Noah Matson, Vice President of Landscape Conservation & Climate Adaptation
In his first major speech on climate change since being reelected, President Obama today outlined a comprehensive climate action plan to set us on course to reduce emissions of heat-trapping gases, make our communities more resilient to the effects of climate change, and safeguard our wildlife and ecosystems.
The President recognizes that “ecosystems are critical to our nation’s economy and the lives and health of our citizens,” and that “these natural resources can also help ameliorate the impacts of climate change, if they are properly protected.” Building on the National Fish, Wildlife, and Plants Climate Adaptation Strategy that Defenders was instrumental in getting developed, the President is “directing federal agencies to identify and evaluate additional approaches to improve our natural defenses against extreme weather, protect biodiversity and conserve natural resources in the face of a changing climate, and manage our public lands and natural systems to store more carbon.”
President Obama’s leadership on conserving wildlife and ecosystems in the face of climate change couldn’t come at a more urgent time – for both policy reasons and what is facing wildlife on the ground. With the release of the important National Wildlife Adaptation Strategy this spring, it has been unclear how it is going to be implemented. Now federal agencies will be specifically directed to implement this plan and launch additional efforts to safeguard wildlife and ecosystems.
Wildlife and habitat are responding in real time to the effects of climate change. Last spring I told the story of how one coastal national wildlife refuge lost over 4,000 acres of marsh from the effects of increased storm surge and sea level rise. Arctic sea ice hit its lowest summer extent on record last summer, portending a scary future for polar bears that depend on this sea ice home.
For some species, the best chances for survival are only with drastic reductions in greenhouse gases. The President’s climate action plan reduces carbon pollution and addresses the impacts we are already experiencing – this is exactly the type of comprehensive approach that is needed to meet this daunting challenge.