Climate Change

Climate Change

As representatives for the NPS, “we use scientific consensus in what we say and do. We’re not out to change people’s minds, we just tell it like it is and let everyone else make up their own mind” (Dr. Benjamin Pister, NPS).

Do scientists agree about climate change?

There is substantial scientific agreement about the occurrence, causes, and consequences of climate change. According to a recent survey by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), 97 percent of climate scientists agree that global climate change is occurring and that human activity is the primary cause. The survey reached thousands of scientists from all over the world who specialize in different aspects of climate science. A separate study by the National Academy of the Sciences drew the same conclusions.

National Park Service Director Jarvis identified climate change as “…fundamentally the greatest threat to the integrity of our national parks that we have ever experienced” (NPS Climate Change Response Strategy, 2010). Our national parks contain the most treasured landscapes and important historical sites in this country.

“The biggest challenge we have is the concept of the National Park Service was built on the fact that they’re protected and preserved unimpacted for future generations,” said Jarvis, “but already we’re seeing they’re impaired – they’re affected by climate. We need to rethink the fundamental principles of the National Park Service. We can’t stop climate change. We can slow it down. And we can adapt.”

See for the NPS position on and response to Climate Change. Pay particular attention under the NPS Response Policy and Planning link to the NPS Climate Change Action Plan or go directly to This plan lists high-priority actions the National Park Service is committed to undertake in the next two years to address climate change in national parks. It provides guidance to help NPS staff prioritize decisions so that actions are focused and integrated across the Service.


How Do They Know/What Do They Know (from

There is no doubt that climate change is a complex subject. Scientists who study Earth’s climate are looking at more than just weather statistics over time. They factor in atmospheric conditions, sea level, ocean temperature and evaporation rates, amount of water frozen in glaciers and
icecaps and rates of melting, etc. They examine how the climate has changed in the past by measuring relative amounts of atmospheric gasses trapped in ice cores for tens of thousands of years. Our planet has experienced many shifts in its climate over time. The Earth where dinosaurs roamed was very different from the place we know today. But based on what scientists understand about past trends, the changes we are seeing today are far more rapid than anything that has occurred in our planet’s history.

Although we can’t yet predict exactly how climate change will impact a specific area, we are seeing—and will continue to see—the following kinds of changes:

– The timing of flowering, breeding, and migrating will change.

– Plant and animal ranges will move upward and northward.

– Storms will increase in intensity and/or frequency.

– Animal-borne diseases will spread into new areas.

– Historic buildings once safe from river floods and ocean levels will be in jeopardy, and park infrastructure will be at higher risk.

– The iconic views visitors enjoy from our national parks may look upon very different landscapes.

Climate Change terms:


– is the mix of events that happen each day in our atmosphere including temperature, rainfall and humidity. Weather is not the same everywhere. Perhaps it is hot, dry and sunny today where you live, but in other parts of the world it is cloudy, raining or even snowing. Every day, weather events are recorded and predicted by meteorologists worldwide


– your place on the globe controls the weather where you live. Climate is the average weather pattern in a place over many years. So, the climate of Antarctica is quite different than the climate of a tropical island. Hot summer days are quite typical of climates in many regions of the world, even without the affects of global warming (

Global Warming

– refers to the recent and ongoing rise in global average temperature near Earth’s surface. It is caused mostly by increasing concentrations of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. Global warming is causing climate patterns to change. However, global warming itself only represents one aspect of climate change  (

– the increase in Earth’s average surface temperature due to rising levels of greenhouse gases (

Climate change 

– refers to any significant change in the measures of climate lasting for an extended period of time. In other words, climate change includes major changes in temperature, precipitation, or wind patterns, among other effects, that occur over several decades or longer

– a long-term change in the Earth’s climate, or of a region on Earth (

Ocean Acidification

– Ocean acidification, or “OA” for short, is the term given to the chemical changes in the ocean as a result of carbon dioxide emissions (

– About a quarter of all carbon dioxide emissions are absorbed by the earth’s oceans, where they’re having an impact that’s just starting to be understood. Over the last decade, scientists have discovered that excess CO2 is actually changing the chemistry of the sea and proving harmful for many forms of marine life. This process is known as ocean acidification

– Ocean Acidification is climate change’s evil twin (Dr. Benjamin Pister, Ph.D., Chief of Natural & Cultural Resources Management and Science, Cabrillo National Monument, National Park Service)

For more detailed coverage, here are some excellent resources:

Read on…delve into the following links to get all you need to answer visitors questions, or statements, on climate change…

Real Climate (click on the Start Here box)


NOAA National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration


Environmental Protection Agency


National Aeronautics and Space Administration


Scientific American


United States Global Change Research Program


Skeptical Science


National Center for Education


College of the Environment, University of Washington

Last revised 14-Aug-13