© Joseph C. Filer and Jason W. Filer

Combating Climate Change

Shaping National Policy

Defenders of Wildlife supports a two-part response to combating climate change and its impacts. First, take immediate steps to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to address the root cause of climate change. We therefore support efforts to reduce greenhouse gases, such as those outlined in the President’s Climate Action Plan. Second, provide the policy direction and long-term dedicated funding necessary to protect wildlife and ecosystems from climate change’s impacts. We accomplish this at a national level by working in three key areas.

Advocating for Legislation and Funding

Defenders is a leading advocate for enactment of the Safeguarding America’s Future and Environment (SAFE) Act, which would help reduce current and future impacts of climate change on wildlife and habitat. In addition, climate change is already imposing significant costs to strained federal, state and tribal natural resource agency budgets, so we continue to advocate for more funding to meet the complex challenges imposed by climate change.

Working With Agencies

Wildlife and land management agencies are increasingly understanding the importance of incorporating climate change impacts into their activities. However, it is not always clear how managers, many of whom are already burdened with a wide range of concerns, should approach this new challenge. Defenders is helping on several fronts.

  • In 2013, a consortium of 23 federal, state and tribal agencies released the National, Fish, Wildlife, and Plants Climate Adaptation Strategy to coordinate a national response to protect the natural resources of the United States from the impacts of climate change. Defenders helped secure the funding that launched this critically important strategy, and continues to encourage its implementation through outreach to agencies.
  • National Forests that are writing new forest plans under the 2012 Planning Rule now have a mandate to incorporate climate change. Defenders is helping several of these forests to identify impacts and options.
  • National Wildlife Refuges also face a host of issues that threaten wildlife and habitats, such as sea level rise, the effects of severe weather, and the potential for climate change to shift the range of certain species out of the refuges that were set up to protect them. We are encouraging refuges to expand the timeframe and geographic scope of their planning efforts in order to better respond.
  • Voluntary conservation practices on private lands, particularly agricultural and forest land, are important for many species of wildlife. We are working to get climate change considerations better integrated into the programs that support these practices.

For additional examples of how we are helping managers protect wildlife and ecosystems from the impacts of climate change, please see Preparing for Climate Change and Advancing Science.

Climate Change and National Policy

The need to prepare for climate change doesn’t stop with the agencies that manage wildlife and wild lands. All federal agencies have been directed to begin considering how climate change will impact them, and Defenders has provided recommendations to improve many of these plans.

In addition, many types of activities—from building new roads to siting industrial facilities-- will need to account for the impacts of a warming climate. The National Environmental Policy Act is the main avenue by which all federal agencies “show their work” outlining their various environmental impacts. Defenders has conducted an extensive study of how well various agencies are accounting for the impacts of climate change in their planning, and created recommendations for how to do better.