One of the strengths of the Endangered Species Act is that it attempts to place decisions about the status of public resources in the hands of scientists who can make relatively rational judgments about the threats to our nation’s biological heritage. Politics still interferes in the process at times, as it did under President George W. Bush, but such interference is rendered illegal. A framework has been established for using facts, rather than political convenience, to determine when species of wildlife are genuinely threatened or endangered.
At the end of last week, senators John Barrasso and David Vitter introduced legislation that would put political convenience back at center stage when it comes to decisions about the nation’s natural resources. Their bill, S. 724, would amend the Endangered Species Act in order to “temporarily prohibit the Secretary of the Interior from considering global climate change as a natural or manmade factor in determining whether a species is a threatened or endangered species”.
As it stands, agencies within the Department of the Interior are required to consider global warming and other aspects of climate change in determinations about whether to list a species as threatened or endangered. However, that’s only the case when there is a solid scientific reason to believe that climate change is threatening the survival of a species.
The legislation introduced by Barrasso and Vitter actually forbids the Secretary of the Interior from taking scientific observations into account, for no other reason than that Barrasso and Vitter regard the consequences of those observations to be inconvenient. These senators are seeking to force the United States government to ignore reality, for the sake of their ambitions.
Let’s hope the climate is against them.