Year 3, Month 8, Day 30: Two Game Wardens, Seven Hunters, And A Cow.

The Bozeman Daily Chronicle (MT) discusses climate change’s impact on huntin’ and fishin’ and all that kinda outdoors-y stuff:

Climate change and the subprime mortgage crisis share two trends: They had early signs that some people ignored or denied, and they can strain the economy, experts said Wednesday.

Four people addressed both trends during a presentation titled, “Feeling the heat: The impact of climate change on Montana’s outdoor heritage,” at the Emerson Center for the Arts & Culture on Wednesday.

All four said this summer’s excessive heat and drought were bringing the issue home to more people nationwide. Crop failures in the Midwest and large wildfires in Colorado and Idaho have dominated the news and demonstrate how climate change can cause costly events.

Montana has so far been spared the brunt of the extreme weather. But many Montanans didn’t need the heat to hit before noticing changes that have occurred over the past quarter century, said Bill Geer, a 39-year veteran of the Montana Department of Fish, Wildlife & Parks.

“We believe that sportsmen are actually among the first to recognize climate change, even if they don’t say the word,” Geer said. “They see the evidence in the field because they’re out there hunting and fishing.”

Sent August 24:

There’s one group of people who’ll be among the first to recognize the signs of climate change. When the timing of animal migrations changes radically, when entire forests are devastated by invasive insect species, when regional biodiversity is decimated by shifting patterns of extreme weather — who better to notice and report the damage than hikers, hunters, and fishermen?

It’s a tragic irony that the national discussion of the climate crisis has become politicized through the misrepresentations of conservative politicians and media figures. Teddy Roosevelt, a great Republican president, and a legendary outdoorsman, was the force behind America’s system of National Parks, and a staunch advocate of wilderness conservation; can you imagine his response to the science-denying anti-environmentalists in today’s GOP? A vote for the party of Big Oil and Coal is a vote against the timeless joys of the wild, and for a Big Sky turned gray with smog.

Warren Senders

Year 3, Month 3, Day 16: I Guess I’ll Go Hang Out With Quinn The Eskimo

For the full flavor of this article on climate change’s effects in our national park system, I recommend visiting and reading the comments. Oy. Anyway, here’s the gist of the piece:

CODY — Summer visitors to the Shoshone National Forest and Yellowstone National Park could benefit from a warming climate, though fires would likely increase, water would run short by season’s end, and some species could vanish from the landscape.

Those are predictions of a new study released by the U.S. Forest Service Rocky Mountain Research Station. The report looks at the impacts that climate change would have on the Shoshone and the consequences to the surrounding ecosystem.

Janine Rice, lead author of the study from the University of Colorado, found that climate records over the past 100 years indicate a 2-degree Fahrenheit increase in temperatures on the Shoshone during the summer and fall, and a 4-degree increase in winter and spring.

The report suggests that more warming has taken place at higher elevations than lower elevations. If the trend continues, temperatures across the forest could rise between 2 and 10 degrees in this century.

But Al Gore is fat. Sent March 16:

The Rocky Mountain Research Station’s new study on the effects of climate change takes on very powerful meaning when it’s understood in a larger context. To be sure, even relatively minor warming for Shoshone and Yellowstone National Parks will trigger profound consequences — there’s nothing trivial about more fires, less water, and an increase in regional extinctions.

But to really grasp the import of this study, it’s necessary to remember that climate change’s impacts aren’t restricted to a few beautiful pieces of parkland. Those wildfires will burn all over the West, not just in the sagebrush of Shoshone — and the water to extinguish them will be unavailable everywhere in the region.

There aren’t enough scientists to do predictive studies on every ecological niche on the planet. Those few areas which get investigated are the canaries in the coal mine for the rest of us. We need to pay attention.

Warren Senders


Year 2, Month 10, Day 3: Yogi?

More on the dire predictions for Yellowstone National Park, this time printed in the Idaho State Journal for September 27:

According to new climate projections conducted for the report, the average of many models is for Yellowstone National Park summers to get 9.7 degrees hotter by 2070-2099 with medium-high future emissions. With a scenario of lower emissions, the average projection is for summers to get 5.6 degrees hotter. This illustrates that the most extreme effects of climate change can be avoided by taking action to reduce emissions. In fact, even the lower-emissions scenario does not assume new policies to reduce heat-trapping pollutants, and with new policies it would be possible to hold future climate change to an even smaller degree.

The effects of a disrupted climate threaten not only Greater Yellowstone’s ecology but also a $700 million annual tourism economy dependent on the region’s unique resources, says the report, which also notes that surveys indicate visitation could be substantially impacted by warming temperatures.

“What we humans are doing to the climate isn’t just melting polar ice caps, it’s disrupting the places that are nearest and dearest to us,” said Stephen Saunders, RMCO president and lead author of the report. “Already, threads are being pulled out of the tapestries of Yellowstone and other special places, and they are losing some of their luster.”

Variations on the theme. Sent September 29:

There’s nowhere on Earth like Yellowstone. With its rare and unusual wildlife and complex ecosystems, America’s greatest park is now gravely endangered by the ravages of climate change; those unique forms of life are extremely vulnerable to a runaway greenhouse effect.

It’s not just a 9.7 degree rise in predicted temperature that’s so frightening. That single figure conceals complex and unpredictable phenomena: wider swings from hot to cold, more extreme precipitation, and a loss of the climatic stability that allowed a complex ecology like Yellowstone’s to evolve in the first place.

Meanwhile, politicians and pundits irresponsibly assert that climate change is a liberal plot, or a fabrication by an international cabal of scientists desperately seeking funding.

Ultimately, of course, it’s not just Yellowstone that’s endangered, but all environments with complex ecologies. The time for concerted action on the climate crisis is now; there is no longer any time to waste.

Warren Senders

Year 2, Month 10, Day 2: Boo Boo?

The September 27 issue of Billings, Montana, Gazette reports on a new study that highlights climate change’s probable effects on Yellowstone National Park:

The weather in Yellowstone National Park could feel more like that of Los Angeles in 60 years if climate change continues to accelerate, according to a new report released Tuesday.

Under that “medium high” climate change scenario, the average summer temperature in the nation’s first national park would rise by 9.7 degrees by 2070.

Stephen Saunders of the Rocky Mountain Climate Organization, lead author of the report that was underwritten by the Bozeman-based Greater Yellowstone Coalition, said “9.7 degrees of additional heat would totally transform the ecosystem.”

A climate like LA’s, huh? Old Faithful — with rats, pigeons and roaches. Rock’n’roll!

Sent Sept. 28:

The numbers in environmental predictions can be misleading. When we hear, for example, that Yellowstone National Park may be nine degrees warmer by 2070, it’s relatively easy to dismiss; after all, temperatures can vary by far more than that amount in a single day, so what’s the fuss about?

But that nine-degree figure conceals some of the worst ravages of climate change. Hot weather evaporates more water, boosting the moisture content of the air and making extreme precipitation more likely — catastrophic floods, infrastructure-crippling snowfalls. An increase in average temperature doesn’t just mean the mercury goes up; it means wilder swings, hotter hots and colder colds.

Yellowstone is home to richly complex and unique ecosystems — micro-communities of life that are found nowhere else on the planet. Uniqueness, of course, implies vulnerability. If, as the Rocky Mountain Climate Organization report suggests, the park’s summer climate in 2070 could resemble that of today’s Los Angeles, it’s a fair bet that many of the plants and animals that have made it a worldwide tourist attraction aren’t going to survive.

The politicians and media figures who promote the denial of climate change are sacrificing our shared national heritage for their own short-term enrichment — a grotesque betrayal of the public trust.

Warren Senders

Year 2, Month 8, Day 11: Yogi & Boo-Boo Will Have To Wear Protective Clothing

The Sacramento Bee for July 25 describes a new study on the likely increase in wildfires as a consequence of climate change…and what it’s going to mean for Yellowstone National Park:

The study by Westerling and his colleagues, which will be published online this week in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, suggests that the expected rising temperatures caused by climate change could increase the frequency of large wildfires in Yellowstone to an unprecedented level, according to a news release from the university.

The projected increase in fires would probably cause a major shift in the greater Yellowstone ecosystem, with fewer dense forests and more open woodland, grass and shrub vegetation.

The change could happen by 2050, Westerling theorizes, with forests becoming younger, the mix of tree species changing and some forests failing to regenerate after repeated fires. That would affect the region’s wildlife, hydrology, carbon storage and aesthetics, the news release said.

“What surprised us about our results was the speed and scale of the projected changes in fire in greater Yellowstone,” Westerling said. “We expected fire to increase with increased temperatures, but we did not expect it to increase so much or so quickly. We were also surprised by how consistent the changes were across different climate projections.”

Sent July 26:

Yellowstone has long been the figurehead of our nation’s National Park system. From iconic geysers to astonishing ecologies, this extraordinary area is not only one of the world’s great wonders, but an unparalleled tourist attraction. Looking into the future, however, it’s hard to imagine the same crowds will show up for the regular forest fires that the UC Merced study predicts as a consequence of regional droughts and climate change? Yellowstone isn’t alone; other parks throughout the country are already feeling the effects of the past century’s emissions of greenhouse gases. How much devastation must global warming wreak on our country’s landscape before the professional denialists and their science-blind followers come to their senses? What would Theodore Roosevelt say to the current crop of law-makers who are eagerly destroying his legacy? Between climate change and anti-environment legislators, our country’s national parks are in greater danger than ever before.

Warren Senders

30 Jul 2011, 12:01am

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  • Year 2, Month 7, Day 30: What Would Teddy Roosevelt Say?

    The Indiana Post-Tribune runs an article on the same NRDC-sponsored report on the National Park System and its vulnerability to climatic transformations:

    Beach erosion, sweltering summer temperatures and fierce storms are well-known occurrences at Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore. But according to a new report on Great Lakes national parks climate change, these events will intensify over the next 100 years, along with loss of plant species and economic activity at the park.

    According to the report, “Great Lakes National Parks in Peril: The Threats of Climate Disruption,” released Wednesday by the Rocky Mountain Climate Organization and the Natural Resources Defense Council, temperatures at the national lakeshore are projected to rise 5 degrees by 2070, the equivalent of moving the climate of Raleigh, N.C., to Northwest Indiana. By 2100, average temperatures may rise an additional 3 degrees, bringing the climate of Gainesville, Fla., to the region.

    Maybe some of the denialists will wake up. Sent July 14:

    The national park system is one of our country’s greatest treasures. Since its inception, Theodore Roosevelt’s visionary initiative has offered countless visitors a chance to experience nature’s richness, complexity and beauty, laying a foundation for the contemporary environmental movement. Now the parks are playing another significant role in educating us all about the dangers of climate change. Living in cities and suburbs, sheltered from extremes of weather by heated, air-conditioned dwellings, we can easily dismiss the signals of the natural world — but the suffering of a cherished park space cannot be ignored. The RMCO/NRDC report confirms that climate change is a present-day crisis, not the responsibility of future generations. Our national parks are telling us loud and clear: we must transform our national energy economy rapidly to a focus on renewables if we are to mitigate the worst effects of a century’s worth of fossil fuel consumption.

    Warren Senders

    Year 2, Month 7, Day 29: Today Is The First Day Of The Rest Of Our Lives

    According to the Detroit News for July 13, the worsening climate is starting to hit a little closer to home:

    Climate change is impacting some of the major national parks in the Great Lakes region, according to a report released today.

    Michigan destinations such as Sleeping Bear Dunes, Pictured Rocks and Isle Royale National Park were among the five parks studied in a report that targets global warming as the cause of a host of negative impacts on the parks. Those include:

    Birds dropping dead at Sleeping Bear Dunes due to outbreaks of botulism.

    Declining moose population on Isle Royale in Lake Superior.

    Temperature changes allowing Lyme disease-carrying ticks to show up for the first time on Isle Royale.

    The deterioration of shorelines at each park resulting from decreased winter ice.

    The study was put together by the conservation groups Natural Resources Defense Council and the Rocky Mountain Climate Organization.

    I visited Isle Royale as a kid when I was on a cross-country trip with my family. What a beautiful place. Sent July 13:

    It’s been pretty easy for most Americans to dismiss concerns about climate change. Most people have believed for decades that the effects of global warming will be felt only in distant places or in the distant future. The NRDC/RMCO report on Michigan’s National Parks irrefutably confirms both that the Arctic and the Amazon aren’t the only places feeling the heat, and that the “distant future” has already begun. We can no longer claim ignorance; climatologists have predicted the disastrous consequences of a runaway greenhouse effect for years. What is happening to our National Park System is happening to our towns and cities, to our agriculture and to our oceans, and to the other countries with whom we share this planet. There may yet be time for us to bequeath a green and bounteous prosperity to our children and our children’s children — but the window of opportunity is rapidly closing.

    Warren Senders

    Year 2, Month 4, Day 4: A Horse With No Name?

    The Riverside, CA Press-Examiner notes an upcoming conference on the effects of climate change on desert flora and fauna, which are really going to get it in the shorts as things start hotting up:

    “This year’s conference is going to examine the fate of Joshua trees in Joshua Tree National Park. It’s going to look at our potentially drier southwestern climate, and we’re also going to look at how migrating birds might be affected by climate change.”

    The southwestern United States, including the park and Mojave National Preserve, are expected to be some of the hardest hit areas under climate change models, which predict temperatures could jump as much as 7 degrees over the next century.

    Scientists already are seeing evidence of warming, including the migration to higher elevations of the iconic Joshua trees and desert tortoises, said Shteir, whose group is endorsing the Desert Protection Act of 2011.

    Sent March 27:

    In 2011, most Americans had never seen an automobile, and the thought of a nation of motorists driving everywhere would have been considered a fever dream. To humans, a century seems a very long time. But ours is not the only timescale. From the perspective of our planet’s five billion years, a hundred trips around the sun is just a geological eye-blink. Which is why the news about global climate change is so alarming. Climatic transformations in the Earth’s past have taken place over thousands of years, allowing ecosystems a chance to evolve and adapt to changing temperatures and weather patterns. When this happens gradually over millennia, it’s like using the brakes to bring your car to a controlled stop; the same changes over a century are more like driving full-speed into a concrete wall. It’s time for the climate-change denialists to buckle up; we’re headed for a crash.

    Warren Senders

    Year 2, Month 2, Day 24: Baked Alaska

    The Anchorage Daily News notes that climate change is going to affect Alaska’s National Parks. So far the comments haven’t accumulated much in the way of stupidity. I wonder how long that’ll last.

    Sent February 15:

    It is ironic that Alaska owes much of its income stream to the same corporate forces that bankroll climate-change denialism. It’s ironic that Alaska owes much of its income stream to the same corporate forces that bankroll climate-change denialism. Rising global temperatures will devastate Alaska’s National Parks — retreating glaciers, vanishing sea ice, habitat losses and vitiated local ecosystems being just a few examples of what we can expect in the years to come. Once the evidence is too strong to ignore or discount, governments and corporations will have to move to mitigate the damage. Sadly, rapid recovery from environmental destruction on a planetary scale is impossible; scientific assessments of the long-term scope of global warming suggest that we may well be dealing with rising temperatures for centuries to come. With gradual changes of the sort found in the long-term historical record, there has been time for populations and ecosystems to adapt; the transformations effected by the greenhouse effect, however, are the environmental equivalent of driving into a wall at 100 mph. Climate-change denialists, meanwhile, are telling us we don’t even need to fasten our seat belts.

    Warren Senders

    Year 2, Month 2, Day 15: Consider How Small You Are

    The San Jose Mercury News runs a piece on how climate change is affecting California’s redwood trees; their growth requires fog, and the changing temperatures are reducing the sea mists which have been part of their life cycle for centuries.

    A report recently issued by the nonprofit National Parks Conservation Association concludes climate change could affect the formation and presence of fog along the entire Pacific Coast, and that in turn could stunt the giant redwoods.

    “It’s a concern that has been floating around the park service: How do you deal with the fog issue?” said Neal Desai, associate director of the National Parks Conservation Association Pacific Region. “The redwoods at Muir Woods are the iconic trees, and the fog is their lifeblood.”

    Another recent report issued by the Rocky Mountain Climate Organization in Colorado looking at the impact on state parks comes to the same conclusion — and says it’s already happening.

    This was a good opportunity to pull out the “old things deserve respect” meme and take it for a spin again.

    The endangered redwoods embody one of the core lessons that humans need to learn from our changing climate. People come from all over the world to spend time in the majestic groves of Muir Woods, because there is a great peace to be found in the company of the oldest living things on the planet. These trees were hundreds of feet tall when the pilgrims landed on the Atlantic coast; they command our respect, admiration and careful stewardship. We should adopt a similar attitude towards the world’s supply of fossil fuels: the sunlight of the Carboniferous Era, geologically transformed into a barrel of oil, a pound of coal. Whether it’s excess plastic packaging, thousands of hours spent idling our automobiles, or other forms of conspicuous consumption, we’re wasting some of the oldest resources available to our species. Watching the redwoods struggle, it’s increasingly obvious: our profligacy is backfiring on us.

    Warren Senders