Are we too obsessed with climate change?

Slate has an interesting piece by Brendan Borrell arguing that the current laser-like focus on climate change may be getting in the way of effective conservation measures. As he tells it, being green today “is all about greenhouse gases,” to the point that people have forgotten about plain vanilla habitat destruction. That, he thinks, is still by far the greatest threat to biodiversity.

Some of Borrell’s claims seem a bit overblown, or perhaps misdirected. He complains that EU greenhouse gas emission controls have indirectly destroyed Indonesian rain forests by creating a market for biofuels. To the extent that’s true, the problem lies not with the idea of cutting back emissions but with its execution. And especially in places like the United States, where significant chunks of habitat are protected reasonably effectively by law against conventional habitat loss, it would be a serious mistake for conservation interests to ignore climate change.

Nonetheless, his essay is an important reminder that climate change is far from being the only problem plants and wildlife face, and that we should not become so obsessed with that one problem that we lose sight of others capable of wreaking just as much havoc.

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About Holly

Holly Doremus is the James H. House and Hiram H. Hurd Professor of Environmental Regulation at UC Berkeley. Doremus brings a strong background in life sciences and a comm…

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