Recent comments

  • NPCA: Climate Change Greatest Threat Facing the National Park System   5 years 32 weeks ago

    I'm afraid the comments section of National Parks Traveler is, if anything, a less suitable place to get into intricacies of climate dynamics than an NPS visitor center. And it strays far from the original point of the post and the comment thread.

    But since you insist on an answer, Richard, I respond that your question is invalid. (This is the correct answer to a lot of life's questions--ask a philosopher!) You seek a simple answer to a question that defies simple answers.

    Let's re-phrase the question: You want to know whether an increased proportion of carbon molecules in the atmosphere will cause the planet's aggregate average temperature to A.) Increase, or B.) Decrease. What this question fails to recognize is that there is an unfathomable number of constants and variables affecting that equation. Many, if not most, of those constants and variables are debatable, unknown, or unknowable. Some cannot be measured with any technique we have. Some, we measure entirely wrong. Of some, we are entirely unaware. Some act in completely screwy ways that we don't understand. Many affect each other in real time. Many have effects that don't manifest for years or decades. Most are of infinitesimally small effect.

    In concrete terms, those variables include the entire global atmosphere, all liquid, gaseous, and frozen water on Earth, a wide variety of geological factors, every living thing, including rainforests, ants, and humans, the position and mass of the Moon, and any and all solar activity, or lack thereof. We know that the Earth's climate has varied in the past--this is not an insignificant point. So whatever the role of greenhouse gases, we know that some of these other variables can have an impact far larger than anything we have actually observed from CO2.

    This is why it is fabulously difficult to solve for the effect of carbon gases on global temperature. And that's assuming that the desired solution is itself a valid [url http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2007/03/070315101129.htm]concept[/url].

    Then there is the matter of feedback loops. All catastrophic climate change predictions depend on the idea that small amounts of warming will themselves cause larger amounts of warming. (This is reflected in Ray Bane's comment, and every claim that it is already, or may soon be, "too late.") This goes beyond the complexity of the original equation, and requires a shocking amount of voodoo and guesswork, to come to a conclusion that is wholly counterintuitive. In the macro view, the physical history of these systems shows that in the most recent few millions of years, the Earth has been fairly steady. An Ice Age here, a great drought there; these things are normal, and do not lead to catastrophic, cascading changes. Yes, massive glaciation across the upper Midwest would be terribly inconvenient, but it's happened before, and life went on. It is the very existence of life, in all its glorious variety, which illustrates that the earth's climate, as a whole, possesses positive dynamic stability.

    That is, when something like CO2 concentration gets out of whack, the system as a whole compensates. It's not a conscious thing; rather, the system can exist only because it compensates. Otherwise, it would have spun out of control eons ago, and would never have attained the stability necessary for millions of years of evolution. A simple and familiar illustration of positive dynamic stability would be vegetal processing of CO2. If increased CO2 concentrations (natural or anthropogenic) warmed the Earth's climate, one important result would be an increase in vegetation, as ranges and growing seasons expanded. Greater plant growth would consume more CO2 and sequester it in solid organic matter, leading eventually to a reversion to the mean--less atmospheric CO2, cooler weather, decreased range, less plants. This is merely an example to illustrate the concept, though I stress that this interaction is described by the same great equation that we previously arranged to solve for global average temperature. It has just as many constants and variables, and is just as difficult to test.

    Did anyone bother reading all that? Now would be a good time to mention that I gave up on my scientific career goals somewhere around 10th grade, when I figured out that my chemistry teacher was a schmuck, and that I sucked at math. But I was around long enough to learn that science is about debate, not consensus. (Would now be a good time to talk about eugenics, and how nasty things can become when scientists convince politicians that they've figured it all out?) Instead, I'm just a historian. A historian with enough career ambition not to put his name on comments that, I hope, have been reasonable and insightful, but that are contrary to the prevailing political and organizational winds.

    Now, here's what I want out of this. I don't want to convince anyone that I know everything, or anything, about climate science. I don't want to convince anyone that global warming is a myth or a hoax; I don't have the scientific moxy to do it. But I do want every reader to stop caricaturing their political opponents! Each camp is made up of a range of people, including some on both sides who contribute nothing more than annoyed scoffs. There are enough evasions and logical fallacies bandied about by both sides to make Aristotle cry. But there are also people who know what they are talking about, and are debating in good faith. Let each reader consider: If you brush these people and their arguments aside, you are no more than a scoffer, and you are not part of the debate--you have picked your team based on the color of their uniforms.

    If you want to seriously consider skepticism about climate change, rather than dismissing it summarily because of the color of its uniform, I can certainly recommend starting with Warren Meyer's blog, www.climate-skeptic.com . He's serious, skeptical, and debates in good faith.

  • Sky Diving at Denali National Park? A Florida-Based Company Thinks It's a Great Idea   5 years 32 weeks ago

    Anyone remember BASE jumping in Yosemite? I thought that one of the biggest worries was of someone jumping off, the chute not opening, and perhaps injuring someone on the ground.

  • Verizon Wireless Wants Cellphone Tower Near Grant Grove in Kings Canyon National Park   5 years 32 weeks ago

    Richard, re-read my previous comment and click on the link I provided about the defense of the open forum, read all the comments on that article, and my statement, which you're not interpreting correctly, might make more sense.

    Anon, if you really think you can find solitude in Grant Grove, you haven't been there.

  • NPCA: Climate Change Greatest Threat Facing the National Park System   5 years 32 weeks ago

    Richard: Check out this link for an answer:

    http://www.co2science.org/about/position/globalwarming.php

    According to Wikipedia, CO2 accounts for 9 to 26% of the "natural greenhouse effect". That's quite a range, indicating uncertainty.

  • Aging Activists Gather at Congaree National Park to Recall a Nick-of-Time Rescue   5 years 32 weeks ago

    I think you've pretty much hit it on the head, Jim. As Jim said in his opening remarks, "all we had was the voice of the people."

  • Aging Activists Gather at Congaree National Park to Recall a Nick-of-Time Rescue   5 years 32 weeks ago

    What a great reminder that "ordinary people" can make a real difference in our world!

  • Verizon Wireless Wants Cellphone Tower Near Grant Grove in Kings Canyon National Park   5 years 32 weeks ago

    Been there, done that. I've seen it from all sides. Having it there when the conversations were unwanted and not having it there when it would have been very useful and unobtrusive.

    A couple of years ago I was backpacking in Yosemite. A Boy Scout group was next door and I woke up in the morning because one of the kids was talking on his cell phone with his folks. Granted I did call a friend from the top of Half Dome and Clouds Rest, but I placed myself far away from other people when I made those calls.

    Now I do remember being in Grant Village a few days later and needing to meet someone there. Of course no cell phone coverage. If I didn't make the contact it would have been rather difficult to figure out what happened. Later I found myself at Stony Creek Lodge trying to make a reservation over their pay phone. That had to be the scratchiest land line phone I've ever used. I would have loved to have been able to use my cell phone.

  • Sky Diving at Denali National Park? A Florida-Based Company Thinks It's a Great Idea   5 years 32 weeks ago

    I have never been there,but have read much about how dangerous it can be around the mountain at times. i have been around skydiving alot,my father used to haul them as a job.to be nice this sounds extremely foolish at best. they should be rejected with no appeal whatsoever. if something went wrong,pretty fair chance of that, i don't want my tax money used to fix the mess. this kind of thing was not why we protected these lands.

  • Verizon Wireless Wants Cellphone Tower Near Grant Grove in Kings Canyon National Park   5 years 32 weeks ago

    Can't anyone live anymore without being "connected"? If you can't enjoy the nature and solitude, perhaps you should just stay away.

  • NPCA: Climate Change Greatest Threat Facing the National Park System   5 years 32 weeks ago

    I really wanted an answer to my question: What do the naysayers think happens to the planet when we put so much carbon into the atmosphere?

    If there is a question as to what happens to all that carbon, perhaps the precautionary principle is the best way to treat the over abundance of carbon created by mans actions. Unless you don't care.

  • Sky Diving at Denali National Park? A Florida-Based Company Thinks It's a Great Idea   5 years 32 weeks ago

    I think that Yosemite stopped its Fire Fall because it was not a natural part of the park, although for some reason they felt it necessary to keep the golf course. The fire fall attracted crowds into a meadow to watch the spectacle, and was ruining the meadow. If operating a hang gliding operation in Denali is NOT going to damage the environment, go for it. Otherwise forget it. I think that the Park Service sometimes has a double standard regarding what visitors may do in our National Parks.

  • Woman Dies in Fall From Angel's Landing   5 years 32 weeks ago

    We "chickened out" at the chains, but found a much, much better and far safer view at Observation Point. Glad we turned around and enjoyed the day!

  • NPCA: Climate Change Greatest Threat Facing the National Park System   5 years 32 weeks ago

    MRC, If you can't dispute their evidence, call them names. I'm surprised to see you fall into the ad hominem trap. In the interest of civil discourse, ad hominems, appeal to ridicule (calling skeptics "fools"), and other attacks should stop.

    As for the "consensus", that's an argumentum ad populum (Latin: "appeal to the people"), which in logic, is a fallacious argument that concludes a proposition to be true because many or all people believe it; it alleges that "If many believe so, it is so." There was once a majority of people who thought the Earth was the center of the universe.

    There is plenty of room for debate, and those shutting down the debate--by name calling or other means--are displaying characteristics of intellectual fundamentalism and censorship.

    Anonymous wrote, "What we can do is introduce the idea that these matters are extremely complex, and that they should be skeptical of anyone who tries to sell them a policy proposal based on a 90-second thumbnail sketch of climate science, either for or against."

    Well said, sir.

  • Ill-Advised Leap from a Bluff Leads to a Challenging Rescue at Buffalo National River   5 years 32 weeks ago

    I agree with K. Sender. What are these idiot tourists thinking? You sure don't ever hear of a local person doing something stupid like thhis! And people call us dumb hill folks!!

  • NPCA: Climate Change Greatest Threat Facing the National Park System   5 years 32 weeks ago

    Well MRC, temps have been cooling since 1998 when the last warming period seems to have peaked. I won't venture a guess as to why but remain content in the knowledge that the Earth is not static and change is the norm. We roll with the punches but ultimately our fate, as is the fate of all living beings, is extinction. 99% of all species that have ever appeared on this blue and green marble are now consigned to the category of total oblivion. Makes you really admire the clams, sharks and cockroaches for their tenacity.

  • NPCA: Climate Change Greatest Threat Facing the National Park System   5 years 32 weeks ago

    Forget the ants, they are part of the cycle that is going on for millennia. Co2 in the biosphere is natural and the ecosystems and the global greenhouse is well adopted to it. The problem arises because we pull carbon dioxide from deposits were it was stored for millions of years and sequestered from the biosphere and release it by burning fossil fuels such as coal and oil.

    This carbon dioxide is additional to the amount that the biosphere and the meteorological system is adopted to. And only a fool can think that this won't have consequences. It is this easy. Anyone who does not agree is either a fool or has a personal agenda.

  • NPCA: Climate Change Greatest Threat Facing the National Park System   5 years 32 weeks ago

    I know the Anonymouses are piling up here, but I'm the original, and I think Dean is exactly right. Not right that I'm a denier who believes falsehoods and misrepresentations--anyone who claims that there is such a thing as "settled" science is trying to cover up contradictory evidence through an appeal to authority. There was a time when Newtonian mechanics was the last word in physics...

    Rather, Dean is right that we have agencies for environmental policy, and the NPS would gain nothing and lose much by trying to become another EPA. (Or, to get back to the point of Kurt's original post, the NPCA will gain nothing by turning NPS into another EPA.) If there is a role for the NPS in climate change, it is in educating about effects.

    1. By talking about effects, we work from empirical evidence, rather than theory. Changes in glaciation, plant and animal distribution, rock geology, air quality--these can all be measured and reported on the local level. Their causes are almost never singular. Let's take an example: wildfire. Increased wildfire rates can be attributed to hotter weather, drier weather, insect infestation, misguided fire suppression policies, and increased human carelessness. In many cases, most or all of these are factors. To global-warming zealots, the main cause is global warming. To the timber industry, you can be sure the main cause is bad forest management. Who is right? In the macro sense, they both are. But to each group, every fire is grist for their respective mills. It is wrong for the NPS, or its representatives, to single out a pet cause and use the parks as a pulpit for policy evangelism. But the evangelists can never see that (I'm looking at you, climate zealots!), because they're right, dammit, and why can't everyone else see that?

    2. The parks are discrete areas, with discrete interpretive missions. It is entirely preferable to discuss (for example) receding glaciers in the context of local changes in temperature and precipitation without needing to talk about temperature and precipitation changes on the global scale. We oversimplify the global climate system when we attribute local changes in glaciation to worldwide effects. And we stray far from our appointed topics. If anything, use climate change as a springboard to talk about Glacier NP, but don't use Glacier NP as a springboard to talk about global warming.

    3. Ultimately, educating about effects and their potential causes, without taking policy positions (like NPCA's ridiculous and disastrous cap-and-trade system) based on our personal bêtes noire, is good interpretation. These are complex systems. I do not expect any visitor to gain a mastery of climate science by reading a series of wayside signs. I do not want anyone to come to a conclusion about global warming based off my, or any other interpreter's, 20-minute talk about glaciation. What we can do is introduce the idea that these matters are extremely complex, and that they should be skeptical of anyone who tries to sell them a policy proposal based on a 90-second thumbnail sketch of climate science, either for or against.

  • Mount Rainier National Park: Reaching Out to Camping Newbies   5 years 32 weeks ago

    This is an ambitious, generous program, and I applaud Ranger Carlquist and MORA and Seattle PRD management in their efforts to interest an often forgotten population in recreation opportunities in national parks. This is a new program and, based on my experience with several similar programs in the East, may be asking too much of many of the qualifying families. Aside from demographic issues that work against this program, many urban communities demonstrate an outright fear of "the woods," let alone a chance to camp in what they may interpret as remote wilderness. Perhaps this program should be carried out in stages where families could spend their first night camping in familiar territory closer to their homes. Once acclimated to this experience, families could be put at ease going "into the woods." Another strategy, one that has been extremely successful at Everglades, is a residential camping experience as part of an environmental education program. If I recall correctly, at one time families were encouraged to overnight with their child for one night during the experience. That program was - still is as far as I know - deeply embedded in the regional school system. There are any number of successful options regarding this subject. I trust those involved have explored many of these options beforehand so they can apply the working options and avoid discouragement. Success isn't happening overnight here, so management should support this opportunity for at least three years before pulling the plug. I wish them well.

  • NPCA: Climate Change Greatest Threat Facing the National Park System   5 years 32 weeks ago

    I neglected this articles as well, on the current consensus.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Scientific_opinion_on_climate_change

  • NPCA: Climate Change Greatest Threat Facing the National Park System   5 years 32 weeks ago

    Articles like this bring deniers out of the woodwork, and I don't think it's representative overall. They continue to believe falsehoods and misrepresentations. The idea that the world is too big for us puny humans to impact is a constant that environmentalists always had to deal with. Early on, they said the atmosphere was too big for our air pollution to impact. Same for big rivers and lakes. Now it's the climate.

    But getting beyond that, it is important to consider what the NPS' role is for a situation as broad and deep as this. The NPS shouldn't 't take on the role of much larger agencies with an explicit role in policy and/or regulation. But I think that education as to the impact could be it's most important role. Our national parks may be the locale where the most people get the closest to the natural environment. Park bookstores and visitor centers need to rigorously stick to the most well-settled science, even though the kinds of deniers who are responding here will be upset with it.

    Ranger talks shouldn't shy from dealing with this issue, even though they will get snide comments from some visitors. Though some readers may have a fit about it, those aspects of the issue where the consensus is strong (see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Consensus_on_climate_change_controversy) should be well-covered and get the focus.

    As well, efforts to help species whose range is being eliminated and where park borders prevent migration could be helped. but not to the degree that we make zoos out of the parks.

  • NPCA: Climate Change Greatest Threat Facing the National Park System   5 years 32 weeks ago

    Ants and termites produce the most greenhouse gases. It's great news for the plant kingdom. We is one big gassy & happy world, we is!

  • NPCA: Climate Change Greatest Threat Facing the National Park System   5 years 32 weeks ago

    Ants, Beamis? Really? I know cows churn out a lot of methane, but didn't know that about ants. Got a link for my edification (seriously)?

    Looking back through the comments, usually the Traveler doesn't see this amount of vitriol bubbling up unless the subject is guns in the parks or, (dare I say), mountain bikes in the parks. And somehow this week we've stumbled upon two highly divisive topics -- cellphone towers and global warming/climate change. Who would have figured?

    The upside of this is that such interest and debate is one of the key goals here at the Traveler, to get folks thinking and discussing and, yes, even debating. I hope I'm not the only one who's been clicking on some of the links offered in the comments to learn more about the various opinions and thoughts that exist on these topics (although I'll be damned if I can figure out just exactly what a deep solar minimum portends, and it seems some NASA experts are in the same boat). Sometimes such debate and efforts to support arguments is the only way to get some to consider something new.

    The downside is that some comments have included unnecessary labels.

    Trying to moderate is a tough job. You'll never make everybody happy. We usually try to take a hands-off approach until the very end, but sometimes that's too late. So, please make our jobs a little easier and stick to the high road. There's no shortage of statistics for that.

  • Mount Rainier National Park: Reaching Out to Camping Newbies   5 years 32 weeks ago

    There's actually a fantastic program similar to this that has been going on in Texas state parks for more than a year. It's called Texas Outdoor Family and teaches families everything from pitching a tent to kayaking to geocaching. It's not free -- $55 covers everything, including park entrance fees, except food and sleeping bags for a family up to 6 or 8 people. Granted, it's not in the national parks, but it's a great program at interesting and significant sites all over Texas.

    For details: http://www.tpwd.state.tx.us/learning/bof/

  • Ill-Advised Leap from a Bluff Leads to a Challenging Rescue at Buffalo National River   5 years 32 weeks ago

    This speaks volumes about the rescue workers! As for the victim, well maybe just maybe he learned his lesson. I do hope he is OK.

  • NPCA: Climate Change Greatest Threat Facing the National Park System   5 years 32 weeks ago

    Ray Bane wrote, "I fear you are right, Anonymous. In some ways it [global warming skepticism] seems to be an immature effort to deny responsibility for what is likely to be a worldwide crisis."

    Can we please stop the ad hominem arguments (attacks)? Calling global warming skeptics "immature" and irresponsible in an attempt to discredit an argument certainly would seem to be against NPT's code of conduct.

    I do not think it fair to label "immature" or irresponsible Richard Lindzen, a Harvard-trained atmospheric physicist and Alfred P. Sloan Professor of Meteorology at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Nor would it be fair to so label the number of other scientists who are also global warming skeptics.

    I agree with Beamis that there are far too many variables to make an accurate prediction. Glaciers have been retreating for thousands of years, with a brief pause during the solar minimum that corresponded with the Little Ice Age. Solar output is variable and unpredictable, and scientists do not fully understand the physics behind the sunspot cycle. Milankovitch cycles also play a role in climate change. There's the issue data validity and the heat island effect as well as using models versus empirical forecasts.

    Skeptics are not immature or irresponsible nor should the evidence skeptics present or the questions they ask be blithely brushed away. To do so is to act fundamentally; intellectual fundamentalism is a strong disinclination to take seriously the notion that one might be wrong.

    I'm willing to admit that I could be wrong. Are you?