We wage innovative legal and public-pressure campaigns to limit global warming pollution and prevent it from driving species extinct.
The Earth is heating up, and human activity is at the heart of the matter. Fossil fuel combustion — which drives most cars and power plants — is producing a critical mass of greenhouse gases that has already shifted the planet’s climate system into new and dangerous territory.
The Center’s Climate Law Institute was founded to confront global warming, which poses the greatest threat in human history to the natural systems that sustain life. The Institute brings a strong climate focus to all our program areas — including Endangered Species, Public Lands, Oceans, Urban Wildlands, and International — to unite our campaigns in a coordinated strategy to protect species and ecosystems from the sweeping and potentially catastrophic effects of warming.
Specifically, the Climate Law Institute:
• Sets legal precedents to firmly establish the fact that existing environmental laws require analysis, regulation, avoidance, and mitigation of greenhouse gas and global warming impacts;
• Advocates to shift national endangered species conservation strategies to address the overarching threat of global warming;
• Aims to change the dominant public-lands management regime from resource extraction to global warming adaptation, including sustaining wildlife populations, providing clean water, sequestering carbon, and increasing the extent of public lands;
• Works to develop new laws to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and mitigate global warming impacts on biodiversity — laws that build on our successful foundation of environmental law instead of rolling it back.
• Strategic, creative litigation
• Scientific petitions to protect species
• Administrative and policy advocacy
• Public education, grassroots organizing, and outreach
The Center’s climate program has:
• Won the first-ever Endangered Species Act listing for global warming-threatened species — two Florida-coast corals — and “threatened” status for the polar bear.
• Won a key victory on greenhouse gas vehicle emissions when the nation’s highest court sided with the Center and our partners and struck down the Environmental Protection Agency’s refusal to regulate carbon dioxide as a pollutant under the Clean Air Act.
• Forced the Bush administration to publicly acknowledge for the first time, in December 2006, the scientific connection between greenhouse gas emissions and species endangerment in response to our petition to gain Endangered Species Act protection for the polar bear.
• In August 2007, won a landmark case challenging federal suppression of climate science. Under the Global Change Research Act of 1990, we argued that the Bush administration must complete a research plan and scientific assessment of climate change impacts in the United States. The court agreed, ordering the government to produce the overdue reports by May 2008.
• Filed the first-ever petition for protection of an endangered species from global warming under state law when we asked California to protect the American pika, directly threatened with habitat loss due to climate change.
• Along with 350.org, petitioned the U.S. EPA to set a national, science-based pollution cap of 350 ppm for CO2 under the Clean Air Act.
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