National Park Service Director calls climate change “fundamentally the greatest threat to the integrity of our national parks that we have ever experienced.”

From RMCO newsletter – Aug 2016

With the coming 100th anniversary on August 25 of the legislation defining the national park system and creating the National Park Service, the media are drawing new attention to how climate change is now widely recognized as the greatest threat ever to our national parks. We at the Rocky Mountain Climate Organization were the first to reach this conclusion, now officially shared by NPS, and we think the centennial of the parks is the right time to focus on the climate change threats to them.

RMCO first stated in a 2006 report on climate change and national parks in the West that we released with the Natural Resources Defense Council, “a disrupted climate is the single greatest threat to ever face western national parks.” In 2009, in National Parks in Peril: The Threats of Climate Disruption, another RMCO-NRDC report but now with nation-wide scope, we broadened our conclusion, writing, “Human disruption of the climate is the greatest threat ever to our national parks.” The next month, the new NPS director, Jonathan Jarvis, in his first congressional testimony after being confirmed, cited the RMCO-NRDC report and agreed with our assessments. A year later, in the introduction to the Service’s new Climate Change Response Strategy, Jarvis flatly declared, “I believe climate change is fundamentally the greatest threat to the integrity of our national parks that we have ever experienced.”

Earlier this summer, in Yosemite National Park, President Obama summarized how climate change threatens the parks: “rising temperatures could mean no more glaciers at Glacier National Park. No more Joshua Trees at Joshua Tree National Park. Rising seas could destroy vital ecosystems in the Everglades, and at some point could even threaten icons like the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island.” These are among the threats we have documented, in our pioneering 2006 and 2009 reports – and in subsequent reports on the particular risks to Glacier National Park, Virginia’s special places, California’s national parks, Acadia National Park, Great Lakes national parks, Yellowstone and Grand Teton national parks, and national seashores on the Atlantic Coast.

One reason we have devoted so much time to how climate change affects national parks is because, with over 300 million visits a year, the national parks present a unique, powerful opportunity to bring home to Americans how climate change affects resources and values they care deeply about. That is why we welcome the news coverage of climate change risks to the parks, as we near the NPS centennial. A smattering of that coverage includes: Parks face ‘greatest threat’ — climate change, GreenWire, July 25, 2016; Disappearing icons: Re-imagining the national parks after climate change, KQED Science, August 1, 2016; and To preserve history, a national park preps for climate change, KUNC Public Radio, July 26, 2016.