Washington, DC - Today, in celebration of Earth Day, President Obama will visit the Florida Everglades, where rising seas and other climate change impacts are endangering one of the nation’s most iconic landscapes – and increasing risks to the State’s $82 billion tourism economy. To coincide with the President’s trip, the Administration is highlighting the value of special and vulnerable places like the Everglades and announcing new steps to protect the people and places climate change puts at risk.
The President has made clear that no challenge poses a greater threat to future generations than climate change. The effects of climate change can no longer be denied or ignored – last year was the planet’s warmest year recorded, and 14 of the 15 hottest years on record have happened this century. All over the country, Americans are already facing devastating impacts – from severe floods to extreme heat to increased risk of asthma attacks. These impacts pose major economic, public health, and national security threats. Climate change is also affecting some of the most iconic places in our country, from disappearing glaciers in Glacier National Park to dying Joshua Trees in Joshua Tree National Park. These kinds of losses affect the tourism economies of towns and cities across the country that depend on sharing America’s natural splendor with the world.
That’s why President Obama has taken historic action to cut the carbon pollution that drives climate change and protect American communities from the impacts, including setting the first-ever national limits on carbon pollution from the power sector, making a landmark joint announcement with China to curb greenhouse gas emissions, and supporting smart investments in resilient infrastructure. Under the President’s leadership, the Federal Government has also made significant investments to protect and restore the special places that Americans depend on but that are threatened by pollution and climate change, including the Great Lakes, the Gulf Coast, the Chesapeake Bay, and the Everglades.
In the Everglades alone, the Administration has invested $2.2 billion in restoration efforts, with the President’s 2016 Budget proposing nearly $240 million more. In addition to protecting the primary source of drinking water for more than a third of Florida’s population, these efforts are helping ensure that the Florida Everglades – a major driver of the local economy – are resilient to effects of climate change like saltwater intrusion and invasive species.
Highlighting special places and protecting communities from climate change
From diminishing snowpacks to more severe wildfires, climate change is impacting natural landscapes across the country and threatening an outdoor recreation economy that each year generates $646 billion in consumer spending and 6.1 million direct jobs. In Florida, impacts like sea level rise are threatening some of the State’s top tourist attractions, including the Everglades and Florida Keys, with estimated revenue losses of $9 billion by 2025 and $40 billion by the 2050s.
Recognized worldwide as a unique and treasured landscape, the Everglades is a perfect example of the threat we face from climate change, including rising sea levels that result in shoreline erosion and increased flooding. As the seas rise, salty ocean water travels inland, threatening the aquifers that supply fresh drinking water to Floridians, destroying natural habitats, and starving Everglades National Park of freshwater that also serves as the primary source of drinking water for more than a third of Florida’s population. Already, the park’s characteristic mangrove trees – the largest protected mangrove forest in the northern hemisphere – are retreating inland. The changing conditions in the ecosystem are also displacing native animals and plants like tropical orchids, some of which are only found in south Florida.
In addition to their cultural, recreational and historic value, our national parks play a significant role in our economy. And even as climate change threatens their landscapes, national parks play an important role in preventing the worst impacts of climate change. In celebration of Earth Day, this week the Administration is announcing new steps to recognize the value of these special places, as well as actions to protect the people and places climate change puts at risk, including:
Calculating the Value of National Parks Tourism to the U.S. Economy. Today, the National Park Service (NPS) is releasing a new report that shows that every $1 invested by American taxpayers in the National Park Service returns $10 to the U.S. economy. In 2014, a record 293 million National Park visitors spent $15.7 billion in communities around National Parks, providing a $29.7 billion benefit to the U.S. economy and supporting 277,000 jobs.
Calculating the Value of National Parks for Storing Carbon. Today, the NPS and the U.S. Geological Survey are releasing a new report that for the first time calculates the value of National Parks for storing carbon and mitigating climate change. The report concludes that national park lands in the lower 48 states store 14.8 million metric tons of carbon dioxide each year, and that providing this service is valued at more than $580 million each year.
Investing in National Parks. Today, NPS is announcing $26 million for restoration projects at national parks around the country, including $16 million from non-governmental partners. These Centennial Challenge Grants are part of a multi-year effort to prepare for the National Park Service Centennial next year, including a Find Your Park Campaign to connect a broader audience to public lands and President Obama’s Every Kid in a Park initiative that will give every fourth grader and their families free access to national parks and all federal lands and waters for a full year, beginning this Fall.
Designating a New National Historic Landmark Near the Everglades. Today, the Department of the Interior and NPS are designating the Marjory Stoneman Douglas House in Miami, Florida as the Nation’s newest National Historic Landmark. Marjory Stoneman Douglas’s seminal book, The Everglades: River of Grass (1947), marked a significant turning point in the environmental movement, and the Friends of the Everglades organization she founded had a central role in the conservation and restoration of the Everglades. National historic landmarks provide opportunities for Americans to make personal connections with our Nation’s cultural and historical heritage and can help drive tourism and boost local economies.
Designating National Park Week. On Monday, President Obama signed a Proclamation designating this week National Park Week and encouraging all Americans to use and enjoy the unparalleled public lands that belong to all of us.
Providing a Flood Mapping Tool to Help Communities Prepare for Storms. On Tuesday, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration announced that a flood exposure risk mapping tool, originally developed for New York, New Jersey, Delaware, and Pennsylvania, has been expanded to cover coastal areas along the entire U.S. East Coast and Gulf of Mexico. This Coastal Flood Exposure Mapper allows users to select their location and view how local populations, infrastructure and natural areas would be affected under a variety of flood scenarios, with the goal of helping communities reduce their vulnerability to current flood risks. This expanded tool is included in the U.S. Climate Resilience Toolkit called for in the President’s Climate Action Plan.
Making Key Landscapes Resilient to Climate Change. On Tuesday, the Interior Department, U.S. EPA and NOAA announced four landscapes – in southwest Florida, Hawaii, Puget Sound and the Great Lakes—where agencies will focus their efforts with partners to conserve and restore important lands and waters and make them more resilient to a changing climate. These Resilient Lands and Waters projects will build climate resilience in vulnerable regions and enhance carbon storage capacity, focusing on increasing coastal resilience, developing coastal wetlands and marine conservation areas, protecting drinking water for urban areas, providing wildlife habitats, and preventing threats like flooding and invasive species.
Partnering with farmers, ranchers and forest land owners to reduce GHG emissions. On Thursday, the U.S. Department of Agriculture will announce new voluntary actions it will take in partnership with farmers, ranchers and forest land owners to reduce net greenhouse gas emissions and support President Obama’s goal of reducing greenhouse gas emissions 26-28 percent below 2005 levels by 2025.