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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Oil trains have been called pipelines by rail, virtual pipelines and — due to their tendency to explode in a derailment — even bomb trains. Whatever you call them, they're bad news.

According to a Center report, sea-level rise is a deadly threat to 233 protected species — from the Hawaiian monk seal to the loggerhead sea turtle. Learn more now.


Airplane Emissions: Aircraft emit staggering amounts of CO2 — 11 percent of emissions from U.S. transportation sources. Learn about our campaign and take action to hold the airplane industry accountable.

Fracking: Sullied water ... greenhouse gas pollution ... threatened wildlife. Learn more about the Center's fight to halt fracking in California and beyond.

Global Warming and Life on Earth: Up to 70 percent of the planet's species face extinction due to global warming by century's end if current emissions continue, scientists say.

overpopulationClearcutting — the most CO2-spewing logging method — is devastating to wildlife, habitat and water quality. Learn how we're fighting it for forests and our climate.

The Arctic Meltdown: The North Pole is a flashpoint in the global warming crisis. Learn about the meltdown and what it means for Arctic species.

Energy and Transportation: Innovative technologies and challenging cultural shifts must combine to replace fossil fuels with cleaner energy systems.

Population and Climate Change: People worldwide are starting to address warming by reducing their carbon footprint. But we not only need smaller footprints — we need fewer feet.





Climate Law Institute Advisory Board

Contact the Climate Law Institute.

Baner photo © Thomas D. Mangelsen/ImagesofNatureStock.com; young ribbon seal photo by Dr. Peter Boveng, NOAA