News and Notes

Not on the candidates’ radar: The ‘sixth great extinction’

Scientists see extinction happening now but Democratic candidates have little to say about it

This article was published in Roll Call on February 21, 2020

By Benjamin J. Hulac

Democrats running for the White House are talking about climate change often and in detail, but they don’t have much to say about one of its most catastrophic outcomes: the rapid disappearance of plants and animals that scientists call the sixth great extinction.

The Trump administration gave Democratic contenders a window in late January when it moved to relax federal rules against killing birds. The proposed rule, from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, would allow oil, gas, construction and other companies to “incidentally” kill birds in their standard operations — a decision that could place millions of birds in danger and weaken the Migratory Bird Treaty Act of 1918.

But presidential campaigns did not squawk back, at least not loudly. Extinction does not appear prominently, if at all, on any websites of the eight candidates for the Democratic presidential nomination, though many include provisions to conserve land and wildlife. Still, those elements don’t come up in debates, and their details are hidden deep in campaign websites.

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