Meet the penguins who can save the world
Geoffrey Lean

Family of chinstrap penguins (Pygoscelis antarctica) with two cute chicks
Family of chinstrap penguins (Pygoscelis antarctica) with two cute chicks

Penguins may succeed where Tony Blair and other world leaders have failed—in getting George W Bush to take action on global warming. Species of penguins are under threat by global warming. That would legally oblige world leaders to tackle the problem of climate change under the powerful Endangered Species Act. The law requires the government not to do anything that would "jeopardise the continued existence" of listed species.

The move, by the official Fish and Wildlife Service, is a remarkable victory for a small Arizona-based pressure group, the Centre for Biological Diversity. Its activists have been working to use environmental legislation to force a change in the President’s climate policies through the back door.

Last November, they filed a petition under the Endangered Species Act for the 10 species to be listed on the grounds that they were "all endangered or will likely be endangered in the foreseeable future". It added: "Global warming represents the most significant and pervasive threat to the continued existence of penguins. Unless there is prompt action to cut US and global greenhouse gas emissions, the march of the penguins will be a march towards extinction." It admits that each of the 10 species faces other threats, including from oil spills, habitat destruction, being caught in fishing nets and from breeding sites being disturbed by tourists but argues that all are far more affected by climate change.

Populations of krill, their staple food, have plunged by as much as 80 per cent over much of the Southern Ocean as temperatures have risen during the past 30 years.

— By arrangement with The Independent