Joshua trees are a unique tree, not just in how they grow and look, but in where they’re located too. These iconic trees are only found in the Mojave Desert at elevations from 2,000 to 6,000 feet. Because these trees have such a specific range, they are especially threatened by a changing climate.
And it’s not just that the climate is changing, but national parks, like Joshua Tree National Park, are warming twice as quickly as the rest of the United States. It may not be long before Joshua Tree National Park is without the tree for which it is named. Trees like the Joshua tree aren’t the only ones threatened by a warming planet. Numerous other plants and animals are imperiled as well.
Reducing carbon emissions from industrial sources could “substantially reduce the magnitude” of the impacts of climate change, according to a study published in Environmental Research Letters on Monday. The study examined the rainfall and temperatures in every one if America’s 417 national parks and determined that these parks were warming twice as fast on average as the rest of the country.
National parks often protect extreme natural environments, like Denali in Alaska and the Everglades in Florida. This is part of the reason why climate change, which causes extreme weather patterns as is, is causing such a drastic shift in our national parks.
According to the research team’s findings, national parks have warmed by 1.8 degrees Fahrenheit and annual precipitation has fallen 12 percent since 1885. At the rate we are emitting greenhouse gases, this temperature rise could reach 16 degrees Fahrenheit by the end of the century.
Climate change poses an additional threat to coastal national parks. On a warmer planet, sea levels are expected to rise by as much as 1.5 meters, which would threaten to damage and wash away numerous coastal national parks.
Fortunately, it’s not too late to take action on climate change. Taking positive action like planting trees, reducing your waste, driving less, biking more, and demanding that your government and your country’s business community take stronger action on climate change are all things you can do to protect these precious national parks and the planet as a whole.