Press Release Sep 29, 2020

National Park Climate Change Scientist Honored with Stephen T. Mather Award

“I have stood strongly and publicly for scientific integrity to communicate the science of human-caused climate change and solutions for the future." - Dr. Patrick Gonzalez

WASHINGTON – Today, the National Parks Conservation Association’s (NPCA) President and CEO Theresa Pierno presented the Stephen T. Mather Award to Dr. Patrick Gonzalez, Principal Climate Change Scientist of the U.S. National Park Service. The award, named after the first National Park Service Director and NPCA’s first donor more than a century ago, was presented in recognition of Gonzalez’s steadfast leadership and persistent dedication to our national parks.

Dr. Gonzalez has led climate change science for the National Park Service for 10 years, conducting research on the effects of climate change and helping resource managers use the results to protect some of America’s most treasured places – our national parks. He has served as a lead author on four reports of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), the organization awarded a share of the 2007 Nobel Peace Prize. Utilizing scientific data, Dr. Gonzalez strives to help national parks, local communities, and policymakers conserve nature and protect public well-being. NPCA recognizes Dr. Gonzalez for his unwavering support for scientific integrity and his understanding that without sound science, we cannot know how best to protect parks and visitors from the threats of climate change.

“I have stood strongly and publicly for scientific integrity to communicate the science of human-caused climate change and solutions for the future,” said Dr. Patrick Gonzalez.

The effects of climate change are happening now and our national parks and nearby communities are on the frontlines, suffering disproportionately from these impacts. “Until this research by colleagues and me, the severity of human-caused climate change across all the U.S. national parks was unknown,” Dr. Gonzalez said. Given that they often occupy landscapes of climate extremes — high mountains, arid deserts, and the Arctic — national parks are more susceptible to warming temperatures and increased aridity. This is putting park visitors, wildlife, and cultural and natural resources in jeopardy.

“NPCA would not be able to do the work we do to protect our national parks from the effects of climate change without Dr. Gonzalez’s leadership and work,” said Theresa Pierno, President and CEO of the National Parks Conservation Association (NPCA). “In its more than 100-year history, climate change is the greatest threat facing our National Park System. Parks are melting, burning, and drying as a direct consequence of a rapidly changing climate caused by human activity. Unless we heed Dr. Gonzalez’s warnings and act immediately, our parks and surrounding communities will no longer exist the way we know them today.”

As Dr. Gonzalez’s studies highlight, the consequences of climate change on our parks are alarming. Climate change has doubled wildfire over natural levels across the western U.S., including Yosemite National Park and other parks, raised sea level at the Statue of Liberty National Monument and other coastal parks, and is melting glaciers at Glacier Bay and Glacier National Parks. “The U.S. national parks protect some of the most irreplaceable natural areas and cultural sites in the world. Cutting carbon pollution would reduce human-caused climate change and help save our national parks for future generations,” said Gonzalez.

“For the future of our most cherished wild spaces, from Acadia to Zion, we must use our best available science in decision making. As Dr. Gonzalez has discovered, our national parks are the canary in the coal mine. Protecting, restoring and preserving them is key to combating the climate crisis.” added Pierno.

In addition to publishing the only scientific analyses of human-caused climate change trends and impacts across the entire National Park System, Dr. Gonzalez has produced park-specific reports on climate change trends, historical impacts, and future risks for 248 national parks. He has assisted field staff in more than 260 national parks and led environmental projects in 25 countries in applying climate change science to biodiversity conservation, fire management, and forest carbon conservation. Additionally, Dr. Gonzalez has assisted Jonathan Jarvis, former National Park Service Director, in establishing the University of California, Berkeley, Institute for Parks, People, and Biodiversity.

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About the National Parks Conservation Association: Since 1919, the nonpartisan National Parks Conservation Association (NPCA) has been the leading voice in safeguarding our national parks. NPCA and its nearly 1.4 million members and supporters work together to protect and preserve our nation’s most iconic and inspirational places for future generations. For more information, visit www.npca.org.