East of Los Angeles, about a third of the way between LA and Phoenix, Arizona within the Mohave Desert lies the iconic Joshua Tree National Park. It is named for a variety of yucca that you might have guessed is the Joshua Tree.
It's a beautiful, rock-strewn place that attracts hikers, climbers, mountain bikers and ordinary tourists out to soak in the scenery. The night sky is truly magnificent.
Unfortunately the park, like many American national parks, is in peril.
Most of Joshua Tree national park could become uninhabitable for its eponymous trees, glaciers will continue to melt away at Glacier national park, and many other of America’s most treasured beauty spots could be rendered virtually unrecognizable by climate change, Patrick Gonzalez, the lead author of the study, writes in the journal Environmental Research Letters.
Even the tiniest of creatures are at risk in the worst-case predictions: the American pika, a small alpine mammal, may no longer be able to survive on park land.
“We are preserving the most remarkable ecosystems, and they happen to be in extreme environments,” said Gonzalez, a climate scientist at the University of California, Berkeley. Gonzalez is also the principal climate change scientist for the US National Park Service but conducted and spoke about the research in his university capacity.
Alaska parks would see the most extreme heat increases, and the US Virgin Islands parks face 28% less rainfall by the end of the century. In Glacier Bay national park, the Muir Glacier melted 640 meters between 1948 and 2000.
In Yellowstone national park, trees are dying because bark beetles are thriving in warmer winters. Yellowstone will also become far more vulnerable to wildfires. The area burned could be up to three to 10 times higher by 2100. Joshua Tree national park in California could lose up to 90% of the habitat suitable for its namesake trees.Now I don't want to be a scold here but what lies between America's national parks in the lower 48 and those in Alaska? I suppose that would be Canada's national and provincial parks.
Gonzalez explained that parks at a higher elevation have a thinner atmosphere that warms faster. Higher temperatures are also melting snow cover and making the ground darker so that it absorbs more heat. Parks in California and the south-west US have seen both high temperatures and record-low rainfall, he said.
Parks Canada boasts of our national parks as a "natural solution" to climate change. Seriously, a solution to climate change. I don't know if that was written back in Harper's day but it sure sounds like it.
If you're interested in a little McKenna bafflegab, here's Dame Cathy saying a lot of nothing from the scenic backdrop of Prince Edward Island National Park.