Climate Central: On 100th Anniversary of National Parks, Their Greatest Challenge is Fossil-Fueled Climate Change

Today is the 100th anniversary of the National Park Service, and that’s something all Americans can and should celebrate. The question, however, is what those beautiful parks will look like in years to come. To answer that, Climate Central did an analysis, “assuming greenhouse gas emissions continue on their current trend,” and the results were sobering. Check out the interactive map below to see how much hotter the National Parks could be by 2100 — overall, “summers that are 8-12°F hotter by 2100.” The result, according to Climate Central, is that Big Bend National Park could go from 17  to an eye-popping 113 days per year above 100°F by the end of this century.  Here’s another sobering example:

By 2100, the glaciers of Montana’s Glacier National Park will be long gone and rising temperatures will be one of the big reasons why. Visitors will not only have to contend with an ice-free landscape, but also hotter temperatures. Today the park sees an average of only one 90°F day each year. It could see 27 days with temperatures above 90°F by the end of the century.

Fortunately, this dire scenario can be partially if not mostly avoided, by ensuring that greenhouse gas emissions do NOT “continue on their current trend.” For that to happen, of course, we’ll need to switch as rapidly as possible from carbon-based fuels to clean, renewable, zero-carbon energy sources like solar and wind power. The great news is that the prices of solar and wind have been plummeting, and are likely to continue falling for many years to come. That, in turn, means the inevitable replacement of fossil fuels with clean energy, on economic grounds alone. For the sake of our amazing, iconic National Parks, though, we need that transition to occur ASAP.  That is, if we want to make sure that Glacier National Park keeps its glaciers, that Joshua Tree National Park keeps its namesake trees, etc.

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