National Parks Plan for Climate Change the way the Military Plans for Nuclear War

ENVIRONMENT

The National Park Service (NPS) is playing a game of “what if” to prepare for climate change. (Smithsonian)

How do students respond to “what if” climate-change scenarios? Watch this video to find out.

Teachers, scroll down for a quick list of key resources in our Teachers Toolkit.

At Badlands National Park, home to this bison, rangers and other leaders are developing strategies to address diverse scenarios created by climate change. Photograph courtesy Badlands National Park, National Park Service

At Badlands National Park, home to this bison, rangers and other leaders are developing strategies to address diverse scenarios created by climate change.
Photograph courtesy Badlands National Park, National Park Service

Discussion Ideas

  • The Smithsonian article details the increased use of “scenario planning” by the National Park Service. What is scenario planning?
    • Scenario planning is a method of preparing for “unlikely or unthinkable” situations. Planners say “it is extremely important for us to at least go through the full experiment of imagining a surprising or difficult situation, because we will be better prepared if [it] happens.”
      • Military use of scenario planning stretches back at least to 19th-century Europe. Prussian officers developed kriegsspiel,” or war games, to simulate different terrain, weather conditions, and tactics for battle.
      • Corporations use scenario planning to secure and expand their businesses. According to the energy giant Shell, it has “been developing possible visions of the future since the 1970s, helping generations of Shell leaders explore ways forward and make better decisions. Shell Scenarios ask ‘what if?’ questions encouraging leaders to consider events that may only be remote possibilities, and stretch their thinking. Our scenarios also help governments, academia and business in understanding possibilities and uncertainties ahead.” Check out Shell’s “new lenses” scenarios here.

 

  • How is the National Park Service using scenario planning? In other words, what are some of the “what if” scenarios posed by rangers and other leaders?
    • What if New York City experienced rapid sea level rise?
      • According to Smithsonian, “in 2012, a team used scenario planning to map out what might happen if the greater New York City area was pummeled by a combination of high tides and a severe storm. Months later, Hurricane Sandy struck, and NYC’s subway system was flooded just as the team predicted.”
    • What if precipitation levels were radically altered in South Dakota’s Badlands?
      • The scenario planning group came up with two possible climate futures:
        • “The Jungle” is characterized by high temperature and precipitation increases. It has a long growing season, but poses challenges to resource managers who use water to help herd bison in the summer.
        • “Awfully Dry” has a reasonable amount of warming but decreased precipitation. This scenario has a very short growing season, which would reduce the food available to herbivores of the Badlands, including bison and bighorn sheep.

 

  • Think of your school or neighborhood, and do some scenario planning of your own. For instance: What if precipitation increased dramatically?
    • How would more rain or snow lead to changes in natural ecosystems? For instance:
      • How would increased moisture in the soil impact plant growth?
      • How would greater flow in streams alter animal habitats and behaviors?
    • How would more rain or snow lead to changes in human ecosystems? For instance:
      • How would traffic infrastructure be impacted—would fewer people walk or bike to work or school? Would roads and bridges be able to withstand the weathering of snow or rain?
      • How would engineers build or retrofit buildings to make them more secure? Do you think there would be more indoor gyms and fewer outdoor playgrounds?
    • How do you think people’s daily lives be altered? For instance:
      • How would students and teachers adjust to year-round “rainy day schedules”?
      • How do you think outdoor leisure activities would change? Fewer outdoor soccer games? More taxes to support stadiums and other indoor facilities?
      • What businesses would benefit from increased precipitation? What businesses would suffer?

 

 

TEACHERS TOOLKIT

Smithsonian: How the National Parks Are Playing the Game of “What If” to Prepare for Climate Change

Nat Geo: Surviving Climate Change picture-of-practice video

Shell Global: Shell Scenarios

2 responses to “National Parks Plan for Climate Change the way the Military Plans for Nuclear War

  1. Pingback: This Week in Geographic History: The Wilderness Act | Nat Geo Education Blog·

  2. Pingback: Discover | cptsheller·

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