Climate Change: Senators Udall and McCain get an up close look at changes in Rocky Mountain National Park

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Arizona Senator John McCain and Colorado Senator Mark Udall were up in Rocky Mountain National Park yesterday getting a first hand look at the devastation wrought by pine beetles. They also heard a pitch about the need for climate change legislation from park officials. Here’s a report from Bobby Magill writing for the Fort Collins Coloradoan. From the article:

“The effects of climate change are not yet to come but are occurring right now,” David Schimel, senior scientist at the National Center for Atmospheric Research in Boulder, told Udall and McCain. “Colorado is in one of the parts of the Lower 48 to experience the greatest warming.” He said decreases in mountain snow and runoff could mean a 25 percent reduction in water in the Colorado River system compared with today’s levels. The amount of carbon the region’s forests absorb from burning fossil fuels will be reduced by half as the planet warms, he said. Climate change will submerge some Eastern national parks under rising oceans, melt Glacier National Park’s glaciers, kill Joshua Tree National Park’s Joshua trees and dramatically change the face of Rocky Mountain National Park, said Stephen Saunders, president of the Rocky Mountain Climate Organization. “We’ve never lost a national park before,” but global warming could change that, he said…

Udall and McCain reiterated their support for nuclear power as part of a cure for climate change. McCain said he will not support a climate change plan that does not include nuclear power. “If we want to respond to climate change, nuclear power has to be part of the solution,” Udall said, later calling nuclear part of an “all-of-the-above strategy.”

More coverage from The Denver Post (Bruce Finley):

“I agree with Sen. McCain that nuclear power has to be part of the mix,” Udall, chairman of the Energy and Natural Resources Committee’s subcommittee on National Parks, said Monday in the meadow. “It is clear that if we want to respond to climate change, nuclear power has to be part of the solution.” Later in an interview, Udall said his support includes emphasis on safety by improving the Nuclear Regulatory Commission and issuance of mining permits. Udall also noted that a project to store nuclear waste at Yucca Mountain in Nevada appears to be “a dead project.” At some point, he said, “you have to have a geologic depository that is safe.”

The hearing Monday — following Udall and McCain’s two-day weekend swing through Grand Canyon National Park — focused not on the complexities of “cap-and-trade” legislation and energy policy but rather on using national parks as “canaries” to signal specific changes and convey them in a way that mobilizes tens of millions of Americans.

About 100 residents attended the hearing, where experts from the National Center for Atmospheric Research, the National Park Service and other institutions warned that human activities are disrupting natural processes.

More coverage from the Summit Daily News (Bob Berwyn):

Tiny mammals, moths and birds such as Colorado’s famed ptarmigan are all threatened by rapid warming in mountain regions, and America’s national parks — the jewels in her natural resource crown — could be most threatened of all. That’s according to Stephen Saunders, president of the Rocky Mountain Climate Organization, speaking during a federal parks subcommittee hearing Tuesday in Estes Park. Saunders, whose organization issued a landmark 2006 report on climate change threats to national parks, tried to rally Americans to protect natural treasures like Yosemite, Yellowstone and the Grand Canyon. U.S. citizens have always responded when parks are in danger, he said, outlining concerns over more insect infestations, frequent wildfires and dramatic loss of habitat for many species. Saunders said the National Park Service too often has looked the other way, citing climate change impacts as external forces beyond the control of planners. The agency is mandated by law and its own policies use all available authorities “to protect park resources and values from potentially harmful activities.”

More coverage from the Boulder Daily Camera (Laura Snider):

Udall and McCain, R-Ariz., agreed that global warming is real, that it is negatively affecting national parks, that climate-change legislation will have to wait until health-care reform is somehow put to bed, that the president needs to lead the way in creating such carbon-limiting laws, and that nuclear power must be a part of the country’s future energy portfolio.

More climate change coverage here and here.

2 thoughts on “Climate Change: Senators Udall and McCain get an up close look at changes in Rocky Mountain National Park

  1. This anti-Carbon anti-green anti-life CO2 global warming fiction has to come to an end . Each of us is 93% CO2 + H2O and by textbook physics our temperature is constrained to be about 1%21 whatever temperature the sun decides to be .

    I particularly would like to know how “global warming” has any more to do with the pine beetle north of where I live in Teller County than “global cooling” did with Dutch Elm disease which devastated elm groves across the midwest in my youth .

    Particularly explain how the quarter of one percent rise in mean temperature over the last century has so far pretty much skipped us down south here with the pine beetles . Shouldn’t we have been in their preferred half of a degree temperature range first ?

    • Bob,

      Thanks for the comment.

      Pine beetles are largely controlled by periods of very cold temperatures. Northern Colorado just doesn’t get the extended periods of cold that were the norm before now. Most reasonable people (and most scientists) believe that humankind has started a global warming trend. Warmer temperatures == less periods of very cold temperatures and therefore less control of the beetle population. That is how “global warming” has an effect on the pine beetle.

      You set up a false dichotomy with the pine beetle and Dutch Elm disease. I can’t remember anyone blaming dutch elm disease on anthropomorphic effects on climate.

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