When you think about threats to national parks, you can point to air pollution, water pollution, development on a park's boundaries, and genetic bottlenecks affecting a park's wildlife. But few people seem to think about climate change.
Indeed, climate change is neither sexy nor glamorous, and judging from how many folks read Traveler posts about climate change and the parks, not too many folks care to hear about it. Well, the National Parks Conservation Association wants you to start thinking about it.
During a House subcommittee meeting held in California today, NPCA representatives testified that their organization views climate change as the "greatest threat" to the national parks. Indeed, researchers predict Glacier National Park will lose all of its glaciers within 20 years, and some models suggest Joshua Tree National Park will have no living Joshua trees left within a century.
During this morning's field hearing, held just outside Joshua Tree, NPCA's California Desert Office program manager, Mike Cipra, told the representatives that national parks are already showing the effects of climate change. Some are seeing less snow and rainfall, others are dealing with increased pests and disease, some are being confronted by abnormal flooding and fires, and there's a shift in the habitat ranges of plants and animals, he said.
The bottom line, said Mr. Cipra, is that Congress needs to provide funding to help wildlife and ecosystems adapt to climate change while also taking steps to slow global warming by limiting greenhouse gas emissions.
He said NPCA supports providing the National Park Service with a dedicated funding stream for this need, such as could be provided from a percentage of profits raised by the sale of carbon pollution allowances under a cap-and-trade policy. Such funding would allow land managers to plan long-term and ecosystem-wide instead of making piecemeal changes with limited effect, he said. The cost would be far outweighed by the economic benefits of having working ecosystems and protecting keystone species, added Mr. Cipra.
"As Americans, we have faced tremendous environmental challenges before," the NPCA representative testified. "We met these challenges with courage, with urgency, and with a coordinated response. ...Our health and economic future depends on how we meet this challenge."
To listen to a podcast about the dangers climate change is posing to Joshua Tree, click here.