NPCA submitted the following position to members of the House of Representatives ahead of floor votes scheduled to begin on May 1, 2019.
NPCA urges members to vote to support H.R. 9, The Climate Action Now Act, when it comes to the House floor later this week. Climate change is one of the greatest threats facing our national parks and people across the country and globe. National parks and millions of people across the country have already experienced the damaging impacts of climate change, creating dangerous situations for communities, public health, nature and wildlife. We need aggressive pollution reductions to thwart the worst impacts of climate change immediately.
NPCA is pleased to see H.R. 9 as the first major climate legislation to receive a House vote in the last ten years. As outlined, this bill will keep our nation on track to honor its commitments under the Paris Agreement. With 224 co-sponsors, H.R.9 will require the Trump administration to develop a plan on how to meet the Paris Agreement goals, with annual updates, and blocks the use of funds to withdraw from the agreement. While the Paris Agreement is not the only opportunity for climate action, it is a terrific starting point for legislative action this session. Recognizing that nearly every country in the world is a signatory, making the agreement a global response to the climate crisis, it is critical that the United States remain engaged in order to strengthen our domestic climate agenda.
National parks are significantly and uniquely threatened by a rapidly warming planet driven by dramatic increases in human produced CO2. From the Everglades to Acadia and Denali to Grand Canyon—our national parks are suffering the consequences of climate change. Levels of pollution in the atmosphere are higher than they have been at any time in the past 400,000 years, and subsequent impacts to national parks cover all geographic locations—including coastal areas affected by rising oceans and unusually powerful storms, mountain ranges experiencing widespread melting of glaciers, and struggling wildlife from microorganisms to large mammals.
National parks are particularly vulnerable to changes in climate because of their risk of exposure and sensitivity of plants, species, water resources, glaciers, cultural resources, etc., and often limited adaptive capacities. In fact, a comprehensive 2018 analysis of 417 US national parks found that the National Park System experienced warming at double the rate of the United States as a whole from 1895 to 2010, mainly because much of the National Park System area is located in extreme—Arctic, arid, or high elevation—environments where temperature and precipitation changes have great immediate implications.
National parks like Glacier, Joshua Tree and Saguaro risk losing their namesake features while other parks like Shenandoah are experiencing warming water temperatures, threatening the very existence of some species like the native brook trout. Likewise, at Mount Rainier National Park, climate change is making the glaciers recede, leading to effects downstream in the waterways alongside the park’s historic roads. The examples go on, with sea level rise rapidly eroding coastlines and threatening the health and well-being of coastal national parks like Everglades and Biscayne national parks in Florida, Cape Hatteras in North Carolina and Assateague Island off the coasts of Maryland and Virginia. At Assateague NPS scientists project that by 2040 the island will experience increases in temperature and extreme weather, a sea level rise of 3.5–9 inches, and altered precipitation patterns. These changes will magnify the normal coastal processes that shape the island.
From wildlife impacts to hazy skies to increased wildfires, our national parks need the support of H.R. 9 to continue to thrive. Our parks should be our refuge in a changing climate, not another disaster area. Please vote to support H.R. 9 to protect our public health, local communities and our national parks.
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Director of Legislation and Policy, Government Affairs