Burr & Forman

10.1.2018   |   Blog Articles, Climate Change, Environmental Law Matters

Comprehensive Study Confirms That Climate Change is Having Substantial Adverse Impacts on National Parks

A recently published report that studied all 417 U.S. National Parks indicates climate change is having a significant and unique impact on many of them. The study was initially widely reported in the Miami Herald on September 24, and an abstract can be found in the peer-reviewed scientific journal Environmental Research Letters. (Disproportionate Magnitude of Climate Change in United States National Parks). National Park sites appear to be warming and drying out in more pronounced ways due, in part, to the fact that many of them are at higher elevations or are located in the southwest. According to the report, at current rates of greenhouse gas emissions, temperatures in the most threatened parks could increase by up to 16º F by the turn of the century.

In part, the report is significant because it is comprehensive, covering all U.S. National Parks. However, its conclusions are not unexpected. They are generally consistent with an earlier report done in 2009 and produced jointly by the Natural Resources Defense Council and the Rocky Mountain Climate Organization (here and here). National Geographic also raised similar concerns about the National Parks in December 2016. (National Parks and Climate Change).

For its part, the Administration, through the National Park Service, focused on an aspect of the study that describes natural events which are not the result of climate changes such as wildfires caused by humans. (Washington Post). Given the breadth of the report, it seems that such a limited focus ignores most of the facts and signals that meaningful action is not likely, at least for the time being.

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