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NPCA: Climate Change Greatest Threat Facing the National Park System


Climate change could rid Joshua Tree National Park of joshua trees. NPS photo by Dar Spearing.

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.


This tells us more about the NPCA than about the National Parks or "climate change."

Insofar as climate change is a natural phenomenon, then the parks could not be threatened by it any more than forests could be threatened by lightning-sparked fires, or 'scenic' wildlife was threatened by predatory wildlife 100 years ago. Natural fluctuation in Earth's climate is etched into the stones and recorded in the tree-rings of every nature park. We fall into the same old mistakes when we conclude that the ecosystems we observe now, or measured 75 years ago, are 'right,' and that any alteration is inherently bad.

Insofar as climate change is a human-created phenomenon, which I do not remotely concede, it is a problem that exists on a global scale, and is extremely unresponsive to bleating about joshua trees. If it is human-created, then it goes far beyond the NPS's proper mission, which does not extend to meddling in global economics. Dragging the NPS into climate change politics can only harm the organization's mission in the long run.

As for the Park Service's mission, wasn't there something in the National Park Service Organic Act about the agency's purpose being "to conserve the scenery and the natural and historic objects and the wild life therein..."?

Hmm. Yet the mainstream media continues to ignore fact that we are in a deep solor minimum, the likes of which haven't been seen for a century. According to NASA, deep solar minima were common until relatively recently. The Maunder Minimum, which lasted from 1645 to 1715, is known as the "Little Ice Age". Scientists admit that "no one fully understands the underlying physics of the sunspot cycle". If this is another extended minimum, it seems feasible that we're headed for global cooling and maybe another little ice age. Pray it's not a full-on ice age, which could be potentially more devastating than global warming.

"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."

The NPCA rep has forgotten a most important virtue when intervening on the behalf of mother nature, humility.

Gotta wholeheartedly agree with Anonymous and Frank C!
Follow the money...a whole lotta $$$ going to grants to study this fraud called "global; warming!" Gotta keep them there so-called "scientists" workin'!
I always ask my global warmed liberal say it IS warming STILL...(after all, it's been warmin' since the last ice age except for cooling from 1940 thru the 70')...and we can really turn it when do we stop it from going too far in the COOLING direction? Drive more SUVs? (I actually had one lib blurt out NO! We don't need to do that, it won't affect it! I just said...aha...gotcha! and she got red-faced). LOL
Global cooling will kill us faster than warming ever will!
We are so puny in the dynamics of global climate...we have NOTHING to do with it!! I urge everyone, just as I teach my kids, to spread the word about how much of a farce this is. And how much it's gonna cost us if we go the route of Kyoto and "cap and trade."


Human caused?

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, which produced the landmark report in 2007 on the state of knowledge on climate change (, is a body that makes decisions by hard-negotiated consensus of the scientists and government policy people from the over 150 member countries -- including the US and China, nations not known in 2007 for their advocacy of climate change. Hence most knowledgeable observers actually regard the IPCC 2007 report as a fairly conservative document, having toned down its findings in order to build the aforementioned consensus of its members. Yet the report stated that "warming of the climate is unequivocal" and "most of the observed increase in globally averaged temperatures since the mid-20th century is very likely [over 90 per cent] due to the observed increase in anthropogenic GHG [greenhouse gas] concentrations."

Beyond the NPS mission?

Kurt rightly calls attention to the Organic Act mandate for the NPS to "conserve unimpaired." In addition, the agency's management policies ( mandate that "NPS managers must always seek ways to avoid, or to minimize to the greatest extent practicable, adverse impacts on park resources and values." [Chapter 1.4.3] The directive for natural resource management is more explicit: the NPS "will maintain as parts of the natural ecosystems of parks all plants and animals native to park ecosystems... by restoring native plant and animal populations in parks when they have been extirpated by past human-caused actions; and minimizing human impacts on native plants, animals, populations, communities, and ecosystems, and the processes that sustain them." [Chapter 4.4.1].

We are not to work in a vacuum: "Activities that take place outside park boundaries and that are not managed by the Service can profoundly affect the Service’s ability to protect natural resources inside the parks. The Service will act to protect natural resources from impacts caused by external activities by working cooperatively with federal, state, and local agencies; tribal authorities; user groups; adjacent landowners; and others to identify and achieve broad natural resource goals. [Chapter 4, introduction]

By calling attention to the ongoing and likely adverse changes in the national parks, neither NPCA nor the NPS is "meddling in global economics" or getting involved in "climate change politics." We're raising awareness of a critically important issue and we've found that the public that cares about the integrity of the national parks cares deeply about this. To make sure we don't get dragged into the politics, parks are generally highlighting our own actions to reduce energy usage and greenhouse gases, hoping that leadership by example is more effective than preaching. I've insisted in my park that rangers be able to back up any statements they make about climate change projections or impacts with peer-reviewed science, which makes them very credible.

Bob Krumenaker
Apostle Islands National Lakeshore

The whole global warming issue is so yesterday. It is so Al Gore with a huge dollop of hippy-dippy Earth Day tie-dyed stoner socialist thinking. It is anti-market, anti-freedom and just plain wrong. If the earth is in fact getting a whole lot warmer, which by most accounts it is not, it certainly cannot be scientifically linked to the activity of humans with any degree of validity. No way, no how. Thankfully a large and growing awareness is forming among the vast majority of the world's population that is quite able to understand what a ridiculous hoax the whole thing has been. In fact one of the greatest fables ever foisted upon the consciousness of humankind.

I leave it to Czech President Vaclav Klaus to elaborate:

"Global warming is a false myth and every serious person and scientist says so. It is not fair to refer to the U.N. panel. IPCC is not a scientific institution: it's a political body, a sort of non-government organization of green flavor. It's neither a forum of neutral scientists nor a balanced group of scientists. These people are politicized scientists who arrive there with a one-sided opinion and a one-sided assignment."

When he was asked: “How do you explain that there is no other comparably senior statesman in Europe who would advocate this viewpoint? No one else has such strong opinions...”

He responded: “My opinions about this issue simply are strong. Other top-level politicians do not express their global warming doubts because a whip of political correctness strangles their voice.”

Another interesting question: "Don't you believe that we're ruining our planet?"

His marvelous reply: "Perhaps only Mr. Al Gore may be saying something along these lines: a sane person can't. I don't see any ruining of the planet, I have never seen it, and I don't think that a reasonable and serious person could say such a thing."

I couldn't agree more.

The NPCA is just another Johnny-come-lately spouting off gloom and doom about a subject that makes most rational people smile at the sheer silliness of the concept. We are indeed, as Frank C pointed out, in a historic solar minimum and, as I have said for a quite a few years now, I'll bet anyone that is willing to bet, that the Earth will become much cooler in the next 10 years and NOT warmer.

Any takers out there? Wanna wager some of your carbon offset credits?

Please get off the global whining hysteria and focus on our parks!

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