The National Park Service is embracing alternative forms of energy to supply our energy needs. Park employees install solar panels at San Francisco Maritime National Historical Park. Photo by NPS.
Though adapting to climate change is the core of National Park Service strategy, it is far easier and more cost effective to prevent aspects of climate change from happening in the first place than to manage their effects. The National Park Service (NPS) recognizes that many of our activities, decisions, and plans have impacts on greenhouse gas emissions and storage. Therefore, responding to climate change begins with limiting our own emissions and incorporating climate-friendly practices into our management and culture.
Reducing Our Carbon Footprint
Minimizing the causes of climate change is often called mitigation
. We define it here as human intervention to reduce the sources or enhance the sinks of greenhouse gases. Mitigation involves reducing our "carbon footprint" by using less energy (or shifting to renewable energy) and appropriately altering our land management practices. Mitigation is also achieved through carbon sequestration, a process by which CO2
from the atmosphere is taken up by biological and physical processes. The most common form of sequestration is photosynthesis in plants (e.g. tree trunks and roots, grasses, algae), which converts CO2
Climate Friendly Goals
The NPS is quickly becoming a model of thoughtful and environmentally sensitive climate stewardship. We are doing our part to become climate-friendly by reducing our greenhouse gas emission within park boundaries and at NPS offices and encouraging low-cost efficiency and conservation measures that mitigate climate change. Three goals will guide climate friendly practices in the parks:
- By 2016, substantially reduce the National Park System's carbon footprint from 2008 levels through aggressive commitment to greener operations.
The NPS will immediately inventory greenhouse gas emissions and cap energy and water use. We will develop a climate friendly action plan so that every park, concession, and administrative office promotes conservation, and supports alternative transportation, smart infrastructure, renewable technologies, and policies that minimize waste.
- Integrate climate change mitigation into NPS business practices and culture.
We will integrate greenhouse gas emission reduction into general management plans, National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) and other environmental compliance, resource stewardship, building design and maintenance, procurement, contracts, and commercial services.
- Incorporate biological carbon sequestration as a mitigation option where it is consistent with the NPS mission.
Working with partners and the Department of Interior carbon storage project, the NPS will evaluate and select appropriate carbon accounting tools, then determine current and potential carbon storage on park lands. Furthermore, we will develop and promote policies and technical guidance for carbon sequestration where it is consistent with the NPS mission and individual park purposes. In many cases, sequestration will entail restoring degraded landscapes to naturally-functioning condition, resulting in enhanced carbon storage and greater ability of species to adapt to a changing climate.
Visit our Get Involved
pages to learn more about the actions the National Park Service is taking to reduce our greenhouse gas emmissions or how you can reduce your carbon footprint at home or on your visit to a national park.
Here is a suggested link to learn more about climate change adaptation or how other agencies are addressing this topic: