Bruce Stein

Bruce Stein

Associate Vice President, Conservation Science and Climate Adaptation
National Advocacy Center - Washington, DC

Climate change is the defining conservation challenge of our time. Unfortunately, the impacts of global warming are not just in the distant future, but are with us here and now. As a result, it will be important not only to rapidly reduce our emissions of carbon into the atmosphere, which will reduce the long-term effects of warming, but also to prepare for and cope with the inevitable warming that already is upon us and likely to get worse. I joined the National Wildlife Federation in the Fall of 2008 to do just that – focus on safeguarding wildlife from the impacts of global warming.

I began my professional career carrying out botanical explorations of the tropical rainforests of South America, and have spent more than a quarter century using scientific data and knowledge as a tool for better protecting our most threatened species and ecosystems.  As part of my work over the years with organizations such as The Nature Conservancy and NatureServe, I have witnessed and documented the threats to our wildlife and wild places from things such as rampant development and the unchecked spread of invasive species.  It is clear, though, that the effects of global warming represent an unprecedented danger to our natural heritage, and attacking this peril requires a similarly unprecedented response.

As the National Wildlife Federation's Associate Vice President of Conservation Science and Climate Adaptation, I lead the organization's Climate Change Safeguards team, which focuses on better understanding the vulnerabilities of our species, ecosystems, and communities to the impacts of climate change, and developing innovative policies and management strategies to address those impacts. Climate change adaptation is a relatively new field, and in many ways represents uncharted territory for conservationists and natural resource managers. Indeed, we are entering a new era for conservation in which many of our traditional conservation practices will need to be reconsidered in the light of climate change. I'm also a member of the federal Advisory Committee on Climate Change and Natural Resource Science created by Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell.

The National Wildlife Federation has emerged as a leader in the new field of climate change adaptation, and has been especially effective at bringing together members of the conservation community - including federal and state agencies, academics and other non-profits - to advance this new discipline. In 2011, for instance, NWF worked together with a number of partners to publish a ground-breaking guide to climate change vulnerability assessment. This guide, Scanning the Conservation Horizon, is now being used by federal and state agencies across the country to help begin the process of adapting to “the new normal.” Building on the success of that effort, NWF has now convened another expert workgroup to create guidance for carrying out what we term “climate-smart conservation.”

Addressing the impacts of climate change will entail making a number of difficult choices. We can make a difference, though, and NWF has an important role to play in helping safeguard the nation’s cherished plant and animal species. 

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