Dramatic changes may force park managers to choose which species will live, and which will die
Today the NPS is confronting the most daunting challenge it has faced in its 100-year history: human-influenced climate change, which promises to transform not only these iconic landscapes but also the plants and animals who inhabit them. This looming threat to our nation’s parks recently attracted the attention of President Obama, who visited Yosemite National Park to speak about how climate change is damaging the parks. Without action, Obama warned, Yosemite and many other national parks could be dramatically different places 50 years hence. “Make no mistake,” he said. “Climate change is no longer just a threat—it’s already a reality.”
Climate change, also called global warming, refers to the rise in average surface temperatures on Earth. An overwhelming scientific consensus maintains that climate change is due primarily to the human use of fossil fuels, which releases carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases into the air. The gases trap heat within the atmosphere, which can have a range of effects on ecosystems, including rising sea levels, severe weather events, and droughts that render landscapes more susceptible to wildfires.