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The Fragile Menagerie: Biodiversity Loss, Climate Change, and the Law

82 Pages Posted: 2 Nov 2016 Last revised: 15 Jul 2017

James Ming Chen

Michigan State University - College of Law

Date Written: November 2, 2016


The greatest vectors of biodiversity loss in the Anthropocene epoch are climate change, habitat destruction, invasive species, pollution, population, and overkill. Perversely enough, the legal understanding of extinction mechanisms remains frozen in time, like a cave dweller in ice. Climate change, habitat destruction, and alien invasive species should figure more prominently than overkill and the marketing of products derived from endangered species. The law, however, imposes its clearest and harshest sanctions precisely where the drivers of extinction are weakest: when humans consciously capture or kill other living things. The Endangered Species Act has been adapted to address habitat destruction on private land and to mitigate climate change. Nevertheless, the law’s lack of congruence with conservation biology impedes efforts to preserve biodiversity and mitigate climate change.

Keywords: biodiversity, climate change, Anthropocene, conservation, environmental law, endangered species, Endangered Species Act, polar bear, habitat, invasive species

Suggested Citation

Chen, James Ming, The Fragile Menagerie: Biodiversity Loss, Climate Change, and the Law (November 2, 2016). Indiana Law Journal, Vol. 93 (2017 Forthcoming 2017). Available at SSRN: or

James Chen (Contact Author)

Michigan State University - College of Law ( email )

318 Law College Building
East Lansing, MI 48824-1300
United States

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