Appalachian Trail Conservancy
In Response to President Trump's Decision to Withdraw from the Paris Climate Agreement
Statement from Ron Tipton, President & CEO of the Appalachian Trail Conservancy
It is unfortunate that President Trump pulled the U.S. out of the Paris Climate Agreement that challenges all nations to work collaboratively towards meaningful solutions to climate change. Yet all is not lost — 10 of the 14 states that are home to the A.T. have set aggressive renewable energy portfolio goals and others are expected to find the need to take action in the absence of federal leadership. The ATC will continue to develop solid climate change related policy with our recently hired Director of Federal and Legislative Policy.
In the coming years visitors will likely have to cope with higher temperatures, dried-up streams and more forest fires similar to the devastating fires in Great Smoky Mountains National Park in 2016.
For now, water availability isn’t a vital problem, but if those supplies dry up, it will present an entirely different and punishing challenge for those seeking to enjoy the A.T. During the 2007-2008 drought, portions of the Trail in North Carolina had to be closed — was that an unusual event or a harbinger of the future?
According to the U.S. Global Change Research Program, climate history shows the Southeast has become hotter and drier since the 1970s. For most of the Appalachian region in the past 30 years, between five and 15 fewer days of freezing temperatures have been recorded each winter. Climate models project continued warming and far less rainfall in coming years.
Many other threats to hikers and the Trail itself — including increases in reports of Lyme disease and other tick-borne illnesses, the spread of invasive plants and insects, changes in the timing of the seasons, severe weather events leading to treadway erosion, and more frequent and severe blowdown events — are all occurring right now and are predicted to worsen as a result of carbon emissions.
The Appalachian Trail Conservancy (ATC) has solid data regarding Trail-specific climate trends based on modeling we completed with former board member Lenny Bernstein, a respected scientist and former member of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. Our analysis showed that temperatures will rise across the entire Trail and it will become even drier in the southern portions of the Trail. We will likely see more extreme weather events, particularly in the northern Trail sections. This scientific analysis was behind the ATC’s board approval for a climate change resolution identifying ways in which the Conservancy can curb its own carbon footprint and raise awareness about potential impacts on the landscapes surrounding the Trail.
As we move forward, we will rely on the support of our members, donors, and lovers of the Trail and America’s outdoors to advocate for informed policy at state and local levels in order to protect the unique recreation experience and treasured landscapes along the world’s most famous footpath. The ATC stands committed to protecting the A.T. in the face of climate change and will continue to work with partners, policymakers, communities and hikers to achieve that goal.