid sick leave," wrote the lawmakers.

Julia Conley ·

COP15 Biodiversity Summit Highlights 'Deadly' US Attitude Toward the World

"While others play by the rules, the most powerful nation refuses," writes George Monbiot. "If this country were a person, we'd call it a psychopath. As it is not a person, we should call it what it is: a rogue state."

Jessica Corbett ·

Final House Covid Panel Report Exposes 'Reckless' Trump Pandemic Response

The publication accuses top Trump officials of "failed stewardship" and a "persistent pattern of political interference" that undermined the nation's response to a pandemic that has killed more than a million people in the United States.

Brett Wilkins ·

As NYT Staffers Strike, Sanders Calls for 'New Ways to Empower' Workers Battling Industry Giants

"We need to rebuild and protect a diverse and truly independent press so that real journalists and media workers can do the critical jobs that they love, and that a functioning democracy requires," said the Vermont progressive.

Kenny Stancil ·

Common Dreams Logo