Aug. 25 marks the centennial of the National Park Service. National Parks, including nearby Crater Lake, has held celebration events this summer to commemorate President Woodrow Wilson signing the congressional law known as the Organic Act on Aug. 25, 1916.
That law created the NPS and its mission to "conserve the scenery and the natural and historic objects and the wild life therein and ... leave them unimpaired for the enjoyment of future generations.”
I have worked as a summer seasonal park ranger at Crater Lake National Park for the past 24 years. Crater Lake is the deepest lake in the United States and one of the purest and cleanest bodies of water in the world.
Unfortunately, as we celebrate the NPS Centennial, I have observed climate change affecting Crater Lake.
Science tells us the average annual snowpack has been diminishing for decades at Crater Lake. Because of climate change, the winters at Crater Lake are not as cold, snowy, and long as they used to be. As a result, our forest fire season has become long, drier and more intense. The summer of 2015 saw the largest forest fire in Crater Lake’s history, burning over 20,000 acres. This summer we just had a stressful forest fire burn over 1,000 acres.
I write this guest opinion as a private citizen, not as a National Park Service employee. Because I have observed climate change affecting Crater Lake, I co-founded the Southern Oregon Citizens Climate Lobby group in 2013 in my spare time.
Over 97 percent of climate scientists, the U.S. Defense Department and the Catholic Church tell us climate change is real and human-caused, but we can limit the damage if we act now. We must reduce our carbon emissions quickly from the burning of oil, coal and natural gas and switch to clean energy sources such as solar, wind and geothermal, and increase energy efficiency.
The best solution I know to reduce the threat of climate change is for Congress to pass Citizen’s Climate Lobby’s carbon fee and dividend proposal.
CCL’s proposal is to charge a fee for carbon at its source (mine, well or U.S. border), and then rebate 100 percent of the revenues monthly to every U.S. household. Two-thirds of the population, especially the poor and middle class, would come out ahead monetarily.
A 2014 study from Regional Economic Models Inc. found our policy would achieve within 20 years a 52 percent reduction in CO2 emissions and add 2.8 million jobs.
Sounds great, you may be thinking, but what are the chances that this dysfunctional and partisan Congress will take bipartisan action to address climate change?
Actually, there is more hope than you might think
In September 2015, Rep. Chris Gibson, R-N.Y., introduced House Resolution 424. It states climate change could have a negative impact on our nation and Congress should start working on solutions. This resolution is now co-sponsored by 13 other House Republicans.
In February, the bipartisan House Climate Solutions Caucus was formed, co-chaired by Florida Republican Rep. Carlos Curbelo and Florida Democratic Rep. Ted Deutch. This caucus now has 16 total members, eight Republicans and eight Democrats (and growing!) working on climate change solutions.
For our national parks, especially Crater Lake, we ask Rep. Greg Walden, R-Ore., to co-sponsor House Resolution 424 and join the House Climate Solutions Caucus. It’s time for Walden to work with his colleagues on strong climate change legislative solutions, such as Citizens’ Climate Lobby’s carbon fee and dividend proposal.
Come visit Crater Lake and enjoy your national parks during the 2016 National Park Service Centennial!
— Brian Ettling is co-founder of the Southern Oregon group for Citizens Climate Lobby. He writes this guest opinion as a private citizen, not as a National Park Service employee.