The president, climate change and the Everglades

We’ve all seen photographs of polar bears trying to leap from one ice floe to another in the dissolving Arctic, and time-lapse images of glaciers retreating up valleys toward oblivion. They’ve become symbols of a world warming too quickly for either physical or mental adaptation. This Earth Day a new poster child for climate change entered the mainstream when the president spoke there–the Everglades.

With steel-grey clouds overhead, harbingers of an advancing storm, President Obama spoke about what threatens the largest subtropical wilderness in the US and why it matters. “[H]ere in the Everglades, you can see the effect of a changing climate.  As sea levels rise, salty water from the ocean flows inward. And this harms freshwater wildlife, which endangers a fragile ecosystem,” he said. “[P]art of the reason we’re here is because climate change is threatening this treasure and the communities that depend on it, which includes almost all of south Florida. And if we don’t act, there may not be an Everglades as we know it.”

Like most national parks the Everglades contributes significantly to local economies making their cumulative, national impact a big one. The president announced that “…every dollar invested in the National Park Service generates $10 for the economy.” He continued, “In 2014, almost 300 million visitors to our national parks spent almost $16 billion and supported 277,000 jobs.  So protecting our parks is a smart thing to do for our economy.”

Climate change is an issue that effects all categories of national parks–natural, cultural and historical–and responding to it has been called “the greatest challenge facing the National Park Service today” by NPS Director Jon Jarvis. The agency focuses on strengthening the  resilience of parklands and their valuable resources and on adapting to change that is happening too quickly to thwart.

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 Photo courtesy NPS. 

© Heather Hansen