The national park service is reducing our fleet of gasoline-powered vehicles and is switching to hybrid or electric-powered vehicles. Photo by NPS.
Our modern society relies heavily on fossil fuels such as coal, oil, and
natural gas. Coal consists of hardened, organic remains of prehistoric
plants and animals that lived in swamps and wetlands. Oil products such
as gasoline are refined from liquid organic material that also started as
prehistoric plants and animals. It takes millions of years of decay under
heat and pressure to form these "fossil fuels." When coal, oil, and natural
gas are burned, the energy stored by plants from the sun is released.
Burning fossil fuels also releases greenhouse gases, which trap additional
heat in the atmosphere, causing changes in climate. Throughout
Earth´s history, changes in climate have occurred as a result of natural
processes. Today, Earth’s climate is warming. The warming is very likely
human-caused (not natural). Fossils provide a record of how organisms
responded to past climate changes. When climate changed outside of
their "comfort zone," plants and animals moved to areas with more favorable
climate, adapted to the changes, or went extinct.
All living things—including humans—will face these same options with
modern climate change: adjust where they live, adapt to the changes,
mitigate those changes, or face extinction. There are many ways for YOU
to take action to help reduce our impact on climate. For more information
about how national parks are responding to climate change and what
YOU can do to help, see www.nature.nps.gov/climatechange/index.cfm
Further learning: To see evidence of past climate change, go to a
park or museum near you and investigate what fossil plants and animals
lived in the area. Can you determine what environment those plants and
animals lived in? Compare that environment to what you see outside today.
How has the landscape changed? Do the same plants and animals
live there today?