Backyard Climate Change

Backyard Climate Change
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President Donald J. Trump’s dismissal of climate change as a “hoax” is being repudiated in his own official backyard. Rock Creek Park is the vegetative lungs of the nation’s capital, with its 1754 acres winding their way from downtown Washington to well past the Maryland state line.

The park also serves as a barometer of climate change’s impact on the local ecosystem, if only Trump would bother to take note.

Someone conscious of the changes is Dr. Patrick Gonzalez, a climate scientist affiliated with the National Park Service. He has conducted a study of Rock Creek, and the changes he documented are concerning.

Two times larger and more pristine than New York’s Central Park, Rock Creek brings a touch of wilderness to parts of the city. If one were plunked down in certain sections of the park, one would think they were stranded in the midst of a national forest 60 miles away. Wildlife is abundant, with even an occasional coyote detected foraging in adjacent residential neighborhoods.

Rock Creek is clearly not a Trump hangout, but even if it were, the president’s record suggests he would be oblivious to the environmental warning signs.

Gonzalez notes that fourteen percent of the park has been identified as a flood zone. It is thus susceptible to inundation from the faster flow of local streams due to increased rainfall attributed to global warming. Surrounding urban expansion has displaced greenery with asphalt unable to absorb runoff, and thus contributed to the exacerbation of flooding in the park.

Climate change’s higher temperatures have already had deleterious impact. Plant invasive species have made their way from tropical climes, as have boatloads of mosquitoes, some of which carry disease. Native species (including several types of rare salamanders and one tiny officially endangered shrimp-like creature) are declining. On the plant side, tropical vines are proliferating and have displayed the propensity to kill trees and adversely thin the forest cover.

According to Gonzalez, average temperatures and rainfall have increased in the park over the past few decades, again linked by scientists to global warming.

Even though the nation’s capital is inland, it is impacted by distant climate change-related rising oceanic sea levels, thanks to the conveyor belt that is the Potomac River. Consequently, there is periodic flooding at the foot of Rock Creek that is situated in the heart of downtown Washington.

If climate change is not promptly addressed, Gonzalez lays out some unpleasant scenarios. One hundred year floods will become 25-year events. Poison Ivy and other undesirable plants will mushroom. Fish populations will shrivel as the water warms and becomes more polluted. Rock Creek will join the many locales turned unsuitable as part of the stressed monarch butterflies’ migratory routes too Mexico. A sweaty Rock Creek Park would lose its credentials as a leafy refuge from Washington’s blazing summer heat.

Rock Creek’s present environmental woes don’t gibe with Trump’s global warming denial. Nor does any respite loom in the future, given that the president’s contact with nature in the capital seems confined to the White House’s rose garden.

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