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Climate change threatens Crater Lake at centennial

2016 marks the centennial of the National Park Service. Many national parks, including Crater Lake, are planning to a year-long celebration of President Woodrow Wilson's signing on Aug. 25, 1916, the Congressional law known as the Organic Act, to "conserve the scenery and the natural and historic objects and the wild life therein and … leave them unimpaired for the enjoyment of future generations.”

I am a summer seasonal park ranger at Crater Lake National Park. I have worked there for the past 24 years. I also worked as a winter seasonal ranger at Everglades National Park in Florida for 16 years. Our national parks are truly American and global treasures. Crater Lake is the deepest lake in the United States and one of the purest and cleanest bodies of water in the world. Everglades National Park is the only place on Earth where alligators and crocodiles live in the same habitat.

Unfortunately, at the NPS centennial, I have observed climate change affecting our national parks. Sea level rise of up to three feet from global warming by the end of the 21st century threatens to swallow up much of the Everglades.

Even though Southern Oregon experienced a good snowpack for the recent 2015-16 winter, the average annual snowpack has diminishing for decades at Crater Lake. The previous winter of 2014-15 saw our lowest snowpack on record. Consequently, the summer of 2015 saw our largest forest fire in our park's history. The National Park Service considers climate change a top threat facing our national parks as we look ahead to protecting them for the next 100 years.

I write this guest opinion as a private citizen, not as a National Park Service employee. I spend my spare time writing, educating and organizing on the issue of climate change because of what I have seen in our national parks. Over 97 pecent of climate scientists, the U.S. Defense Department and the Catholic Church tell us climate change is real and human-caused, but we can limit the damage if we act now. We must reduce our carbon emissions quickly from the burning of oil, coal, and natural gas and switch to clean energy such as solar, wind, geothermal and energy efficiency.

The best solution I know to reduce the threat of climate change is for Congress to pass the Citizen’s Climate Lobby’s carbon fee and dividend proposal.

CCL’s proposal is to charge a fee for carbon at its source (mine, well or border), and then rebate 100 percent of the revenues monthly to every U.S. household. Two-thirds of the population, especially the poor and middle class, would come out ahead monetarily.

A 2014 study from Regional Economic Models Inc. found our policy would achieve a 52 percent reduction in CO2 emissions within 20 years and add 2.8 million jobs.

Sounds great, you may be thinking, but what are the chances that this dysfunctional and partisan Congress will take bipartisan action to address climate change?

Actually, there is more hope than you might think

In September 2015, Rep. Chris Gibson, R-N.Y., introduced House Resolution 424. It states climate change could have a negative impact on our nation and Congress should start working on solutions. This resolution is now co-sponsored by 12 other House Republicans.

In February, bipartisan House Climate Solutions Caucus was formed, co-chaired by Florida GOP Rep. Carlos Curbelo, R-Fla.,  and Rep. Ted Deutch, D-Fla. This caucus now has 12 members, 6 Republicans and 6 Democrats (and growing!) working on climate change solutions.

In the Senate last October, four GOP senators — Kelly Ayotte (N.H.), Lamar Alexander (Tenn.), Mark Kirk (Ill.), and Lindsey Graham (S.C.) — formed a Senate Energy and Environment Working Group that will “focus on ways we can protect our environment and climate while also bolstering clean energy innovation that helps drive job creation.”

For our national parks, especially Crater Lake, we ask Oregon GOP Rep. Greg Walden to co-sponsor House Resolution 424 and join the House Climate Solutions Caucus. In the Senate, we ask Oregon Sens. Ron Wyden and Jeff Merkley to encourage the Senate Energy and Environment Working Group to work on strong climate change legislative solutions, such as Citizens’ Climate Lobby’s carbon fee and dividend proposal.

Come visit Crater Lake and enjoy your national parks during the 2016 National Park Service Centennial!

Brian Ettling is the co-founder of the Southern Oregon group for Citizens Climate Lobby.