Park Service publishes climate report after charges of censorship
The National Park Service (NPS) released a major report on rising sea levels after the Trump administration was accused of censoring it.
The Center for Investigative Reporting’s Reveal reported last month that administration officials removed mentions of human-caused climate change in the report, reflecting President Trump’s and Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke’s skepticism that manmade greenhouse gases are the main cause of climate change.
But the report released late Friday puts the blame for sea-level rise squarely in human hands.
“Human activities continue to release carbon dioxide (CO2) into the atmosphere, causing the Earth’s atmosphere to warm,” the report says.
“Further warming of the atmosphere will cause sea levels to continue to rise, which will affect how we protect and manage our national parks.”
NPS spokesman Jeremy Barnum said the report went through the usual editing process, and the agency is confident in its scientific accuracy.
“The report has undergone several rounds of internal and external scientific peer review to ensure that it is most helpful and relevant to the intended audience of park managers and planners, and accurately portrays scientific understanding of how a changing climate and associated sea level rise can affect national park infrastructure, facilities, and resources,” he said in a statement.
Zinke denied at a March hearing — before the Reveal story — that he made or directed any scientific changes for political purposes.
“I didn’t change a paragraph — a comma — in any document and I never would,” he told senators. “I don’t change a comma from any scientific report, but I do read it before it goes out.”
The report, produced by the Park Service with the help of the University of Colorado, tallies risks to NPS sites like the Statue of Liberty and the National Mall from both rising seas and storm surges.
In all, it examines 118 park units for sea-level rise risk and 79 for storm-surge risk, applying findings from the United Nations’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. The agency oversees 417 units total.
The NPS’s National Capital Region, centered on Washington, D.C., is at risk for the highest sea-level rise, the researchers concluded. Parks in North Carolina’s Outer Banks, within the Southeast Region, have the most to lose from storm surge.
“Sea level change and storm surge pose considerable risks to infrastructure, archeological sites, lighthouses, forts, and other historic structures in coastal units of the national park system,” the report concluded.
“Understanding projections for continued change can better guide protection of such resources for the benefit of long-term visitor enjoyment and safety.”