A United States federal appeals court has ruled that federal agencies can rely on climate models when deciding if species are at risk of extinction, even if the projections are uncertain.
The court ruling came after a group led by the Alaska Oil and Gas Association challenged a 2012 decision by the National Marine Fisheries Service—part of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration—to classify two Arctic seal populations as endangered. The NMFS ruling was based on sea ice projections derived from long-range climate models. It used models developed by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change to make its decision about Arctic sea ice.
In 2014, an Alaska federal judge agreed with the oil industry lobby, which argued that the models were not reliable enough to base an endangered species listing on. The NMFS had said that the seals would be at risk by the year 2095, but the judge suggested that any projections beyond 50 years were too speculative and ordered the seals taken off the endangered species list.